We are still in the early days

My guess is that most people that read this blog consider themselves to be early adopters. Many of you have a blog of your own, use Twitter and/or Facebook, own a smart phone, love tinkering, hacking and trying new things out.

There are more early adopters than ever. In fact that word “early adopters” may not even be an accurate word anymore. But I’ll leave that for a future post.

But we all know plenty of people that don’t have a blog. They don’t use Twitter. They signed up for facebook but aren’t active. They dont’ share their lives online with people they know and don’t know why they should share with people they don’t know.

And even though companies like Facebook have over 250million worldwide users, we all know at some level that we are still in the early days of all of this. That is humbling and exciting at the same time.

In the past week I had two recent experiences with folks that either don’t understand or simply don’t care for the world of facebook, twitter, blogs and social media.

First story:

This weekend, we had a number of old college friends stay at our place for the weekend. It’s an annual tradition. They live in CT and NY. Three couples and their kids. None of the parents (all of us are 40yrs old) use social media. They don’t work in tech industry. They had lots of questions about Twitter and why they should use it. I told them why I started using Twitter and why I use it everyday. My wife, @laurensabet, told them why she uses it and how much she would love to see them on twitter. Even after describing it to them in detail and showing them how it works they weren’t really convinced.

But they were good sports and wanted to try it. So at the kitchen table I helped them set up a twitter account for each one of them. Some of them wanted to keep their tweets private, others were okay with the public default. It was an enlightening experience for me to see them react and ask questions. I hope they get into it. We don’t get to see them often and it would be wonderful to hear about their daily lives on twitter in addition to the monthly phone calls & annual gatherings.

Second story:

I was at a fantastic restaurant recently. I’ll leave out the name of the place to protect the innocent. The owner is a very talented person. Smart and gifted. He told me that he doesn’t like blogs, facebook, twitter, yelp, etc.  His concerns:

1. Competitors could say bad things about his place online anonymously.

2. One customer with a big online social following could  give his place a negative review and drown out the positive reviews by the majority of happy customers.

3. He liked the previous model where restaurant reviews where done by experts in their fields.

He had other issues with social media but those were the big ones.

My response:

1. Customers and competitors are online so the train has left the station. There is no turning back.

2. There are benefits of embracing the social web with more voices in the mix than a limited number of experts.

But I was enjoying the meal and I didn’t want to get into a full debate especially since he was so nice to us and was passionate about his views.

I believe there are plenty of things that restaurants could do to benefit in our connected world where all users are publishers/reviewers/critics/customers… all at teh same time.

Today most/all restaurants have a website. You know what it looks like. There is a menu, along with some professional photos of the restaurant and some food shots. Maybe a history of the place along with a bio of the owner.

If I owned a restaurant I would embrace twitter/facebook/blogs and do much more. In no particular order:

-I’d share the behind the scenes of the place. Just got a new delivery of bread. Take a photo and share it. Just hired a new bartender? Same. New candles? Same. New espresso machine. Same.

-I’d tweet at times about what’s going on the restaurant right now. Someone is having a birthday at the bar. One of the regulars just walked in. New dessert tonight. Special items on the menu. Things taken off the menu. Someone just proposed to their fiance and everyone is clapping in the place. These restaurants are vibrant and alive communities in their own right. They are not just a place to eat and pay your bill. Let people know what’s your place is really like!

-I would be all over twitter search to see what people are saying about my place. Have a thick skin but pay attention. Jump into the conversation. Let them know you care because you do.

I’m sure there are better ideas out there. I’ve never owned a restaurant and I’m sure it’s way harder than I could possibly imagine. But that conversation I had with the owner was also very helpful to me.

I came away with a great deal of “food for thought” (pun intended) and it also served as a reminder that we are still in the early days of all of this stuff.