Venture capitalists seem to be having a difficult time absorbing the concept of what social networking is really all about. In this post from Venture Beat, we find that Silicon Valley heavy hitters Sequoia Capital and Kleiner Perkins have created fake MySpace pages. This act, in and of itself, is not a problem. What’s disconcerting is the list of tactics and commentary from the article:
- The pages are posted as an environment for “eager entrepreneurs to sign up as fans”. This “relationship” would be the same as me saying my wife is social networking with Brad Pitt because she’s a “fan”.
- “… stealth marketing by VC firms to make sure their reputations remain spotless”
- “… encouraging friends of the firm to write in and say positive things” This, and the previous are the scariest of all.
- “… after an entrepreneur said Sequoia had stolen his powerpoint slides, and another said Sequoia ‘eats its young.’ Sequoia isn…t commenting…” Social networking is about participation!
The game has changed and if VCs (or any other industry, for that matter) is going to jump into the game of social networking, they have to learn the rules. Here are some tips:
- You WILL be outed if you are fake or disingenuous.
- Manipulation is tantamount to social networking suicide.
- Participate if your intention is to benefit the members of the networks you’re on … DON’T sell! Don’t get me wrong, this is still a form of marketing, albeit with a modern twist. You MUST play by the new rules!
Instead of joining other social networks using a corporate profile as your only social strategy, it would be better to create your own social network with the highly focused purpose of HELPING budding entrepreneurs.
If an infrequent member slams you online, don’t go into spin-mode. Instead, be fully forthcoming and honest about the situation and demonstrate that you’re a company comprised of human beings. Case in point, look at what Robert Scoble was able to do (via blogging), almost single-handedly, for the sullied reputation of Microsoft. Unlike sites like The Funded, whose purpose is to help entrepreneurs rate VC firms (throwing you into a defensive posture), this new network that you create would be designed to help entrepreneurs in a myriad number of ways; education, operational assistance, peer networking, mentorship, collaboration, etc.
To emphasize the importance of helping the customer, another great example is what Progressive Car Insurance has done with real-time quotes of their own packages, as well as their competitors. By being transparent and honest, they’ve been able to build a high level of trust with the general public. Even though they sometimes don’t have the lowest rates, consumers will still sign up for their services because of this new level of trust and honesety. Where trust is NOT something you can buy, it has almost infinite value from a marketing perspective.
So, go ahead … DIVE into the world of social networking, but be real … be honest … be human.