Are you in the matrix? Is the Twitter handle itself a complete distribution system for what you know and when you know it? Is it a time stamp? What is social media, if just a hyper aware network of nodes that know more than you know, but that are accentuated in their knowledge discourse when you talk to them and add to their information base? What do bees have to do with product cycles and marketing?
These, and other questions, have everything to do with Fake Grimlock making an appearance at Foundercon, the private networking event hosted by TechStars today in Boston. Fake Grimlock, a person invented complete from social network interactions by an as yet still unnamed individual proves that social media networks are eating the world.
And by "world," I mean, what you think you know about your own assumptions when building a startup.
This post is written by Douglas Crets, Community Manager, Microsoft BizSpark. The opinions contained herein have yet to be disproven, so start doing that in the comments below. I welcome having my points blown apart. Microsoft BizSpark is very happy to partner with TechStars, by the way. For more information about them, please visit our TechStars page.
Here is the hard light of truth about startups -- they not only form new businesses around complex problems, they also transform our perceptions about what is real and what can be taken for granted about our business ideas and our markets.
@FakeGrimlock (on left), the giant metal robot dinosaur, being interviewed on stage
at FounderCon in Boston. Photo Courtesy: Clare Tischer, @clareyt
Read some of this interview in BostonInno with FakeGrimlock. Here's a really important nugget:
But which of these is the real lesson? I put it a bit more bluntly to GRIMLOCK. For all his belief that his ideas are gaining an audience despite not having a credible name attached to them – a belief rooted in a faith that the truth will prevail – are ideas the real reason why he gets gigs like FounderCon? Or does it have more to do with the giant dinosaur mask he wears on stage?
GRIMLOCK told me he doesn’t much care. I asked the related question: If we don’t know who you are and what you’ve done, why should any of us trust you?
“That’s easy,” he said. “Try it. If it doesn’t work I was wrong.”
This is not exactly groundbreaking, but it is something that every entrepreneur should consider. let me break it down in the way I know best to describe it. Consider this me putting FakeGrimlock into context
1. Your social network is the first layer of your customer base
2. Therefore, your social network is your marketing organization
3. You don't drive the message, your customers do, when you reach out to them, interact in their lives, and offer them your product.
4. Your product is a reflection of your work, and your customers' passionate interests, their very real and deeply felt need to solve problems, and the need to find success in their lives.
For my money, I do not believe that you can convince someone that your product works by telling them that it does. So, if you are a service, or a product distributor, or a lean startup, your first and foremost marketing and community management activity should be finding out if it does.
What I like about the FakeGrimlock perspective is that it is totally in sync with the way social networks have distributed the reality of product life cycles. People for years would struggle at a company like GM, or Ford, or GE to create the perfect door hinge, or the perfect light bulb, and then once all that was proven with marketing focus groups and testing (focus groups, mind you, that were given leading questions to compare x with a y), they sent out messaging that convinced people that this was true before they even bought the product.
Social networks and web=based, or cloud-based services are different. The product is a functional part of the web, solving a problem brought on by the web, or experienced in the web, by people who have cheap, simple, and openly available networks on which to tell you if their experience is working or not.
There is nothing now but a membrane of belief separating the company and product maker from the consumer. You have to choose how to speak to the consumer, and in many cases, as FakeGrimlock is saying, the best way to interact with the customer is to listening. The listening feeds a cycle of satisfaction and success.
Success, in other words, is whether the consumer had a direct line into the company and the product and made it something that solved his particular problem. This is how social networks are eating the world. They are like a swarm of helper bees bringing information back to the hive. They signal to the core of the hive where the nectar is. If you can't listen to that, or they can't communicate that information, the hive dies.