A View from Here

Bill's Sisson's weekly Trade Only blog

Are you just ‘adding to the noise’?

During a discussion on Web 2.0 at last week’s Marine Aftermarket Accessories Trade Show, Richard Mundell, a former buyer with West Marine who now works with online course provider Udutu, said something that really stuck in my head.

“You need to find some way to differentiate yourself and make yourself a resource,” he said. “Otherwise you’re just adding to the noise.”

We hear all the time about the importance of an interactive Web site, with videos and blogs and message boards and other features designed to keep people clicking away. We read about the necessity of social networking through sites like Facebook or LinkedIn. We know that anyone who’s anyone is “tweeting” away on Twitter.

But what does it all really do? Is social networking really the be all and end all that many make it out to be? Can a Facebook or Twitter page really help a business hurt by the recession?

I don’t know.

I regularly update Trade Only’s Facebook page and try to keep it as fresh as possible. I come up with weekly poll questions for the Web site to keep it interactive. I “tweet” on a daily basis, trying to come up with interesting things to say to my “followers,” as well as get the day’s stories out quickly for Trade Only Today’s “followers.”

But at the end of the day, I think when a big story breaks, people look to their in boxes for a Trade Only e-news blast, or the daily e-newsletter, before they look to see if we “tweeted” the news in 140 characters or less, or if we posted a note on our Facebook page.

“Tweets” can very easily get lost — after all, anyone who follows more than 20 people is likely to miss a lot of what people are tweeting throughout the day. And some people check Facebook religiously, while others do it every few days when they remember.

I was talking to someone else at MAATS who made the comment that they are on Twitter, but they don’t know why or really what it’s doing for them.

I was glad to hear someone else say out loud what I’d been thinking too.

All of these sites are great, and I’ll continue to Facebook and Tweet, but are most of us doing more than just adding to the noise?

What do you think?

— Beth Rosenberg


9 comments on “Are you just ‘adding to the noise’?

  1. Sandy

    You raise a great question Beth. I’m glad to see that people in the professional realm are asking this question. On a personal level Facebook & Twitter can be a lot of fun, espcially when you first start, but I find that after a while it almost becomes an obligation. As you mentioned in can be something that you feel the need to check every few days when you remember just so that friends and colleagues don’t feel snubbed. But, it can feel like noise at times: the need to tell all even when nothings happening, all the nothings ad up to noise. That doesn’t mean that at a professional level there isn’t a great amount of value to tweets and to a Facebook site, but if the audience becomes accustom to using these outlets for their everyday hum drum info perhaps the attitude towards the professional social networking resources may carry the same weight as which friend is frustrated or looking forward to vacation. I’m curious to see what more professionals in the field have found as well. Thanks for encouraging the conversation.

  2. Arch

    I agree. FB and Twit are just for fun in my opinion. I don’t like it when people use them to tell every little thing they are doing. Most people don’t care. If you want to announce something, make it worthwhile. Otherwise, it’s just NOISE.

    I like the daily emails from Tradeonly and occassionally urgent announcement. Keep up the good work. The ONLY recommendation I would like to give, is that you should get industry updates from people working the front lines, NOT JUST NMMA people or so called industry experts. Most of us out in the field have a more hands on and unique perspective, and we aren’t as politcally correct as most of the others.

  3. Bob

    I recently started using Facebook and Twitter to communicate with my customers and prospects.
    I have found Facebook to be more useful as a marketing tool. My customers post pictures of their boats and pictures of their families and friends enjoying them.
    My prospects join my page to gather information, and ask recent and past buyers how they like their boats. It obviously helps that my customers do a good job of building up my reputation and the reputation of my products and dealership services.
    Twitter is less useful, and it is wrought with spammers.
    As my Facebook requires more and more time…I will most likely drop the usage of Twitter.
    We live in a society that expects immediate communication and a desire to belong.
    Dealerships that refuse to spend the resouces of invenstment and time into more effective web communication, including their own website, are missing the bus.
    You can be successful in spite of yourself in a growing sales environment….but the holes in your armour are exposed when a slowdown occurs.
    It is entirely possible to suffer the death of a thousand cuts without really knowing it.

  4. Gary Druckenmiller


    Great comments and you are very accurate in your findings. I am going to plug here, but also offer some alternative thinking on the topic. I run TheOpenSea.com which is a social/professional network for the marine industry. Kind of like a combo of Facebook and LinkedIn, just for marine.

    There is a lot of noise out there folks. It takes you over, consumes you and leaves you feeling overwhelmed. But, these tools (the right ones used in the right way) can also be very powerful. Social Web 2.0 kinda stuff is not the end all be all in any stretch, but let’s face it folks, it is the future of marketing and it’s not going anywhere. So we need to all learn how to use these wacky things in the way that makes best sense for us. For you.

    Again, if used in a way that is right, direct and immediate, most 2.0 technologies are fundamentally sound and purposeful…not gimmicky. At the end of the day, however, tools like FB and Twitter are slowly becoming too broad and general for such a powerful “niche” like marine. Or any niche for that matter. it’s just evolution. Too much other nonsense to have to wade through to find the real marine answers you’re looking for. Right? That’s the noise you speak of.

    Our concept with TheOpenSea.com is essentially to bring the functions of Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. to a site that is purely marine and gets down to marine business and customer engagement quickly. The neat thing about TheOpenSea.com is that it’s for boaters and boat businesses. We feel the ability to unite these two audiences in one site using 2.0 tools like these is one of the critical pieces to the puzzle in moving towards a better and rejuvinated market and industry. Hands down.

    So how do you break through the noise? Use tools that are specific to our niche. Marine. And hang out with people that are specific to our niche. Marine people. No more noise. Just hard core marine answers. Enough said. You get the point.


  5. Tom Sutherland

    On a personal level I don’t really consider myself the Facebook or Twitter type. However it’s clear to me that these platforms are becoming or perhaps have become one of the strongest influences on the way people communicate and educate themselves. For me, I was more intrigued by LinkedIn as it is focused on business and business professionals. This motivated me to get involved with online social networking to help grow my business and establish more relationships. I have run a few tests on Twitter to see if anyone was noticing and more important responding to my posts. I included a link to our website and with my website traffic monitoring software, I could see if anyone “landed” on that specific page. I was pretty surprised with the positive results and convinced this should become part of my ongoing marketing strategy.

    And I have to say, in relation to all this stuff, I have been using TheOpenSea.com and Gary is right – a niche solution is the way to go. I don’t think there is any place where I can co-mingle with my current and future customers only and still do all of that important 2.0 stuff.

    I do not believe online social networking is a replacement for face-to-face communication in the world of doing business but it can definitely help you get that face-to-face opportunity.

  6. John Wisse

    Among our guest panel of experts addressing the topic of “Web 2.0 and Beyond” before members of the Marine Marketers of America attending our winter meeting at the Miami Boat Show was Glen Justice, of Mad Mariner, who then commented that perhaps it should not be a priority to jump aboard every hot new advance in technology (i.e. Twitter, Facebook). His point I believe was simply to look at becoming a master of one or two communications technologies instead of trying to integrate many more and becoming a master of none. Your column makes a very valid point that companies and organizations should carefully consider.

  7. David Jensen

    I am a former marina operator who utilized Facebook as a method of communicating to and from our customer base. We used it to disseminate information and get feedback from our client base. We certainly did something’s well and other things not so well. What I found over time was that when it came to a marina, the interface was a great way to keep people involved annually (where it typically got quite around the marina in the off season). Additionally, it was a great way to build up a history of all the repair and upgrades we were doing over time.

    I recently switched jobs and now I am on the other side of the aisle- now working for a marketing agency representing marinas, dealerships and recreational marine products and services. It is very interesting to see the creative ways people are utilizing these new communication channels. What is most interesting is that like LORAN and GPS or Single Sideband or VHF the uses that are being developed are far more interesting and complex then what the technology was originally intended for.

    That being said, I believed as a marina operator and I still do today that a good marketing strategy integrates a variety of mediums and methods that are specifically chosen for your market, your client base, and support your long term and short term business goals and objectives.

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