Green Peppers and the Problem with Social Media Communities

You learn a lot about life and death growing up in a farming community. While most lessons center on animal life cycles, the rise and fall of businesses are there, too.

My grandfather’s farm had a couple of milking cows, some chickens, a mule (lots of lessons there!) and acres of green peppers. The farms around his had more variety. They changed crops annually. Tobacco would be grown one year, tomatoes the next. Corn and peppers were periodically thrown into the mix.

One day I asked my grandfather why he didn’t change his crops. His response was a lesson that applies to our social media world. He said that he was in the green pepper business. Since he was in it for the long haul, he had the opportunity to build relationships with buyers. They knew that his peppers would always be graded correctly. This meant that they could confidently buy them without worrying that top quality ones on the top hid culls in the bottom. His farm practices provided them with a reliable resource and him with loyal customers.

He suggested that I watch and learn from the other farmers. Instead of investing their time in building relationships, they watched their neighbors. If tomatoes brought top dollar one year, they grew tomatoes the next one. If there was a pepper shortage one season, there was a glut the next.

There were two types of prosperous farmers – the ones who anticipated market demands and the ones who stayed the course. The rest barely survived.

It doesn’t surprise me that I see the same activity in social media communities too. After all, people don’t change. The way we communicate evolves, but human nature remains the same.

It saddens me when I see companies abandon the customers who contributed to their growth and profitability to chase the elusive viral network. There isn’t a trick, secret, or hidden door to social media success. It is a process, much like farming, that requires the sowing of seeds and nurturing of your community.

If you are just entering the social media world, help make it better by bringing your unique perspective and culture. If you have been here for a while and are trying to emulate someone else’s success, stop wasting your time. And, finally, if you are trying to block others from succeeding because you feel threatened, you’re hurting yourself more than you will ever hurt them.

Our world gets smaller every day. Let’s play nice, cheer each other on, and make it better. There’s room for everyone to succeed.

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