I recently had the opportunity to go to Egypt and the thought of all the vendors in the market reminded me of location based social networking in it’s most basic form. It was quite the experience watching these merchants sell their wares. My wife and I wanted to call our trip to Egypt: Baksheeshing our way through Egypt. (All rights shortly reserved!)
Everyone was all about you finding their store and seeing their wares. Just like a location based social networking site like Foursquare or Yelp is an online middleman, hordes of middlemen exist in Egypt shuffling you to their favorite vendor, where of course they will get a little Baksheesh (tip).
When we went to the pyramids in Egypt we chose to rent out a taxi driver for the day instead of going on a bus tour. As I mentioned yesterday, we are not tour bus people. The only time we took a tour bus was when we went down to Abu Simbal, where it is required by law for you to be escorted by a guarded patrol. Besides, for only $200 Egyptian pounds ($40 US) he took us to all of the sites and waited on us while we were at the sites.
He also made sure to direct us to his favorite vendors while we were going to each site. Need a camel, he had someone at each site with one for each of us. We were hungry and he, not so gently, made his recommendations about which places he believed would get him the most baksheesh. We chose the place with foul, a traditional hearty meal that was delicious and filled us up for the adventures we were to face. Eating it on the side of the road on the back of his cab, the onslaught continued as people came up to us looking to sell their wares. He dutifully warded off the ones who he was not associated with and told the rest to come back.
This is just one story out of many of the location based social networking specialists of Egypt. My wife and I were amazed how everyone had an angle. They always recommended the people who gave them a piece of the action. Perhaps, this might sound weird, but that is where my mind drifted off to social networking. Is this similar to shopping online, where you can traverse the web looking for a camera or toothbrush and be directed to a specific site by a third-party vendor. Do I do the same thing? What sales techniques can I learn from them? Which should I avoid at all costs? Pay attention to the emotional responses? It is rare to see these raw responses in the United States, where people are so darn guarded sometimes. I should record myself to see if I sound like this!
As my mind swirled with the requests for me to buy people’s wares and my own internal thoughts of social networking, I reached a valuable conclusion: my focus in social networking is too much on myself. In the end, my brothers at the souk are no different from me selling my social networking services. I know that selling in itself is not bad, and is necessary. No one has ever made money by sitting on the sidelines of life. However, I need to focus on others more. Maybe that is what was missing recently from my business? That is when I had an ingenuous idea, well at least I believe it is! Start promoting others on Twitter. In the month of December my goal is to retweet 1,000 of my followers tweets and at least 100 retweets before Thanksgiving. Whether a quote, blog post, or some interesting tidbit. I want to promote others more effectively.
What does that have to do with you. If you post a tweet in the comment section below within the next 72 hours I will post that tweet on my @andynathan account in the month of December. No strings, no requests from you, no other requirements. You do not even have to follow me if you do not want to or retweet my tweets. This is my attempt at marketing absolution.
In the end, I realized that the location based social networking that occurs in Egypt is so much like the social networking we all use. We are all looking to become the gateways to a website, where we get a little baksheesh for our troubles.
What is important is to treat people with dignity and respect. That is the thing that bothered me as I left the states, remembering that there are more important challenges in the world than your own, so you can help others. In the streets of Cairo, Luxor, and Aswan, behind some of the greatest monuments ever erected I met children no more than 5 who looked nothing more than scarecrows. For me to focus on you is but a small tribute to their challenges. That is the purpose of social networking. Using these amazing communication tools for something better than yourself.