Last night I had a few friends over for drinks and conversation. It was the normal mix of wine-fueled catching-up, debating politics, reviewing books and movies, and unraveling the "right" solutions to the infinite challenges that face humanity. Nothing out of the ordinary.
For a brief time, the conversation turned to Twitter. I tried to explain it. The value of it. The unexpected benefits and connections that come from it. I got nothing but blank stares. So I drug out the laptop and prepared a demo. Still...nothing.
The skeptics in my kitchen simply could not get beyond the first impression of Twitter as nothing more than a narcissist-enabler. Eventually, I gave up offering different examples and analogies to try to explain it. They just didn't get it. More importantly, they didn't want to get it. Didn't want to hear it.
More importantly, they weren't ready to hear it.
My friends aren't neophytes. But their internet usage revolves around reading news, downloading music and watching tv programs -- not sharing opinions and connecting with others. They're not there yet. Only one recently got a Facebook page. And none blog.
For them to "get" Twitter I believe they first need a gateway drug.
Just as many sushi-afficienados love affair began with a California Roll and the path to a full-back tattoo often begins with a tiny butterfly on the hip, most people need a comfortable entry point into Web 2.0.
And it's not just Web 2.0, it is everything. Every day, vast amounts of money are spent trying to convert the un-convert-able. In a down economy, or any economy, this is the absolute most inefficient use of your dollars.
Here are some key ways to ease prospective customers into your product:
1) Make it easy/cheap for them to try.
2) Discuss it as an extension of what they're already comfortable with (from the beginning I thought VoIP should just be called "digital phone").
3) Simplify it.
4) Create a limited-feature sample version (freeware anyone?).
5) Guarantee performance.
6) Dig your well before your thirsty: earn trust in every interaction.
7) Sell the benefit, not the specifications.