A new project, initiative or concept inevitably comes with the odd preconceived notion or two as to what to expect. We listen to what other people are saying, we get the mainstream media’s view and we may even refer back to previous experience to gain some sort of familiar gauge.
And whenever a new business takes its first steps on social media they’ll usually be baby, tentative steps. Why? Because very few of us really know what we’re doing when we start out. But almost certainly that business will have gained some sort of an idea of what to expect, which could well tint their whole campaign with a lacklustre shade of ‘average’ unless they’re very careful.
Let me be more specific …
Given that the online definition of marketing is “the action or business of promoting and selling products or services” you can appreciate why so many businesses still use their online platforms purely to pump out their own promotional material. But for the most part this will be wasted effort because unless they’re creating content that is massively compelling, different and eye-catching, it will be ignored. This is the part they’re so far failing to recognise. Don’t believe me? Go to a user’s Twitter.com page on the web and click on ‘expand’ beneath their tweets – this will reveal the retweets or replies they’ve had. If it’s consistently low, the vital signs are not good. The key to social media success is to learn how to engage your audience, and “what we’ve done since forever” isn’t going to do the trick.
It’s true. Not everybody uses social media, and do you know what? Not everybody will. But here’s the point if you’re using this as an excuse to not get started: people talk online and offline. My circle of friends and family include huge numbers of social media ‘non-believers’, but I often will make recommendations to them based on a connection I’ve made online. The conversation never stops, and assuming it ends when you hit the ‘log off’ button is a big mistake.
Let’s be straight about this … When anyone buys ‘followers’ they’re actually buying a pile of fake accounts. They’re not actual people with DNA and smartphones, so you won’t receive any interaction, sharing of content or increased brand awareness from them. Yes, there will be an initial boost to your follower numbers but once the accounts are identified as fake and are subsequently deleted, your count will thump back down to where it was before. It’s the social media equivalent of covering your back garden in tarmac because you don’t like mowing the lawn. Swinging the hover-mower around every week might be a pain but we all love to feel the grass beneath our feet, don’t we?
You really do need to be present. That doesn’t need to be every hour of every day, but automating everything will be like sending a cardboard cut-out of yourself to a party. If you want to experience the essence of what makes social media such a powerful tool then you need to roll your sleeves up and build relationships through dialogue.
Just as building a house doesn’t immediately make it a welcoming family home, neither will creating an online profile be enough to tick the ‘social media’ box. Yes, it’s the first step but it’s a stake in the ground. It’s your foundation to build on.
The sales person in me always squirms at this one, and that’s because I know so many people see ‘selling’ purely as nothing more than a clumsy ‘buy this’ message. The truth is that sales processes begin with understanding your customer, what motivates him, building context and fashioning your proposal around what he’s told you wants …. because that’s what he wants, strangely enough. Social media works in exactly the same way. You may not close the deal online, but you’ll be getting to know your future market, building trust and as such gaining a clearer picture of what they’re looking for. It used to be called “prospecting” but I’m pretty sure it’ll now have a sexier title, maybe along the lines of “digital market intelligence”.
Everyone’s potential will vary when it comes to social media; calculating it on the basis of hearsay will never be a true representation, so kick those misconceptions to the kerb and dip that toe in the digital ocean, baby 😉
Photo courtesy of Anders Jildén
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