The other day I heard, “I need help building a social media strategy.”
To that question, I responded, “Tell me a little about your social strategy for your company.”
I received a blank stare because, of course, they did not have a social strategy for their company… that would simply be absurd.
Jumping into any new thing, especially something new technologically, can be a challenge because it seems harder to understand than it really is. Most businesses have a hard time with social media because it is still reasonably new so therefore it really hasn’t been properly defined in our minds.
The operative word in social media is social. Social media is simple a way to be social online. It is an opportunity to talk to many people in a much shorter period of time than it would take to talk in person.
In business, including marketing, we need to focus on our primary objective. When we fail to focus on our primary objective, it is not hard to miss our goals. Social media’s primary purpose is to facilitate conversations. Its purpose is not to help you make money or sell your widgets. It is through those conversations that relationships are formed. It is from those relationships that transactions occur.
Don’t get me wrong, there will be plenty of opportunities to sell online and through social circles. You’ll have more than enough chance to pitch your product to those in your circles of influence. However, if you start using social media with the intent that it will solve your marketing issues, then you’ll lose opportunities to build meaningful relationships online that can lead to greater business and marketing potential later.
Let’s look at a metaphor for social media as a networking event filled with people. You’ll have varying levels of familiarity with those in attendance. From those you know very well to those that don’t know you at all.
Imagine, if you will, walking up to people, shaking their hand and saying, “Hello, my name is John, would you like me to build you a fence? I have a special running today.”
Unfortunately, that is what happens all too often in social media. Businesses start by becoming friends with people then immediately begin to pitch their products.
Social media finds it’s best adoption in active storytelling. It is through story telling that relationships are built. Yes, you can find prospects on social media. Yes, you can offer support to your clientele. Yes, you can allow your brand exposure. But story telling will allow your customers and prospective customers to learn who you are and why they should consider doing business with you.
The most common question I hear is, “Okay, that’s all good and well, but how do I get started?”
The most important first step is to be willing to experiment. Everyone’s experience will be different and it may take you some time to find the path that works for you. Don’t assume that because a consultant says that a certain approach is the right approach that it will work for you.
The most effective way that social media is utilized is by being people being engaging. The technology is reasonably irrelevant. There is no truly scientific approach that if you do A then you’ll sell B. It is an art form that will allow you to be successful as you gain greater experience.
In order to start on your path, there are four key steps to take. After you have created your account on your chosen social media platform, you’ll take these four steps:
Post messages that are relevant to your audience
Find people you like and follow them
Comment on other people’s posts
Genuinely work to build relationships
Everything else is dependent on your skills in developing conversations. It’s dependent on you being social.
Remember that social media is not about the pitching products. It’s not about the Internet or technology. Social media is about talking to people. It’s about building and maintaining meaningful relationship one tweet or status update at a time.
Corey Smith is the founder of Tribute Media and serves as the Digital Marketing Strategist. He is also the author of "Do It Right: A CEO's Guide to Web Strategy" and "Tweet It Right: A CEO's Guide to Twitter."