The problem with business-centric social media efforts is that they are almost always focused on the Media, as opposed to the Social. Yes, you do need to share content (i.e. Media). This begins the process of “being social” and can help educate, entertain and equip your consumer-base. All too often this is where businesses stay. They are unaware that their human consumer is trying to have a conversation with them. This can be a simple generational thing. In some cases they refuse to respond for fear of saying the wrong thing or inciting some kind of viral anti-campaign. In any case, being social as a brand or business is essential when you consider using social media for marketing or customer service.
Let’s take a look at a few ideas I had on the topic…
Don’t Blame the Tech
So often I hear people complaining that social media is actually making us, “Less Social.” That it is somehow making us Anti-Social as a society. This reality could not be further from the truth. I personally have never been more social, engaged and connected and I owe it all to the tech. I get to engage with real humans 24/7 from the comfort of my surroundings, almost anywhere. I also get to explore and engage with people nearby at conferences or coffee shops, at my leisure. I don’t feel disconnected at all and I enjoy the in-person time I get to spend with friends and colleagues without the pressure of looking at my phone every 90-seconds.
When I first got online in 1997, my introduction to the internet came through an account on AOL. Getting in to chat rooms was very uncomfortable for me at first. It was like learning a whole new language. You think Hashtags are tricky? They’re easy compared to the ancient forms of communication I was wading into back then. I learned quite a lot about, “Being Social,” in the early days of online social media…but that’s a post for another day. One thing I learned for sure was to avoid negative people….
You Can’t Avoid the Haters
“Haters gonna hate…” And thanks to the tech, they can push your buttons one moment and vanish into thin air the next. Many businesses fear getting out there for the simple fact that being social on social media makes you very transparent. Thanks to Yelp, consumers now have a constant comment card that comes in blinking neon colors and shows the world all the good as well as the bad (Most of which is not really true, but what are you going to do?). This alone terrifies many business owners.
Your only line of defense in this case is a good social offense. Being social gives the GOOD business person a chance to get out ahead of a crisis or criticism. One local example is Handyman Connection of Austin. Owner, Rene Salazar, has shown time and again how he’s eager to listen to his customers and respond proactively to make sure they get nothing but exemplary service from his organization every single time. Do they fail at this on occasion? Perhaps, but when his clients express any level of dissatisfaction, Rene himself drives to the scene and makes it right. Most of the time, his good deeds go unnoticed, but he knows that if he does nothing his business will most certainly fail.
Because of his unwavering mission to see every project completed to the customer’s satisfaction, he has been recognized year after year by the folks at Angie’s List with the Super Service Award. Can you say that you have the same aggressive nature to go after every review, every comment, with only one single goal in mind? Total and complete customer satisfaction. It’s business owners like Mr. Salazar who set the example that you have to take the negatives and turn them into success. Ignoring them will not make them go away. Does the idea of hearing honest feedback from your customer make you uncomfortable? Good….
Social Media Should Make You Uncomfortable
It’s okay to be uncomfortable once in a while. We all fear making a fool of ourselves in public. Remember when you got your first job? Remember that networking event or that conference where you HAD to meet new and strange people? Even the most extroverted person alive is uncomfortable at some point in their youth. They learn that meeting new people, connecting and building relationships did not kill them. In some cases, they even learned to like the experience. For the rest of us, there’s online social media.
Transparency and new environments are a part of life on Earth. Social science experts (as well as leading sales professionals) will tell you that the way to bring people’s walls down is to tell them something deeply personal, even damaging, about yourself. Through the law of reciprocity, they will feel closer to you and in many cases share personal (even damaging) things about themselves. I see this happen all the time. Mother Theresa once said, “Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable. Be honest and transparent anyway.” Sounds like good advice to me, but who’s got the time….
It Takes Time
Being social takes time. There’s a novel thought. Ponder that for a moment (no, really. I’ll wait).
I often speak to businesses about overcoming the, “One-Tweet Mentality.” So many business owners want a result without considering the work involved to actually achieve the result. This is where many social media professionals get labeled as snake-oil salesmen. Instead of telling their clients the truth (if they, in fact, know the truth about what it really takes), they try and sell the quick, viral success of using social media as a broadcast medium (One-Tweet Thinking) without taking the time to develop a community that would even care about the content in the first place. It’s a bit like putting the cart before the horse.
True, in many cases, brands have been able to mature an audience on content alone (think Buzzfeed). But that’s not always possible unless you’re willing to do the work regardless of the outcome. Think of social media as it’s often called, “Social Networking.” Imagine if you walked into a room of peers and you proceeded to simply project your thoughts and ideas without regard for any feedback. Seems kind of odd. The same can be said if you walked into the room without saying anything. There needs to be a dialog. This is what true networking consists of and it’s one strategy that will never fail you in growing an audience through social media. Remember who it is you’re wanting to have that dialog with….
It’s About the PEOPLE (Internal and External)
Consider the people for a moment. In marketing, we’re tasked with researching them in the beginning. Before we can even start to craft our content or message, we ask: Who are we targeting? What do they look like? What do they have in common? Where are they gathering? In short, “They,” are people. Many of them are just like you and me. Yet, when we fail to engage with them, it’s as though we’ve forgotten that we’re supposed to be talking to people. We’re supposed to be social.
What about the people in your own organization? I often start by asking a business owner to connect on social with their personal friends when setting up their businesses social media accounts. They usually push back for one reason or another, but in the end they acquiesce. What about the friends of your staff? What about vendors? What about friends of customers? And more importantly, what do you do then? Before you answer that, remember that the goal is to grow an audience of folks who care. You can’t do this by sending them a request to like your Facebook Page and then ignoring them after that.
Think about the way churches are grown. Pastors, and pastoral staff, work very hard to get out into the community. They visit hospitals and shake hands with members of their church as they arrive and leave services. They learn people’s names, where they come from, who they’re related to…they show they care first. This is what social media can do for you, if you’ll just take a little time and remember the people. Think of it in terms of the Return On Relationship….
You Fail At Social Media When You Fail To Build Relationships
I’ll admit. I have a hard time with all of this, too. Just like you, I have 200+ emails hit my inbox every single day. I have to maintain and grow my businesses, prepare for speaking opportunities, visit with existing clients, get work done, train my staff, manage the operation (although, I have some amazing help with this), attend church, spend time with friends and family, be a loving husband and adoring father. Where do I have the time to build relationships with folks who I need to know, or better, need to know me?
I can’t answer that for you. For me, I do it while responding to emails, attending conferences and walking to the car. I connect with people everywhere I go. I also connect with people online when there’s no one around in person. Personally, I do it without even thinking about it. For my business, it takes effort. In the case of the Social City Dash, I make an effort to meet everyone who has signed up for the Dash. I follow them on Twitter and Instagram. I comment, share and like their posts long after the event is over…and I do it from the heart.
I’m not trying to create more noise. I’m trying to rise above it. Want to add to the noise? Keep posting stuff. Want to rise above it? Build relationships with people you meet (online and off) and watch how they gravitate to what you have going on in your world. If you truly want social media to play an effective role in the growth of your operation, just ask yourself one question, “How social do I want to be?”