A few thoughts on Social Media–Part 2

In part 1 of this series, I established  that any business or professional who isn’t using Social Media  is missing out and falling behind. In this post, I hope to discuss HOW business and professionals should use Social Media, by focusing on  one single point:

The primary focus of social media is NOT to advertise your product. If that is your main focus, STOP. NOW. The PRIMARY focus of your Social Media activities should be ENGAGEMENT with your customers and prospects. 

Let me describe why.

Have you followed or “liked” businesses or professional on Facebook or Twitter, only to be receive a barrage of never ending self promotion?  I certainly have. I’ve followed Journalists and bloggers who seem to think the only reason for twitter is to announce a link for their newest story, or to make their followers privy to their wisdom. I’ve followed businesses whose every FaceBook post tells me to come in and try a new product. It gets old. Quick. I followed them initially to show my loyalty to their brand, and to be a part of it, but my loyalty began to wain as they clogged up my timelines by “push” advertising.

This kind of advertising is essentially no different than what has been done for 100 years on “traditional” forms of media.  And this is why these types of companies or individuals only achieve a small fraction of what they are capable of.

See, what many don’t realize, Twitter is a huge party, filled with good friends discussing common interests and reflecting upon current events. And some of the same social rules apply to Twitter, as apply in party situations. So staying with our party analogy,  you arrive–not really knowing anyone, so you start to eavesdrop.  You get to know people by engaging, asking questions, and learning about others. Twitter is filled with insightful, hilarious, and very interesting people.

Suddenly, a guy shows up in a nice car. Everyone notices, because this guy is filthy rich or a celebrity, and at first, everyone surrounds him to see what he’s like. Well, this guy proceeds to ONLY talk about himself. Or as Brian Regan puts it, he is a “Me Monster.” (Watch the clip here)  What do think happens at the party? People start to lose interest and walk away.   Why? Because oh yeah, it’s a crowded party. And there are a lot more interesting people to talk to, and quite frankly, no one has time to waste listening to someone only talking about themselves. The same thing happens on Twitter. “Famous people”  and businesses get massive followings, just because they want to see what they’ll say. But if they don’t mix things up, and only advertise, they may not lose many followers–but they will definitely miss out on the passionate following they COULD  have.

Also comparing Twitter to a party, Marla Tabaka said in her article entitled “Giving up on Twitter–if you are thinking of throwing in the towel, take a closer look at what you’ll be missing out on.”

“So now you’re asking, “what do I say?” Well, what would you say at your party? Remember, it’s not all about you. If you are a good communicator you typically ask questions and show interest in the life of others, right? Social Media is about what you can give, how you can help others, and learning from others as well. If you are expecting to make a quick buck you might consider another form of internet marketing. I’m not saying that it isn’t possible, but realistically most seasoned veterans are here to offer value.” (emphasis added)

Back to what this means for businesses… quite frankly, a century-old buying cycle has been completely destroyed within the last 10 years. This is a remarkable revolution that you cannot afford to not know about.  Many customers have all but abandoned the “funnel technique” of choosing a product–which is starting with several possible brands, comparing, narrowing it down, until finally making their choice and not engaging with the company at all, until they need to buy again.

Today’s buying cycle looks more like this model, taken from a Harvard Business Review article on this very subject:

In this new model, it shows that how the relationship with the company doesn’t END with the purchase. But rather, customers want to continue to INTERACT with and PROMOTE their favorite brands. As customers enter the “Loyalty Loop”, they want to follow their brand on Facebook, communicate with their favorite company, and advocate the brand to others. In other words, they want to feel involved.

It is a business owners dream come true–armies of passionate customers, advertising by word of mouth.

This will ONLY happen  if you have ways for customers to bond and engage with you. If you aren’t engaging, it’s one-way self-promotion. And unable to participate, your customers won’t become advocates.

By publicly answering questions, laughing at customer’s jokes, and retweeting what they write (not just about you), you are showing publically that those indivuduals are IMPORTANT. It also proves you or your company are personable, and they will love you for it.

Here are my questions, in order to better engage with customers:

  1. Try to publicly answer every question posed to you by those who follow your company or brand. If it is a complaint or criticism, apologize, and ask them to send you the details in an email, where there is more space to discuss.
  2. Follow people you think are interesting.
  3. Retweet tweets you find funny or interesting–NOT just tweets about your company. Retweeting is a form of praise on Twitter.
  4. Be approachable. On blog entries, show respect for their comments–this goes a long way to encourage more participation from those who are silently reading.
  5. Be AUTHENTIC. Be real. Show a sense of humor. Don’t force it, but just be genuine.
  6. On your Facebook page, consider discussing not only your business, but other subjects your customer base is also interested.
  7. Try to stay away from automated tweets. On twitter, the more personable, the better.
  8. Encourage fan participation through things like giving awards for the best photo uploaded, conducting polls, holding contests.
  9. Read everything you can on how to use Social Media. www.inc.com is a great place to start.
  10. Read the book “Unmarketing” by Scott Stratten and follow him at @unmarketing. That guy is a genius when it comes to social media, especially Twitter. Even though he has over 100,000 followers, he regularly interacts with readers.

The more you engage, the more loyal your customers will be. You’ll be amazed at the results.

Craig

P.S. As for my Social Media experience, I was VP of Marketing and Sales for a small business that provided services to Senior Care companies. I oversaw our implementation of Social Media, as we tried to develop a plan for our nich company in our industry. I left to focus on my own entrepreneurial efforts.  I’m a business owner of a local Utah business, and  conduct all of the Social Media. We aren’t HUGE, we have about 3,200 fans on Facebook, and about 700 followers on Twitter. So I know there is room for growth, and I’m learning as I’m going, while studying, and attempting to implement what I learn. I hope something I’ve shared can provide a benefit of some kind.

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3 Comments

  1. Thanks Craig!! Really appreciate the kind words and the book shout-out! Great post.

    Reply
  2. Craig

     /  November 29, 2011

    Thanks for posting Scott. Your book was one of the better books about engaging with customers on Twitter, and how to properly use Social Media. I recommend it to everyone. I look forward to reading your next one!

    Reply
  3. Craig,
    Great suggestion for following Scott; I’ve been a fan of his for a while.

    I would add that the more you make yourself a resource to your customers and potential customers, the better relationship you will have with them. The result is you will create “evangelists” for your product and create more long-term value from them.

    Steven

    Reply

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