Show and Tell
There was a time when people were content to be an audience; to sit and listen and be presented to (and yes, interrupted). “Look at our shiny new product!!” “Look how smart we are!!” Those days are changing rapidly, and folks want to interact, not just observe. Social Media is about giving your customers an opportunity to talk with you about your products and services and opening up the floor for dialogue.
A Popularity and Numbers Contest
Twitter followers. FriendFeed followers. LinkedIn Connections. Plurk friends. RSS subscribers. The online world is full of folks bragging on and on about just how popular they are, how many networks they’re part of.
But unless you’re saying something worth listening to, and unless you’re allowing the conversation with your community to be two-way, those numbers just don’t matter. A big community is great, but it’s truly the level of attentiveness and engagement that matters.
Geoff Livingston in his recent post on hype in social media explains beautifully the critical importance of understanding this:
“Social media is about people. Customers are people. Social media marketing is about networking and community participation with the right few [networks], from which relationships are developed, in turn creating results.”A Silver Bulllet
Social media in and of itself is no magic solution. And just because “everyone” is doing it, how and why social media will (or won’t) work for you may be very different than someone else. Mack Collier of The Viral Garden has a great post about corporate blogging, for example, that talks about the importance of using these tools as mutual communication vehicles:
“Instead of attempting to create an environment where readers are given valuable content and interaction is encouraged, many companies are attempting to use their blogs as an extension of their weekly circulars…[t]hey attempt to approach blogging as a one-way communication channel, which is what they are most comfortable with. The results, i.e. disappointing returns, are completely predictable."Indeed, you must pay attention to social media because it’s not going away and it is truly changing the landscape of marketing, communications, and customer engagement. But you absolutely must take the time to evaluate WHY social media should be part of your strategy, and what tools are the right ones for you.
Just for “Experts”
This is a vast, deep and largely uncharted ocean we’re swimming in. We’ve only just scratched the surface of the tools and potential of social media (in other words, don’t let someone tell you they’re a social media “expert” – none of us are yet. Experienced? Knowledgeable? Maybe.).
There are, however, some characteristics that are common to many of those who focus on this dynamic industry for a living: curiosity, determination, relationship building, and enthusiasm for discovering the potential. Check out Tamar Weinberg’s excellent post on what traits define successful people in this industry according to people who use, know, and love social media.
But do you have to be an “expert” to benefit from this groundswell? I don’t think so.
Waiting for the “right time” to get into social media is like looking for a break in rush hour traffic in Chicago. (Trust me, I know this). Sometimes you just have to stick your nose out there and jump into the fray. You will make mistakes. You will listen and learn. And you just might find that the effort alone is enough to help you find your way.
Let me close by saying that there are a lot of things I could include on the list above. But social media is, and will continue to be, about building communities and having great conversations. Embrace this and let it be the foundation of your efforts, and you’ll already be ahead of the game.
Awesome Photo by That Blonde Girl