According to many social media innovators, the channel is Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People” on steroids. They say that it is a new form of marketing that is all about building relationships and attracting people to your business.
I’m so tired of hearing that social media “is all about the conversation.” Maybe I am still in the “don’t get it” group, but the last time I checked the purpose of marketing is to promote your business. Since social media is a form of marketing, doesn’t that mean that it’s partially about promoting your business?
The problem I have with the social media guru battle cry “It’s all about the conversation” is that it misleads people.
You can spend 18 hours a day 7 days a week chatting online without acquiring a single customer. But, the cry continues to resonate through the online community.
I have always believed in following the money to determine authenticity. If someone tells me about a great deal, I want to know if there is a financial incentive for him or her. If there isn’t, the recommendation has more credibility. When I followed the social media money, I found that the ones yelling the loudest about reaping results from conversations appear to profit from advertising dollars and speaking engagements. It puts things in a different perspective.
While they are telling you not to actively market your products online, every time they post a link to their blog, they are promoting their business. If you scroll through their tweets, you find a series of “I’m waiting at really cool restaurant before giving my really great speech” or “Visit my blog to learn how to behave in social media” messages.
You can learn much more by watching what they’re doing rather than listening to what they are saying. Truth be told, they are marketing geniuses. They have created a model that simultaneously increases their income while reducing their competition. Incredible!
If you are trying to sell a social media strategy, you many want to rethink starting with “it’s all about the conversation.”
Unless you are selling advertising or speeches, it’s not.
Social media for the rest of us is all about targeted marketing. The conversation is important and will help your company grow if you are chatting with people in your target market.
Social media influence is falsely measured by the number of friends or followers. If you monitor the public timeline in twitter, you’ll find plenty of opportunity to buy followers. If you read the public forums in LinkedIn, there’s postings that say “I will accept your invitation if you invite me to network with you.”
Benchmarking by friend or followers creates desperation in people that want to belong. It reminds me of the beginning days of business networking. Quiet conversation at trade conferences’ social events was replaced with “here’s my card, may I have yours” hit & run networkers. (Okay, okay! Maybe the conversation wasn’t that quiet with the alcohol flowing freely, but it was more about getting to know people than collecting pieces of paper.)
I would rather have 50 friends or followers who know me well enough to challenge me when I go off on a tangent and inspire me when my page is blank than 50,000 who do nothing. When I look at social media activity, companies that target their customers are better examples than the ones simply participating in the conversation.
If you are thinking about entering the social media channel, the first step is to decide what you want to accomplish.
If you want to sell advertising and join the speaker circuit, acquire as many followers as you can and motivate them to click your links.
If you want to sell your products or services, choose your friends and followers carefully. Invite them into your inner circle. Provide value with insider information and special promotions. In social media, as in life, it’s about the quality of your relationships, not the volume.