There is so much online chatter, it seems unlikely that anyone could hear anything over the social media noise. It has been estimated that there are 700,000+ bloggers and millions of tweeters. If you were to watch the twitter public line in real time, you wouldn’t be able to read a tweet before it disappeared.
If you’re looking for a soapbox, it isn’t here. You can have the best content, profound thoughts, and a delightful way with words, but it won’t make a difference until you build a community. This is not be confused with followers, friends, links, or any other moniker for people that are electronically connected to you.
A community is a group of people with something in common.
The commonality used to be limited to location. The Internet removed the physical constraint allowing other things to take its place. Now, communities are growing around ideas, beliefs, lifestyles, and products. And, everyone’s voice is important within his or her area.
We can do so much with the tools that are available today. As marketers, we have the opportunity to build a community with our customers much like the corner grocer of yesteryear. If you haven’t had the experience of being welcomed by name when you enter an establishment, you’ve missed the best part of shopping.
Wal-Mart tries to recreate that hometown feeling with their greeters at the door. Some are better than others are, but none come close to Jimmy. When I moved from North Carolina to New York City, I met Jimmy. He owned a corner store in my neighborhood.
I would stop by almost every day for snacks. Jimmy was always friendly. One day he noticed that I was out of sorts and asked if he could help. He couldn’t, but it changed our relationship. We started chatting about the differences between NYC and NC. Jimmy’s store became my favorite place for snacks. And it stayed that way, even after I moved to another neighborhood. I would go back to visit and stock up.
Social media allows us to connect to our customers in a similar manner.
Yes, it is electronic and less personal, but it is light years ahead of sending direct mail promotions to invisible people. It is a unique channel that provides opportunities for us to move beyond transactional relationships.
There are many people wasting those opportunities. Some are so busy being social media enforcers (Do this! Don’t do that! Who do you think you are?) that they miss the best part of it. There isn’t an algorithm for social media success. It is life being played out online. There are different communities and everyone has the right to choose which ones they join. Defining the rules of engagement for your community and enforcing them is okay. Creating rules for others to follow and trying to enforce them makes you more bully than friend.
Then there are those who build communities with established rules and then change them. If your platform is based on “it’s all about the conversation” and discourages any promotion of yourself or your members, trying to monetize it is bad form. Personally, I don’t see any difference between the people who do this and the flimflam artists of the past. It is bait and switch at its worst. Any argument that “I’ve been giving for a long time and deserve to cash in” is a lousy excuse for defrauding your community.
And the final group to be mentioned in this post is the copycats. They watch the people who seem to be on top and copy what they are doing in an effort to climb up the social media ladder. If they make it to the top with thousands of followers, it is hard to recognize them, because they look like all the other copycats.
The best voices are passionate.
Their causes vary, but they remain true to their vision and purpose for being in the social media world. They may be here to promote their company, meet people, or learn from others. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that they are speaking for themselves. Their voices will attract the right people to their community. They may never have the largest network, but what they have is better. They have supporters.
If you are new to social media and not sure what to do, there are some basic rules to follow. (And, no, I’m not going to try to enforce them.)
- Be passionate. Speak for yourself or your company in the language your friends or customers understand.
- Play nice. Being ugly may get you a lot of publicity, but it won’t build quality relationships.
- Help others. The greatest satisfaction comes from helping someone else.
- Be honest. If you are here to build your company or just to hang out, transparency is the best policy.
- Ignore trolls. The people who feel the need to tear others down deserve your pity, not your attention.
- Have fun. It’s a great place to meet interesting people and expand your horizons.