Social media has become the cornerstone for many businesses’ strategy in getting new customers, especially among small business. It is true that social media can help significantly, your bottom line if used properly. The key phrase is “used properly”. Unfortunately, many businesses have bought into the myth that social media is “marketing” and that it is “free”. Neither are true. Here are a few lies that are circulating about social media. This list comes from Penelope Trunk, author and entrepreneur. I will paraphrase and add in my viewpoints, but, for the most part, I agree with her assessment.
1. Linkedin is for networking – Most people understand that networking is an important part of growing a business. This is more true for start ups than large established companies. Most people believe that a great networking tool is Linkedin. Sorry to burst your bubble, is not. Networking is built on relationships. Relationships are built on conversations. Linkedin is not made for conversations. Linkedin’s real asset is being able to display your network. The concept of “it’s who you hang out with” that Linkedin gains it’s value. You have to build your network offline before you can leverage it online. For example, it’s common to get a “Recommend Me” request via Linkedin from someone you’ve only met once or even not at all. They only know you virtually. That is not a real recommendation. That is not real networking.
2. Twitter is for conversation – Twitter is a great index of finding people with like interests. It used to be that you needed to go through laborious searches or talk to everyone at a conference just to find a few people with like interests. Twitter makes that easy, now. What Twitter isn’t is a conversation tool for networking. You need way more than 140 characters to carry on a meaningful conversation. As stated before, conversation is what true networking is. You still need to go offline to solidify the Twitter touchpoint in order to really call them a colleague and have them as a genuine contact.
3. Blogs are personal journals – The real purpose of a blog (as it pertains to networking and business) is for you to show the world how you think and why you think it. It forces you to think in a disciplined way on how you organize and express your thoughts about your company, your products, the marketplace, and even yourself. Blogging is not networking. Networking is a two way street, not a one way monolog. As Penelope puts it, “The blogosphere is a cocktail party for the intelligentsia. Make sure you are a part of that so that you can help shape ideas as they grow. There’s no better tool for PR than wielding influence as a blogger.” It’s best at PR, not networking. We use blogs as a way to display to prospects and clients how we think about marketing. If they like what they read, we get a shot at their business. That’s PR, not networking.
4. With social media, you can get people to [fill in the blank] – Social media is about being giving and being generous. Asking them to “download this” or “test out our free that”, is not giving. Giving is asking people how you can help them reach their goals, both personal and professional. Penelope recommends that you should read up on someone enough so you can get to know them a little better and see how you can help with better understanding of who they are. That’s real giving. Getting someone to do something is all fine and good, but that’s marketing, not social media.
5. It’s free – Just because you can do it yourself doesn’t mean you’re effective. The trap that most small business fall into is they use social media as their marketing because it’s “free”. They get thousands of “likes”, tens-of-thousands of hits on their web site, and gazillions of followers. Ask those same people about how many of those “virtual friends” are real network partners, many will have to admit they have relationships with only less than 5% of their “contacts”. To get excellent at social media, you need skill, insight, and most of all, discipline. Like any tool, it takes a professional approach to leverage it for all it’s worth. A chainsaw in the hands of an amateur is just a hack job. Excellent social media professionals charge a fee. It’s not free. Even if you or your company does it themselves, there is time investment. That’s time you’re not selling and really networking and that’s money not finding it’s way to you.
Don’t use social media as a crutch for real networking. You still have to put in the sweat equity in actually meeting real people and spend time getting to know them. Finally, don’t fall into folly of thinking social media is marketing. It is not. Marketing is about helping make sales easier and reaching potential customers. Social media is about giving, not selling.