Is Your Social Media Too Social?

Bad news for many of you who have dived whole-hog into social media for marketing, from a recent Wall Street Journal article:

“Businesses are looking more critically at social media and its influence on the bottom line. A majority of respondents in a Gallup survey said that social media had no influence at all on purchasing decisions.”

Another study quoted in the article says that consumers trusted a whole laundry list of other advertising more than that in social media.

Ta-da-boom. So how well have your prodigious efforts with social media worked? How much new business has it generated? At the end of the business day, that’s all that counts. That’s the only relevant payoff. “Likes” only count in, er, horseshoes or something.

Another snippet from the article: “Fans and follower counts are over. Now it’s about what is social doing for you and real business objectives,” says Jan Rezab, chief executive of Socialbakers AS, a social-media metrics company based in Prague.

Not that far – in fact danged close – to what I have been saying for years in CLE programs and to clients about personal marketing, and about social media. It’s about the relationship, stupid. And that’s my basic rule #1 of social media: it’s not about the body count. 

Here’s a personal experience I had with a LinkedIn group. I’m a member of several groups of small firms & solos, practice management, et cetera. I got a notification of a new post in a practice management site which turned out to be an announcement to the world of some firm adding a practice area. Blatant publicity, no value delivered to the members of the group. And, being the cantankerous and obstreperous soul that I am, I responded with an acid put-down for, essentially, violating an implicit trust relationship. Were they relationship-building? Hardly.

This happens millions of times every day across social media. And this blunderbuss approach is exactly what’s creating the large and growing disenchantment and incredulity.
So here’s my basic rule #2 of social media: talk smart. Always say something that others will be interested in, or find helpful or valuable. It’s about creating trust and respect. Have you ever looked for comments from a particular person on a group thread because they always seem to have valuable insights or suggestions?

Now, that said, of course when I comment I always try to slide in some subtle plugs for my marketing and practice operations advisory services, or retreat facilitation or succession and transition planning support (kinda like that) when I post an article or a comment. But I always do it inside the communication of some information that I sincerely believe will be of value or help to my readers. Like this.

And here’s my basic rule #3 of social media: “Get closer.” Seek to draw people closer in relationship. Respond to people making positive or thoughtful comments on your posts or those of others. Don’t be the web equivalent of the guy or gal working the room – the one everyone sees coming and tries to avoid. Be the one they want – and like – to communicate with. Just like in real life.

Interesting factlet: the rise of social media has created a mini-boom in the printing of personal note cards.

Really? Old-fashioned paper delivered by snail mail? How primitive, yes. But how personal, how sincere. Think about it. How long does even the most laudatory e-mail stay on your desktop? 30 seconds? A minute? And how about that handwritten, hand-stamped note card? Days, maybe even weeks.

So, your social media work should have a “get closer” strategy. Put out valuable, insightful, thought-provoking information designed to encourage dialog. When that dialog occurs, respond to the respondents. Try to create a stronger relationship with the relatively few who engage.Make the conversations as two-way as possible.  And aim for moving the conversation beyond the social media stream, toward a direct e-mail conversation, or – heaven help us – an actual phone conversation. Because if you’re trolling for clients – or even referral sources – out there, eventually it should entail an actual direct conversation of some type.

The old referral marketing adage still applies, even here. To attract clients – or referral sources – you have to build —

Know – they have to know you exist, and know what you do

Like – they have to feel in some way positive about you. Your posts have to have the flavor of someone they’d like to talk with, not someone who sounds superior or overly critical or negative. It’s just human nature.

and Trust – the social media communication has to create some level of trust that you know what you’re doing.

Next, how much time are you spending on social media, and exactly how many prospects is it generating? My basic social media rule #4 is “measure it.” Measure it backwards and forwards and sideways. How much time are you spending? Where? What sites or activities are generating the most interaction – comments, responses, challenges? How many prospect inquiries are you receiving by e-mail or website inquiry or – heaven help us – by phone? Do you have a process in place to track activity, responses, interactions, prospect contacts, and signups? The concept of continuous improvement, or statistical quality control (“kaizen” – what Toyota and a good portion of the Japanese economy runs on) contains a core principle: you can’t manage what you can’t measure.

Finally, my basic social media rule #5: Make a budget. No, not a dollar budget (at least not for social media) but a time budget. Because social media can be addictive. We can spend far more time than we planned in wandering about the web seeking to see and be seen. So use your kaizen to identify where to focus, how to focus, and when. Use your time wisely and with focus and purpose. As I always say in my marketing seminars, stop doing “MBWA” – marketing by wandering around.

So here’s the full WSJ article that got my motor running. If you’d like my thoughts on marketing that works, dig around my blog here, or go to my website,  or just call me at 407-830-9810.

Yeah. Call. Don’t e-mail or text or find me on LinkedIn. Just call. Remember – it’s all about the relationship.