Social media as a way of life is approaching ten.
Already there have been proclamations of its supreme awesomeness accompanied by more recent claims of its demise. But look, here’s the deal – social media isn’t dead – it’s just fed up with how it’s being abused.
I wrote this post – Why Social Media Doesn’t Matter Anymore – around six years ago at the height of the social media hype and today I would like to weigh in with a similar look at how this potent form of communication has evolved.
Social media, I observed some six years ago, isn’t a platform or channel so much as it is and remains a behavior.
Yes, of course, these are platforms, such as Facebook, that do serve as channels for some organizations, but more than anything it’s how people have come to depend on social media activity in their day to day lives that dictates how a business might benefit from its use.
But therein lies the issue we face today.
As more and more people bought into the usefulness or at least hype of the usefulness of social media, more and business decided this was the next great broadcast channel.
Now, few people figured out how to sell using social media, but awareness creation, audience building, and free traffic, now that was pure gold.,
A recent study by Social Fresh, called the Future of Social Media, showed that the primary goal of social media for 76% of those surveyed was to create awareness.
This is an oversimplification, but you can read that to mean broadcast channel – kind of another form of TV.
But the gap between how marketers use social media and how consumers consume social media content has turned into a vast and gaping chasm the likes of which many will not cross. (Yes that was a less than subtle nod to Geoffrey Moore.)
If you seek to take advantage of the awesome potential of social media you, have to do some work. This has always been true, but in the early days, you could afford some laziness if you were an early adopter. Today the sheer volume of noise in social media makes your signal much harder to hear. (Again, another not so subtle nod to one of the earliest blogs I read )
Today there are five practices for social media use that I’m am trying to embrace and that I am advising anyone that will listen to embrace. (I could also write the flip side piece as five social media bad habits you must break.)
There was a time when one of the primary goals of social media participation seemed to be growing large followings. In fact, we bought likes (how did that turn out), we gamed Twitter, we competed to add people who had no interest in our products and services to fan, follow and circle us.
This seemed logical, I mean everyone knew you needed a big email list, why not a big Twitter following. In fact, services like Klout attempted to use follower metrics to measure influence and thereby create scorecards for people building and seeking influencer status.
Well, it appears that Kevin Kelly’s proclamation to artists trying to stand out in the long tail digital world was both true and prophetic – when it comes to social media use for most small businesses the goal is to embrace and nurture 1,000 true fans or 100 true fans and not the shifting universe of Twitter devotees.
Stop following and start listening, sorting, engaging and conversing. Focus on the social streams of your customers and hottest prospects. Eliminate the noise from social media and get your streams to a place where they can be useful.
Here’s a useful post on 20 tools to help eliminate social media noise.
Find your 1000 true fans and try to ignore the rest and you’ll time spent via social media will pay off.
Stories have always been an important form of communication, but never more than now.
Stories help make the complex understandable, and they help people connect with emotion – the essential ingredient for attraction, loyalty, and referrals.
But, in the current state of social media clutter stories also help you stand out, they help people get what they turn to social media for most – to fight boredom, be entertained, and, what the heck, be social.
Here’s the thing about stories – they don’t have to relate to your product or service, they don’t even have to be about you – good stories simply have to help people enjoy or understand some aspect of who they are or aspire to be.
The storytelling palette in a focused social media initiative can include your ads as well as your posts and updates – in fact, it should.
The bloggers over at Social Media Examiner shared 5 Ways to Use Storytelling in Your Social Media. There are some great ideas in this post for any business wishing to embrace storytelling in social media.
Show your face
Social media has become increasingly visual.
The most engaging posts and updates today come with stunning visual content. Visual platforms such as Pinterest, Instagram and Snapchat continue to grow at a stunning pace. (As of this writing more images are shared on Snapchat than any other platform including Facebook.)
With the introduction of live streaming video platforms such as Periscope and Blab and the rollout of live video on Facebook, there’s never been a better time for people to meet and see the real you.
I know a lot of social media folks are jumping on these visual platforms as a way to create more buzz and more following as early adopters and thought leaders and that’s okay – but for the typical small business with a focused following, there’s still a great opportunity here.
Use the more visual platform to let people see behind the curtain, let them see you at play, let them see how the product is made, let them see a day in the life.
My friend Marcus Sheridan is currently shooting a boat load of video chronicling his travels and how he moves to balance work and play and family. He’s dedicated some resources to shooting and editing, but any business can create similar content that helps people connect and trust beyond the typical marketing speak.
Understand this isn’t “look at me, look how cool I am” content, this is perhaps just the opposite if it is to connect. This is “look at me, look how much I care, look how regular I am, look at why I might be the perfect person to guide you to the result you are seeking.”
This one might be the hardest of them all because now I am going to suggest that you put in the time and actually care about what you are doing. Yikes, I know, tall order.
Once you have your 1,000 true fans, it’s time to start having meaningful conversations with them about what they want, what they don’t have, what they fear, what brings them joy. (Of course, you can do this via email and at the next networking event as well.)
Here’s the trick though – a real conversation happens naturally – it doesn’t flow like a qualifying script.
Even if you only have ten minutes a day to dedicate to this activity start asking individuals – not followers – about things. Get very, very curious about helping people and, here’s one you might not have thought of, about how other people can help you.
Give people more reasons to talk to you, ask for feedback at every touchpoint, and don’t shy away from conversations that start on negative terms – those are how you learn, how you get better – and those are the only conversations you can’t fake
My friend Jay Baer wrote a book call – Hug You Haters – go read it now.
My last point has to do with money – or perhaps more accurately – revenue.
When you follow points one through four, you start to realize that all this focus, storytelling, personality sharing, and conversing turns into something meaningful – a relationship or two.
And out of these relationships built on paying attention and being genuine, you can start to recognize ways that you can make a significant impact on someone’s life or business.
You’ll identify mutually beneficial opportunities that lead to customers and sales and if you keep at it, repeat sales and referrals.
Yes, I’m on record here to tell you that you can sell through social media if you take the time to help people.
So you see, social media isn’t dead, and it’s no different than any other sales channel – those who care, those who educate, those who provide utility – win.