In my last post, I talked about the value of being a relative expert and how publishing quality content about your industry, products and services can help level the playing field between large businesses and small ones. I did however leave out one key ingredient. Even the most knowledgeable relative expert will not succeed if the only thing they are doing is publishing it to a blog or to YouTube.
In order to succeed and have a chance at leveling the playing field, your content has to be found and people have to connect with it. I’m going to say it, you need to be active in social media. You may not want to be, you may feel it’s a waste of time, but if done correctly is time well spent.
What does “doing it correctly” mean?
I’m definitely not a fan of one size fits all, in fact I think “best practices” can be downright dangerous. I think there are two absolutes when it comes to social media, be consistent and be authentic. After that it gets personal and it depends on the platform.
What is Social Media?
I’ve come to think about social media in a much different way over the past year and especially in the past six months. It is a way to promote your business, but it shouldn’t be thought of as a mass marketing tool.
Even for large brands like T-mobile, it’s about people connecting with people and not about brands pushing out content. They have an incredibly active and loyal following and have found ways to use social to.
- Build brand loyalty
- Improve customer service
- Increase sales
They’ve been able to accomplish great things by being human.
Earlier I mentioned the word authentic, I maybe should have said, “be human.” It’s a shame that we talk about social media instead of social networking. If you think about it, although you walk into a networking event in real life armed with a fistful of business cards, you don’t shove them into a person’s hand without first trying to make some sort of connection. Why would we think it should be any different online?
Large companies who host user conferences spend a ton of money and devote as many human resources as possible to meet, greet, and connect with their customers. They haven’t figured out that their brand pages should be thought of as a 24 x 7 networking event. This is just one of many reasons that small businesses have a golden opportunity to level the playing field.
How we Decide Who to do Business With
Whether we’re making business decisions or personal decisions, one of the most important deciding factors is the “who.” I’m sure you’ve had experiences in which you needed something fixed and because it was an expensive repair you requested a few quotes. During the process of selecting who we send the request to, asking questions once we receive the request, check references, and making a decision we’re evaluating the person.
Each step of the way we’re assessing trust. The first impression is made when you look them up online (nobody uses the yellow pages any more). In a split instant you determine whether or not you think you think they’re worth calling. Once you get the bid, it’s time to ask questions and get references. It may even involve some face to face conversations.
The final decision is rarely made on price alone. Sure it’s a factor, but the major ingredient in the decision is trust. Trust is built partially based on how knowledgeable we believe an individual is and part of it is based on how well we “click” with a person on a human level. All other things being equal, we tend to trust people who share common interests and values.
What Should You Share on Social Networks?
First and foremost, don’t think too hard. If you over-think it, you’ll probably end up sharing the wrong things. Going back to the networking event, consider what information you might share as you’re talking with people. Or better yet, as you’re listening to people. As a professional, with solid knowledge about your industry, you know how to listen and tune into questions and you adjust your answers based on the person’s knowledge and experience.
It’s no different online. Social networks can be used to “listen” and learn about what question people are asking online. Chances are they’re not much different from the questions they ask when they call or walk into your store. Create content around that and share it. Remember that people like variety, so find other things of interest and share them as well. You don’t want to be the guy at the party that no one wants to sit next to because all you do is talk about yourself.
Last, but not least it’s more than OK to let your personality shine through. You may choose to do so in different ways depending on the platform and it’s always important to be professional. In other words, don’t post anything you’d be embarrassed to have your mother see, but give people the opportunity to get to know and trust you by sharing things that interest you personally as well.