You've heard lots about it. Twitter and Facebook and you've gotta get on there, and something huge will happen, and, and... so then what? There's so much hype and so many people skipping a few steps in the middle of the explanations that understanding what to do gets pretty frustrating pretty quickly. Oh, and results almost always underperform what people have led you to believe.
Maybe I can help.
Social Media Without the Hype
If you took away all the names, social media is basically three major activities: listening, connecting, and publishing. You use tools like Twitter Search and Google Blogsearch to listen. You use tools like Twitter or Facebook or OPEN Forum or LinkedIn (or a mix of them) to connect, as well as comment on blogs and the like. You use tools like blogs or email newsletters video or even photos on Flickr to publish. There. Those are all the components without the hype. Let's move into what we can do with all this.
Listening gives you something to do. You can listen for complaints and problems and try to fix them. You can listen for opportunities and try selling into those. Connecting is how you do some of that. You see a blog post griping that your product isn't all that it used to be, get in there and comment and try to resolve it. Go over the top, if you can. That's an easy big win. What do you publish? You write based on what you've heard and experienced via listening and connecting. See how it's a system? It's a lock.
Homebases, Outposts, and a Formula
The first web told you to build a site and call it a day. I'd argue that having a blog as part (or all) of your homebase is maybe a better move. What do I mean by homebase? I mean this is where you hope people spend some time when they want to know more about you, and want to know what to do next. Why a blog? They make for easy search optimization, and they make for a reason your audience of potential buyers might come back over and over again. But, if you stay focused on only the homebase, you'll be like the kind of shopkeeper who doesn't get out to where the people are, who doesn't even step onto the sidewalk to bring in a few more customers. You need to visit the outposts.
Outposts are places like OPEN Forum, LinkedIn or Facebook, where you can pick up some interaction, some connecting and some listening. It's not the only thing. It's not where you can spend all your time, but it's a place where you spend a good chunk of it, connecting and prospecting and finding two-way opportunities to talk to people about their stuff, and warm them up to what you're all about, too.
HOW to Talk About It
Social media is a mixed bag for how you use the tools for business marketing. You have to spend a lot more time building relationships, talking about things the other person is interested in, and paying attention. Said that way, it sounds like like all interactions with other humans should be. Ever go to a networking event and run into "that guy," the one who only talks about his or her own business, and never even gives you a chance to talk? Don't be that guy.
If you had two hours to spend on social media (people at this point usually either freak that it's too long, or they wonder why I spend much more than two hours online), here's how I'd break it up. 30 minutes for listening; 60 minutes for connecting; 30 minutes for publishing. This gives you a rough guide to understand where the opportunity is, and how to split your time. Practice talking about other people's interests for some big percentage of that connecting time. It'll pay itself back to you. I've seen that be true too many times to advise you any other way.
It's Not New - It's Just New Tools
On the way out, let me just remind you that you know how to talk to customers. The fact that these customers are online just means that you have to do a little bit more to show them you're human, reputable, and "real." Beyond that, use what you know. You like telling jokes? Great! Shoot a YouTube video from time to time telling a joke that's big in your store. I promise it'll do you well (provided the joke's at least vaguely "clean").
What's your take?
Chris Brogan is the New York Times bestselling author of the NEW book, Social Media 101. He is president of New Marketing Labs, LLC, and blogs at chrisbrogan.com.