Tools are a wonderful part of today’s information age, but if you’re going to use “social networks” or that thing we call “social media,” it’s important to remember the common denominator: the social. Without an understanding of your community and an understanding of the influencers, you’re destined for failure. There’s no question about it.
Networking is the key component for social media success
Social networks become popular because of the people using them. Social media “experts” recommend Twitter and Facebook because they know there’s a critical mass there to reach a desired audience. Of course, there are other sites, but these individuals know one thing: that there are people there who are willing to listen, just as long as you are willing to make a true effort to interact. You need to work to see results.
Even experts do not always understand this critical fact.
George, a representative of a UK social media agency, emailed me last month to tell me to check out his company’s blog. He also made the request that I link to his site with “social media agency [companyname]” if I ever like what I see.
George’s request follows a message from his colleague, Simon, sent in May. Simon read my how to use Facebook for business and marketing post and felt compelled to let me know via email that I should check out his site and read his past blog posts to find posts to link to! Without getting specific, he essentially threw me a category page and implied that I should just start reading everything to see if something is interesting to me.
When considering my response to George, I noticed that neither George nor Simon have ever commented on my blog. There was a pingback on two of my posts from the company’s blog from July 2008 from a third employee of the agency, but none of the individuals doing the outreach in 2010 actually had time to write a comment on my blog posts.
When I wrote my extremely popular how to get an influencer’s attention post, a handful of self-important individuals emailed me telling me that they felt they deserved to be mentioned in future posts like these. Yet I’ve never heard of any of them, and they certainly didn’t influence me, which was criteria for inclusion in that post. Further, none of the individuals making the request actually bothered to post a comment on any of my posts or participated at all in my community, which if you notice, is bustling with activity.
Lisa Barone explains that you can lose credibility in social media if you beg for favors before you’ve had a conversation. And it’s not really hard to have a conversation with most of the people in the online space. Your prerequisite only is effort. On Techipedia, I reply to just about every comment on my blog, and I have some very powerful relationships with some of the members in my community as a result. Not all bloggers respond this way, but a few quick clicks will give you some insight into the person you’re reaching out to.
If you’re looking for recognition without putting forth any type of effort, think again. Would you do the same thing to someone you had the phone number of but never actually spoke to?
You’re serving the community, not yourself
Today, community means a whole lot. I remember a good friend who asked me about a job on a major blog I used to write for. When I passed on the request to the powers that be, they noticed that the individual had no involvement whatsoever with the blog’s community and promptly declined the opportunity even though they had a powerful referral from an active staff member. If you’re not going to make any effort, you can’t expect your friends to help carry you through. In fact, it could put them in a very awkward position when it is evident that the friend may not have done due diligence and blindly recommended you.
One of my favorite quotes about social media is “Come bearing gifts.” In the social media space, if you give of yourself, you’ll find that people will give back to you. If you’re just going to throw your URLs to an discerning audience, and not spend time getting to know the people on those social sites, you’re wasting your time. Putting effort into commenting, voting upon submissions, or resharing the content will be a more effective use of your time. Build bridges with the people around you, or you will go nowhere.
Sure, we all have some reason to be here. Local eateries are posting on Facebook and Twitter to communicate with patrons and fans, ultimately because they want people to visit and support the establishments. Those doing it right are offering specials and engaging with each and every person who leaves them a note. And individual professionals are always on the lookout to make great friends.
It’s not only business. It’s relationships that can lead to business.
NYC is notorious for unsolicited fliers. At many busy street corners, there’s someone trying to hand out something to get your attention. Nine times out of ten, that person is ignored. Of those people who actually do take the flier, most do so out of sympathy and toss it out at their earliest opportunity. At the end of the day, most of the people are just not interested.
The lesson on a street corner on an average NYC day can be brought back into the online space, because after all, it’s not much different: it’s still a human interaction. I’d like to think that the people who actually have a relationship with those individuals handing out fliers are actually more interested in what those pieces of paper promote because of the people behind them. When I get to know you online, I’m more inclined to want to know what you’re about, who you represent, and who you stand for. I wouldn’t be as receptive to your message if your absolute first reply to my tweet about my infant son is “oh, you have a son? We sell children’s clothes in our online shop!” (This really happened.)
We’re all sitting behind mobile displays, laptop LCDs, or monitors. Yet we still are obligated to follow the unwritten rules of social media etiquette. If you still don’t know better, phrase the question this way: “would I do this offline with someone else?” If the answer is no, don’t do it online either.
Photos by Shutterstock.