Part of what makes social media great is the ability to reach out and connect with people simply. Tools like blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and the rest are free or cheap, can reach lots of people, and promote two way conversations. You might be interested in using social software to promote your products or service or company, and that’s great.
The thing is, this isn’t baseline advertising and marketing. You’re talking into a channel where people have gathered for different purposes. Some will be interested in your promotions. Others will reject them. Still others will rail against you for acting commercially in what they consider a sacred space.
There are ways to get your ideas across such that it’s palatable to your audience and/or to a community. Some of them work well for everyone. Others require a higher degree of trust first. Here’s some of what’s usually missing when people explain to you that social media is this great place for marketing and business communications. They forget to tell you that there’s work involved in establishing trust, but we can get there.
The trick is being able to promote without being “that guy” (and yes, that includes women).
Let’s Use the Picnic Analogy
Conn Fishburn from Yahoo gave me a great analogy for thinking about social media marketing when we spoke at IBM’s Research Headquarters in New York last year. He said, “Bring wine to the picnic.” In this case, Conn was talking about the idea that if you show up and try to market, people will be frustrated and will shut you out. Instead, if you bring something of value to people, they’ll be more likely to accept you.
The picnic is a decent way to think about social media environments, especially if you think of it as a pot-luck picnic in a large public park. Let’s envision it: a sunny day, with a warm breeze, and there are people gathering for different reasons. Some are there to just take in the rays. Others are there to practice for a sporting event. Others have come to find romance. Others are organizing a protest. There are even a few people of questionable character looking to cause trouble and improve their standings in life.
Things To Remember About Being That Guy
“That guy” tends to blurt a lot. They talk all about their thing. They re-talk about it all over Twitter, Facebook, and everywhere they can find. They make every second or third blog post a pointer to that thing. They try to find clever ways to weave their thing into your thing.
The problem is, we know. We see it. We know what you’re doing. It’s not clever. It’s not subtle. It’s not very picnic-like behavior.
How “That Guy” Arrives at the Picnic
Imagine there are a bunch of people standing over by the picnic tables. They’ve brought a dish to share. They are looking forward to enjoying a diverse lunch with loosely joined friends (people they might not know well, but that they know in a social setting). They’re smiling, enjoying small talk, and engaged in several small conversations of varying degrees of substance.
I could just use one word: blurt.
“That guy” shows up and starts bullhorning her message into the crowd. “Hi! I can show you thirty ways to make money while you sleep!”
(That guy uses lots of exclamation points.)
You know that guy. You might have even been that guy. Sometimes, I skirt perilously close to being that guy. Again, what separates you from being that guy is often just a level of trust, or, as Conn Fishburn called it, the notion to bring wine to the picnic.
Bring Wine to the Picnic
At this picnic called social media, what people seem to want the most is information they can use. The information might be entertaining, might help them with their job, might do something to give them a sense of value. Whatever the case, in the social space, people consider the sharing of information to be one form of ready relationship currency. Let’s talk about others.
10 Ways to Build Relationships Before You Ask for Anything
- Comment on and reply to other people’s observations, posts, and ideas. (Sometimes, just retweeting someone’s status message in Twitter is a gesture that matters to people.)
- Share good information freely, such as pointing to great blog posts or articles.
- Make virtual introductions when you see obvious like-minded people who could do to know each other.
- Create useful media like blog posts or ebooks or videos that help people.
- Find mutual interest points and talk about them. (Bonus points to you if they’re off-topic from your business needs, like talking about the Red Sox or Barbecue.)
- Remember things about the other person, such as whether they have a big meeting on Thursday, and ask them about it on Friday.
- Help when someone is promoting their thing. Spread information for other people liberally.
- Find causes and nonprofit experiences to help out. Showing that you’re not just a capitalist pig goes a long way.
- Reply to people and build conversations.
- Thank people when they’re helpful.
Launching Your Promotion
After accomplishing the above – and it’s a process, so don’t pat yourself on the back after being at this for a few days. You’ve really got to earn your place at the picnic. After accomplishing the above, it’s likely that you can promote things. I find that the magic of doing so is still in alignment with picnic-friendly behavior.
- Make your promotion useful to others. “I’m giving away a free pass to my conference for the first five people representing a major brand. DM me to see if you qualify.” (That might work. What do you think? Still too scammy?)
- Make your promotion informational. “How do you go about promoting using social media? Here are my ideas…” (which is how I’ll show Twitter this post.)
- Ask politely for folks to share the more important promotions. I rarely request retweets of work on Twitter, unless it’s for a charity. If it’s for charity, I can really ring the bell.
- Try your hardest to make it about them. You’re talking about your thing, but if you make it about them, they share. (Them is not the giant ants, but instead, people in your picnic community.)
- Use a variant of this mix in promoting. Try to promote something like 15:1 their stuff to your stuff, or at least make about 15 of your tweets or social media messages or blog posts about something that’s NOT about your stuff to every one that is yours.
I’ve probably missed a few gems. As you’re all social media superheroes too, why not give me some help? What do you think are some of the ways that have worked for you? Want to share some of your better promotions?
It’s okay, I’m asking. : )
Photo credit Gabu Chan