The problem is that for the last couple of years, experts have continuously preached that the success of a business is dependant on participating in online social networking. They will try to convince you that you need a Facebook page, that you need to regularly update your Linked In profile, that you should post articles to a myriad of resource sites, and of course let the world know you are doing all this by Twittering at least 5 times a week.
What every expert has forgotten to share with you (or just don’t know to) is that this is not social networking. There is in fact nothing social about it. You are not trying to make friends, get in touch with old school chums, or keep tabs on the ex. You are trying to grow your business.
So maybe it’s time to stop referring to all this as social networking and start seeing it for what it really is: social marketing.
This morning I came across a fascinating perspective on social media in business from Marc Gordon, a marketing consultant from Toronto. His assertion, which I consider to be a correct one, is that many businesses who engage in social networking online make the mistake of thinking that they’re “networking” when what they’re really doing is marketing their business through social media channels.
In my experience, though, social media is really about blending the two worlds: both networking and marketing.
Perhaps it’s because I’m in a relationship-based business where clients are buying our personality as much as our talent and expertise, but I find that I get the most success out of online networking by carefully balancing personal and professional.
For example, in an average day I might tweet about a project that the studio just launched or share a blog post (such as this one, for example), but I’ll also make comments about the weather, or a new recipe I’m creating, or share a bit of snark about something that I find ridiculous. It’s all part of the relationship I’m building with the people who connect with me, and it all feeds into the overall strategy.
Does this approach work for every business? Not necessarily. Major brands, like Starbucks and Whole Foods, may find it easier to keep their social media activity related to specials and information about the industry, as well as responding to consumer comments. It makes sense, and it’s more than likely why people are following them in the first place. But for smaller firms, especially where part of what you’re selling is the experience of being in a room with you, this approach is not only extremely common, but it’s extremely effective in helping you do what you’re online for – build relationships with people who are interested in who you are and how you can help them.