Its Not All About You
The entire concept of social media confuses people. As the percentage of people participating through various online services grows every day participants in social media are an attractive target for almost every type of business, organization or service.
Sadly, in the head-long land rush that is social media, there are a lot of people that are rushing to pariticpate using the “ready, fire, aim” method of engaging.And in their rush to leap into the action, they often leap right over the edge of a cliff into a free fall without redemption. A little over a year ago, The Economist said “Social networking will become a ubiquitous feature of online life. That does not mean it is a business”.
That doesn’t mean that one cannot derive business benefits from their social media interaction, but it stresses the importance of effective engagement with your community. The key is to remember that what your community wants and needs is more important to them than your product or service.
They Just Aren’t That Into You
In fact, no one cares about your product. Well, that may not be strictly true – you might care about your product, but I can assure you that it is not the focus of interest to your potential customer that you think it is.
People are, by necessity, the stars of their own movies. They are interested in their needs and the needs of their communities. It is only by establishing that you are interested in their needs as well, that people may return your interest.
Think about your own reactions when you meet people face to face. Someone who starts the conversation by showing you their children’s pictures is looked at as a bore while someone who asks to see photos of your child is probably a really nice person. The person who asks what you do for a living is engaged, while the person who starts the conversation by telling you what they do is bragging. The person who meets you and tries to sell you something when you’re in a social situation- just an aggressive jerk!
We tend to feel kindly towards people who take the time to show interest in our lives, our families and our interests. We are not as well disposed towards people who seem only interested in what’s good for them. And yet when we put on our “business hats” we forget our own honest reactions and assume that others don not have those same honest reactions to being solicited without invitation.
Turn the Bullhorn Around
In her book “The Whuffie Factor” Tara Hunt suggests that you start building your business with social capital when you “turn the bullhorn around” and start listening to the community you want to work with. It sounds so simple, but it is counter to the training that made many small business people and professionals successful in the off-line world. They have become so accustomed to selling their product that the relationship building part of their business strategy has become less important.
Its really very simple. If you get people to care about you , they may then care about your product or service to some degree. If you are a trusted member of a community, the other community members will want to do things to help you because you have done things to help them.
Perhaps the hardest part if the concept for people to grasp is that this desire of the community, or their pre-disposition to help or support you is not a tit for tat type of action/reaction. It is more the growth of a relationship which is nurtured by your actions and the respect and trust that are built as a result of the body of those actions, not by a single speech or article. If you make genuine contributions, of value to others without regard to your own needs, you will become an integral part of the community, and therefore will be an integral part of their product and service infra-structure, called upon to supply your product or service when its needed by the members of the group.