Did You Miss the Social Media Gold Rush?

In the past 5 years, I have watched the discussion of social media go from “What is it?” to “Do I need it?” to “How do I do it?”.

Now people who came late to the dance wonder if its not too late to create an effective online presence. It seems that no matter what their business, it there has already been a huge rush to stake out what has been perceived as valuable online territory. The fear of being just another tree in a forest filled to the edges is not a fantasy. Luckily, that’s not how social marketing works. Social marketing has never been (and I’m not sure it ever will be) a function of the tools we use. If you’ve ever heard me talk, you know that I am fond of quoting my son Hal Lublin who said, “three years ago , social media was Friendster and MySpace, now its Twitter and Facebook, and we don’t know what it will be next. ” In fact, I would expand on that to say that no one know what it will be next. Maybe Google+ and its integration in the basic search, maybe YouTube (since every year seems to be the year of video) or maybe FourSquare or Gowalla(since every year is also the year of location based services) But no matter what the tool, the basics will remain the same.

  1. Identify your target or niche market. Through the glory of what we used to call the information superhighway, we are no longer tied to just geography, but are free to work  demographics to reach our intended community
  2. Be a Joiner – Its better to be part of your community’s existing world than it is to try to create your own world and seek their participation. Why worry about competing for their attention when you can put yourself firmly in the middle of the place they’re already focused on? Join the existing conversations. Add to the comments in their community, respond to their statements and questions as a peer, and your acceptance will be almost immediate. People are finding that they get more traction by participating in Facebook Groups than they do trying to get people to engage on theior Facebook pages.
  3. Get Through Giving  People become pre-disposed to like you when you contribute freely and without question.If you  contribute to the community on their terms, at their pace, through the channels they choose to populate, you become viewed in the most positive fashion, earning a position of trust that leads to referrals and direct business, when the members of the community have a need for your product or service – it is the very essence of inbound marketing.
  4. Be Genuine At some point you’re going to be dealing directly with your consumer, and your interaction will have set some expectations in their mind about who you are and what you stand for. If you are not the person they expected to meet, their experience, and your ability to maintain their trust is severely limited.  You need to send a consistent message  and you need to make sure that your message has the right context. Context in terms of the ongoing conversation and in terms of the platform you’re sharing on. In the world of FourSquare, Yelp and Foodspotting, sharing what you’re having for dinner is not only acceptable, its crucial to the community – on LinkedIn, not so much…
  5. Be Patient You need to understand that this takes some time and you need to have realistic expectations. Whatever your business goals, social media is a long term investment of time and resources. Your strategy needs to be considerate of that fact. Because of the nature of the relationship process, consistency and patience are key to success. If you blog once a week, at the end of the year, you have accumulated 52 posts that create a part of your permanent presence online. Each picture post, tweet and poke contributes to an overall structure that becomes your online persona – a place where people can see not only what you are discussing or sharing today, but what you have contributed to the community at large.

Bottom line, there is still outstanding opportunity for small businesses and professionals in the social media space. Used thoughtfully, properly, and with integrity, you can connect with a wonderful online community that will profit  your business and enhance your life.

New opportunities are being created everyday, Where will you stake your claim?

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