In 1988 Nike introduced an ad campaign centered around iconic athletes and the phrase “Just Do It!” , exhorting people to play and exercise – and of course use Nike products. Business people have adopted that attitude towards social media. With the growth of social media and its mainstream adoption by small businesses and prfoessionals, peopel seem more focused on “doing it” than they are in “doing it well”. And the resulting efforts may be more damaging than helpful.
It used to be that the blog was the primary victim of “ready, fire,aim” social media strategies. People would attend a seminar or read an article and determine that blogging was the best way to reach consumers, engage them, and convert them to screaming raving fans of their business. They would run to Blogger, or WordPress.com or wordpress.org, pick a spiffy name, an attractive theme, set up their new blog ,write their first post and wait for the world to beat a path to their business. And then, while the crickets wait quietly in the weeds, the lack of immediate gratification and the need to create new content regularly slowly suffocates the blog, which waits quietly in cyberspace, gathering cyber dust.
Facebook pages become the next newest flavor of the month. As some businesses, large and small were able to engage with their existing communities or create new communities by generating interesting spaces for conversation or dissemination of information valuable to the participants, there was a huge land rush to create facebook pages. No more complicated themes. No need for scholarly posts or clever insights wrapped with attendant graphics. Now all I need to do is post a line or two once in a while and you and your customers will enter a new phase of your relationship which will catapult your business to a new level – after all, they “like” you , they really, really, “like” you! But with less than 5% of “fans” ever returning to a page once they like it, most of these businesses were once again disappointed.
Twitter accounts? Its tough to even get started there. I can’t count the number of people I have met as I travel, speak, and teach who tell me ” I have a twitter account, I just can’t remember what my name is there…” as if they had all rehearsed that sentence. Really? You have an account and can’t remember your name ? Guess you’re not tearing up the twitter stream in your community, huh?
Online success for small business people and professionals has, at its core, the need for engagement with your desired community. And if you’re unsure exactly what engagement means in your social strategy, let’s substitute the word conversation. Dialogues, not monologues. No matter where you are, or what venue you choose, this is the key to creating relationships with consumers that make them predisposed to trust you and the products and services you offer. And though we could spend quite a bit of time discussing the how and why of that, let’s talk about what the unintended effects of this lack of engagement might be.
Along with the positive impact of good social engagement online, there is a negative effect when you start and stop in different venues. If your last blog post is three years old, and there is no interaction on your Facebook page, or you have a Twitter account with only three posts, these things are part of your “permanent record, and anyone looking for you may well trip over your abandoned outposts. If you have tried to position yourself as someone who is connected with an active community online, your credibility can be damaged.
So what’s the answer? Do you avoid new things? Ignore the herd instinct that leads you to follow the paths that others have blazed online? I don’t think you need to. What you do need to do is to assure yourself that your online strategy is sustainable. In other words that the commitment to creating or curating relevant content for your community is something that you are not only able to do, but are willing to do. None of the channels we use, are in and of themselves, a game changer for your business. What you do with those channels may very well be a game changer for your business.
The great part about engaging online is that there are so ways to engage. It doesn’t matter if you like to write, sing, video or take pictures. If you don’t like to create content, there are lots of great ways to curate and share content, and still be a valued source of information for the members of your online community. It really all depends on who you are, what your skills and talents are, and how much time you can devote (on a regular basis) to your online campaign. Its not about where you do things that matters. Its about what you do that matters most. I’m not suggesting you get caught in “analysis paralysis” just that you give simple consideration to four points.
So before you choose a channel, be sure that:
- Your community is present and active in that channel
- That you are capable of adding to the existing conversation
- That you have a plan for enhancing the conversation
- That you can sustain your part of the conversation as long as the community is interested.
If you can just follow those four simple points, there won’t be tumbleweeds rolling down the streets of your virtual world – there will be the vital give and take of conversation, with you as a valued participant. Because you didn’t “Just do it” you went out and took the trouble to do it well.