Small Business and Social Media II

Last week’s column generated lots of comments, and probably requires some follow up.

First, the army of social media fanatics that go ballistic at any hint that SM isn’t the be-all, end-all and answer-from-above for every marketing need on the planet are just wrong. “To every thing there is a season” (Ecclesiastes 8- Hey…do I get big SEO points if I put a link to the Bible here?)  and that applies to social media as well. There is a time, a place and a purpose for any type of marketing, and trying to stretch one modality as a universal panacea for all marketing needs is foolish.

Second, there is a difference between social media and anything that requires typing on the Internet. As Al Bellenchia pointed out, I blog. (How about circular links? Do they count?) Is that social media? If the “social” in social media indicates interaction between folks, how many of the current 181,000,000 active blogs on the web are actually social? Don’t you have to have a conversation to be social? If a blogger is just blasting out personal rants to the great cyber-void, is that autoeroticism a social activity?

treefallsinforestSo the real question is whether participating in social media has any value if no one is engaged? If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one to hear, does it make a sound? I think not. I just visited a local retailer’s Facebook site (which was in lieu of the business having a “real” website) and it has no picture, no descriptions, no postings, no friends and 5 “likes” in the last 7 years. Clearly that is worse than having nothing at all.

As David Basri pointed out in the discussion thread on this topic at The Alternative Board® Members Forum on Linked In, there is a difference between SEO and Social Media. I somewhat erroneously pointed out that adding multiple useless links to big social media companies would not serve to get me new clients. That isn’t SM, that’s SEO, although blogging may be one of the best tools for scoring on SEO, the two are very different.

Last week I said that linking to Google+, Baidu , Bebo, Orkit, Netlog, Stumbleupon, Blogger, Delicious, Friendfeed, Tumblr, Viadeo, MySpace, Reddit, Digg and Pinterest were pointless. Of course, if this post goes viral I guess the time “wasted” on building all these stupid links was worth it.

OK, I’m just playing with you. Endless site links to boost SEO, retweeting other peoples’ quotations from famous dead people, and weekly electronic “newsletters” that do nothing but flog discount deals are not social media. Anything works at the proper time and in its proper place whether it is “social” or not. Advertising is intended to get folks to listen to your marketing message. Your marketing message is intended to prepare them to buy. The sales process is to follow up on those influenced by your marketing message and close a transaction.

So here are my “rules” for marketing on the Internet:

  1. It’s an advertising medium just like any other. You have to understand who you are trying to reach, and judge the return on your investment.
  2. Time is money. The time you spend on building an internet presence is an investment, and should produce a return. Otherwise you should be spending it on something that does.
  3. Just because you can reach a zillion people doesn’t mean it is a worthwhile effort. Suspects aren’t (necessarily) prospects.
  4. Social media is for interacting with people. If you aren’t prepared to increase your levels of interaction and maintenance with every new success, don’t start.
  5. Be consistent. Your business presence isn’t the place for your niece’s birthday party photos, and your personal sites aren’t for advertising special deals.
  6. Be patient. The Internet is a big place, and it can take a long time to be found. Hoping that each new effort goes viral is like hoping to win the lottery every week.
  7. Deliver value. No matter what you do to be “found,” it’s worthless unless you provide a reason to come back again.

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One Response to Small Business and Social Media II

  1. Hi John,
    You wrote: “Endless site links to boost SEO, retweeting other peoples’ quotations from famous dead people, and weekly electronic “newsletters” that do nothing but flog discount deals are not social media.” So true. Real social media, like real conversation, takes thoughtfulness, consideration and a real interest in listening to others and hearing what they are saying. Thanks to Christi Brendlinger for sharing this awesome post with the BizSugar community.

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