16 August, 2010

My Online Strategy: Deeper, Not Broader

When the self-described "marketing geniuses" and "social media gurus" say you need an "online strategy" what they usually mean is that you need to spam and annoy as many people as possible through as many social media platforms as possible. While they may have degrees in communications or marketing, they have managed to do so without gaining any empathy for other humans. There's nothing "social" about a strategy like that. It is, in fact, decidedly antisocial and even misanthropic.

My "online strategy" is to put the "social" in social media. I am using online media to identify and start a conversation with the people who share my beliefs, values and interests. These are the people with whom I am most likely to have actual friendships. People who share my beliefs, interests and values are the people most likely to read my blog, refer business to me, recommend me and introduce me to their friends.

As my friends and regular readers know, I belong to a lot of Linkedin groups and I use these groups to "take the pulse" of other users of social media. Many of my blog topics come from Linkedin groups discussions. I recently quit a lot of large Linkedin groups and went in search of groups whose members share my values, beliefs and interests. I even quit a Linkedin group called "Relationship Networking" - which I originally joined precisely because of its name - because the people I was meeting there didn't seem to have the foggiest idea what "relationship networking" means. I quit all groups whose members have little in common other than geography. Charleston Area Alliance. Generation Charleston. Create WV. Create Huntington. I quit some huge groups - groups with several hundred thousand members like "Linked:HR" and "Executive Suite" because, for the most part, members of those groups seemed to have scrubbed their profiles of all but the kind of information people put on their resumes. 

I joined smaller beliefs-based and values-based groups. I formed such a group (see my August 15 post on "How To Join Linking Liberally") and I am in negotiations to become the group owner of another beliefs-based group. 

The self-described marketing geniuses and social media gurus don't seem to know that their strategy of annoying as many people as possible as often as possible through as many social media platforms as possible would be a great way to sell the maximum number of cold beers on a hot day but isn't the best way to sell the kinds of services that most social media users are selling: professional services of one sort or another. Selling more Pepsi than Coke is largely a function of displaying Pepsi on the most end caps, getting Pepsi on the most shelf space, getting Pepsi in more vending machines and getting Pepsi syrup into more restaurants. When you're thirsty and you order a cold drink you aren't forming a relationship with the drink or the people who sell you the drink, you're simply quenching your thirst. You may never again see the waitress who brought you the drink, you may never meet the driver who delivered the syrup and you may never know the salesman who sold the account. At the "retail" level where thirsty customers order a drink, selling the drink isn't about relationships at all. But lawyers, architects, virtual assistants, website designers and even marketing gurus need to establish positive online relationships and positive online brands in order to use social media to build revenue and most of the social media marketers don't seem to understand that you don't sell a professional service or create an online brand the same way you sell cold drinks.

Make no mistake about it, when you need to hire a website designer, architect, lawyer, virtual assistant or marketing dude you are entering into a relationship and you have to like, respect and resonate with the person you hire. I don't resonate with, like or respect people whose social media strategy betrays an insensitivity and a lack of understanding of and empathy for other people. I don't want to be associated with them. I sure don't want them near my clients or friends.

And I'm not interested in having more shallow, superficial relationships. My online strategy is to use social media to identify and start a conversation with people with whom I am most likely to have a meaningful relationship, to get closer to the people who share my values and beliefs. 

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