Many small business owners view social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter as an exciting new shortcut for marketing their business. They think social media magical solution; if they sign up customers will flock to their website or store front. It’s as if marketing no longer has to be work.
Well I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I’m here to tell you that it’s just not true. Whether you are using Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or some other social media site, the truth of the matter is the people who get true value out of social media are those who put in the hard work. If it were truly easy, everyone would be getting rich.
What hard work?
The truth of the matter is the best marketing – the most effective marketing – involves building relationships with real, live people. It’s about giving people the chance to get to know, like and trust you. And it doesn’t matter how fabulous your website is, how funky your Facebook fan page is, or how witty you are when you Tweet, if you aren’t building relationships you’re spinning your wheels.
Ultimately building relationships using social media means you can’t hide behind your computer to promote your business. At some point you have to get away from the keyboard and either pick up the phone or meet face-to-face with the people you’re connecting with. Yes, you can use social media to virtually meet people, and get on their radar, but that is only the beginning. The real power of social media comes from taking these initial connections and getting off line.
This is not a quick fix. There are no shortcuts. You need to find the time and the reason to follow up and connect with your social media contacts.
It’s exactly the same principles as networking in real life. Just showing up at a networking meeting isn’t going to get you business. You need to have a plan, meet new people, provide value, and follow up.
The people who go to networking meetings, sit with their friends and then go back to the office and behave as if nothing has happened get no results. However, people who go to networking meetings, get to know the people they meet, and find ways to help those people (whether by connecting them with other people, sending them resources, sending them appropriate websites) and only after they’ve taken the time to build a relationship do they sell, these are the people who get lasting results with networking.
So how do you get from following someone on Twitter to getting them on the phone? First, you need to take the time to get to know them. Visit their website, read their tweets, look at their profile, connect on other social media sites. Next, you need to start a conversation. Reply to comments they make, reTweet their messages, send them @replies with helpful links. Once you have proven yourself as a valuable resource, then you can approach them about having a conversation off line.
If you skip any steps along the way, you may be perceived as pushy or creepy.
Consider dating. If somebody were to ask you out, take you out to dinner, and you have a good time, you might consider it okay for them to kiss you at the end of the date. However, if a complete stranger came up to you on the street and planted a big juicy one in your lips you probably hit them.
So when you’re out in the virtual world networking on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter, don’t be a virtual masher. And don’t be a virtual hermit either. Take the time to get to know people, give them a chance to get to know, like and trust you, and then take the relationship off line. If you can do this, you’ll be ahead of 90% of the social media marketers online today.
Andrea J. Stenberg
Do you have a success story of how you connected with someone you “met” online? Tell us what you did, how you did it and what results you got by leaving a comment.