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Deep Thoughts About Social Media

I was a bit sleepless last night and began thinking about some of the deep thoughts of social media that continue to resonate with me long after I’ve heard them. The first was a statement made at Gov2.0 camp I believe (heard vicariously through two co-workers that attended): “Social media is free, like a puppy is free.”. So true. The second is from EPA’s Jeffrey Levy: “Mission. Tool. Metrics. Teach.” and is an easy to remember approach for social media usage.

Last night another deep thought came to mind: “People first. Practice second.” Meaning you should always try to connect with the person first before selling your service or product. I’ve reconnected with an old friend from high school on Facebook and he’s been very aggressive about trying to sell me some product that is part of a side job of his. It’s a huge turn off and almost a case for defriending. I think if he had simply reconnected with me and then later mentioned his side job and what he was trying to do, I might have been more inclined to purchase something from him because of the friendship.

At its core, social media is about connecting. It makes it easier for us to meet people with similar interests, people of our choosing, rather than just the people we live and work near. But you don’t want to be like that guy at the cocktail party that talks incessantly about his business without listening to what others do first. So start by listening to your customers, learn what they are talking about and what their needs are, then start posting information that will resonate with them because you’ve listened.

Try to weave some human elements into your organization’s use of social media – through personal tweets, photos on Facebook, a video introduction on your blog, etc. It will make you seem more real and show the person behind the acronym. I think we love a good personal “story” to be shared, one that compels us to choose you over all the others out there like you. We love a good underdog – show us the struggles you’ve overcome to get to where you are now.

And finally, I’ll end with an homage to the original, one from my collection of deep thoughts by Jack Handey, “If you go through a lot of hammers each month, I don’t think it necessarily means you’re a hard worker. It may just mean that you have a lot to learn about proper hammer maintenance.” Hmmm, you might say the same for having a lot of tweets.

In honor of social media day (#smday), what deep thought has stuck with you?

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Jay S. Daughtry, ChatterBachs

I love the quote: “Social media is free, like a puppy is free.” Your points remind me of two adages I’ve learned from the sales world: “Personal time is golden time” (in other words, if people are talking about their families, interests, hobbies, vacations, etc. then you’re building the type of relationship you’re describing) and “People buy from people they like” If you’re brash, annoying, narcissistic, pushing your agenda, etc., it shows not only in personal relationships but in business ones (virtual or otherwise) as well. “Start by listening” is exactly right. I had a manager who put it this way: “Seek to understand first and then to be understood.” Thanks for posting your blog, Heather; it was well-written.

Sam Allgood

Reminds me of a valuable idiom (is that the right term?) from years ago … “people don’t care what you know until they know that you care”.

Heather Coleman

Sam – I like that quote – I may have to borrow that 🙂
Jay – It was also applied to the training I’m in today – “SharePoint is free, like a puppy is free” in reference to WSS. I agree about people buying from people they like whole heartedly. I’ve bought numerous products/services I didn’t need (or at least referred people to others) just because I truly liked the individual.
Harlan – Good point. I think the trouble is we are now blurring our private/professional identities. We tend to follow a 24/7 work schedule, always available via our mobile phones. It even becomes hard to figure out what you are doing for your own professional development and what you are doing to benefit your organization. But you are right, if we don’t distinguish we run the risk of not being successful in either arena.

Great comments!

Guy Martin

Heather, I’m confused about your response to Harlan’s point. It seems in your article you are saying ‘be human, be real, be personal’, but then in your comment, you (& Harlan) are saying that you need to distinguish between the two?

I sort of get that, since I tend to use Facebook mostly for personal interactions, and Twitter/LinkedIn for professional work, but, I also try to be ‘personal’ on the professional side as well, since I see way too many people in ‘professional’ social media/networks never showing their human side, and just being a firehose of corporate or professional spam.

In the end, as a human, I’m more likely to want to interact with someone professionally who shows me a human underneath all of the proper professional interactions.

Rebecca Brown

Hi All-
My philosophy, as a small business owner, is to tell people what I do and leave it at that. I want people to buy/join because they are excited and ready, not because they are forced. When people are forced they aren’t excited and we all want people to be excited about what they are a part of.

Any additional thoughts?

I agree when every time you talk to a person you feel that they are trying to “Sell” you. That isn’t what a friendship is based on.

Heather Coleman

Guy – I can see how it might be a little unclear. I think I was referring more to the time we spend on personal vs. professional. If we don’t separate, then we might not be successful at either (i.e. is a vacation really a vacation if you are checking your blackberry every hour?) But that doesn’t mean we can’t be personable first in professional networking settings – especially when it involves the use of social media.

Brenda Roth

Heather, I agree wholeheartedly that social media is about connecting. Yet, my deep thoughts go to how hard it is to raise a puppy and how much work it is to maintain and nurture relationships. In that regard, are either really free?

Heather Coleman

Brenda – very true in both cases. The statement “social media is free, like a puppy is free” is sarcastic in nature since neither are truly “free” due to investment of time and energy.