Social Media is an oxymoron

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Does it strike anyone else as ludicrous that engagement, connection, inclusion and even friends are terms now used to describe interactions that occur remotely from a smart phone, tablet or computer keyboard? How social is it, really, to be using thumbs to keystroke unintelligible text into the ether? Are you really buying the premise this accounts for today’s best marketing concepts and strategies?

Never before has social been used in juxtaposition with media. There’s good reason. Credible reporting requires distance and objectivity. Get too chummy with your sources or involved in a cause and it’s liable to create bias. Of course the tabloids foreshadowed the new-world take on journalism, but still, if 140 characters is what now passes for clear communications, stop this ride, I want to get off. Social is the opposite of what is being encouraged with marketing models designed to manipulate the dupes who follow you. Whoever came up with this term must relish irony. What’s sad is how many have come to believe interaction through a device is enough to build deep relationships.

There’s a place for online interaction in your marketing mix. It makes sense, though, to look at what you’re getting from time spent here. If you’re logging hours a day online honoring a commitment to your strategic marketing plan and not seeing a red cent as a result, maybe you should weigh the wisdom of you ways.

Think social media really works for small business growth?

Chances are, if you do some digging, even the most heralded success stories aren’t all that.

I know a gal who’s made a name for herself as a Facebook guru. She delights in the number of followers, comments and media calls she’s getting as a result of the awards she’s chased. A lot of hard work has gone into this effort. She should be proud of the results – sort of. The problem is, she’s broke. All the time she’s spent building, maintaining and promoting her Facebook offering hasn’t resulted in paying clients. Plus, she doesn’t even own her content – Facebook does, and could obliterate all she’s created, without notice.

It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement that comes from building a following. If you’re not talking to buyers, though, the warm-fuzzies you get from feeling so popular can make your day, but it won’t pay the bills.

Social is different for small businesses

Not much trumps face-to-face connections for entrepreneurs. Before you commit to a strategic marketing philosophy focused entirely on internet vehicles, consider how much more effectively your time could be spent by meeting people in-person.

If you’re committed to social, get off line and get out there. You’ll be amazed at how much easier client attraction becomes once you forego your keyboard or touch screen and walk into a room where humans are gathering. It takes time to build a referral network, but you’ll find the forgotten contacts you impressed years ago remember when you least expect it. It’s not hard to impress when you set yourself apart (hint – don’t try to sell). For some easy to apply event schmoozing tips check out meeting networking tips for small business.

Marketing concepts merged with traditional media rocks

Traditional media is easy to access. Do your homework. Read the publication or watch the broadcast before you pitch. Know who covers what type of stories. Consider where your idea might best fit within the format. If print is your choice, Marketing Concepts for Small Business Print Media Coverage should help get you started. Know who you’re talking to, what stories or angles they’re looking for and what you can offer as time and headache saving contributions for future content. Offer to take a reporter or assignment editor to breakfast or lunch. You’ll be shocked at how many respond to this offer if you first demonstrate you’re likely to be a good resource. Don’t try a sales pitch – ever. Instead, impart how you can help make their job easier with relevant research material and clarity about their audience.

Social and media revised

Bolstering business growth is best done with some true social time in your marketing mix. Yes, getting dressed, piloting your car and being congenial during live conversations is required, but the benefits you gain from these efforts can be immense. Focus your dialog on their needs, jot down notes quickly and stay in touch in ways that make them feel grateful. Send referrals if appropriate. Forward articles via snail mail mentioning their kids, hobbies, causes or interests. Suggest alliance partners.

If you really want to be social with the media, online is rarely the best approach. Call, try for a meeting (even if it’s Skype) or introduction through a mutual acquaintance and strive to be the solution to their challenges. Done right, you’ll get called on repeatedly as a source for quotable material and/or interviews.

Maybe in the true sense of the term, social media isn’t an oxymoron, but the way it’s being used today sure seems to make it so (particularly if you appreciate irony). Why not become a beacon for small business success strategies with marketing concepts that respond to social and media in smarter ways?

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8 responses to “Social Media is an oxymoron”

  1. Get dressed and go out? What a shocking thought!
    All joking aside and despite the fact I rarely go “networking”, the final contact before taking on work with clients local to me is usually a coffee shop or their office. No amount of Facebook, tweeting or G+ can beat that connection.
    One of the biggest reasons for me turning down work is the myth that the web is somehow a magic button that you can press and suddenly your business is over its marketing woes. I wish it was that easy!
    The web has always been “social”, years before the term social media was coined. It’s two-way interaction, I think that’s the part people forget.
    It’s not about numbers of followers, likes or how many people are in your circles. How social media fits in the marketing mix is a more complex thing.
    More often than not, social sites are not the final contact point before a sale or new client. Building an online presence based soley on social sites is a mistake for any business, large or small. Relying on social sites on their own as a marketing strategy is a death knell.

    • Thanks for adding your perspectives, Jan, as one who is well versed in online marketing. I like coffee shops – or diners – too. There’s something about treating a prospect to food or drink in a neutral setting that makes the conversation friendly, relaxed and exciting. Personally, I generally stay away from gatherings dubbed networking events but all encounters are networking in one form or another. Great points on how social and the marketing mix. I appreciate you sharing your wisdom.

  2. You make great points, Nanette. I use social media for two main reasons – to learn and to build relationships with others in my field so I can learn from them.

    I have been promoting my book online and making some sales. I don’t focus much on getting likes or followers – those things seem to work by themselves.

    This period of business for me is the creative period. I’m creating my program Monetize Your Passion: Empowering Young Entrepreneurs. The book I’ve completed and my second book are adjuncts to that program and using the blog challenge made it easy to write both books.

    So, I guess what I’m trying to say is that social media for me, is another tool in my tool kit. Networking and schmoozing comes easy to me, I’m a real social butterfly. Selling is not my thing though.

    • Julia – there’s no need for you to be selling with these skills :-). People seem to think selling should be painful. It’s not when you do it right. Build the relationships right, offer and easy way for people to buy and you don’t have to ask for the sale – it just happens. Of course, I’m not against social media (I devote weekly hours to this and many know my name and have bought as a result), I’ve just seen too many people put full focus on this in the wrong way (not social, not media) without incorporating other tools. Then they put the blame in the wrong place for the fail. For what it’s worth, I’ve had some experience success selling through Kindle and Nook with a book (not so much with the e-booklets – still trying to find the right formula for that). There are some easy things you can do to spur sales without selling. Maybe I’ll do a blog post on that in the future, but in the meantime, feel free to contact me privately if there’s anything I can do to help.

    • Yes, Debra, it’s interesting how some things don’t change as much as we may think, isn’t it? Volunteering is important too, as you note in your article. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  3. I believe that more and more people will start to realize the truth in what you are writing. We are so social on a computer but I run into the same people over and over again and we all get along great but to find work, which is what most of us have as a goal we need customers as well as our social friends. The advice of my coach and my mentor is to get outside and rub elbows with the people in my community.

    • I agree with you Shawn. I’ve certainly seen a difference in the amount of business coming in the door when I’m active in the business community (in-person) and when I’m not. It really doesn’t take that much time to attend monthly, meetings, serve on a board or volunteer. People just seem to feel differently about you – and think of you more frequently – when you’re working together toward a common area goal.

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