A college student working in a marketing consulting firm plays devil’s advocate about the pros and cons of social media and its effects on communication. Are we as a society potentially losing our verbal skills? A compelling case of the drawbacks, and the benefits, of 140+ characters.
Recently, a colleague repeated to me and others a well known marketing mantra that stated something to the effect of “never have to educate a client.” Well, in our discussion, I offered my opinion that most of my colleagues working in Social Media are experiencing something quite different. Nearly half of my clients are not fully educated on Social Media. It’s something they hear about, (what the “it” is actually varies in interpretation by client), and it’s something they think that perhaps they should be involved in since their kids are online, their spouses, CNN and other national and local news media advertise their social presence, and…why would anyone want to be left out? It is at this point that I typically get the first email or phone call inquiring about how and whether social media can help the client’s business.
In response to my clients, I initially put together a brief on the most well known tools, explaining how everything is interconnected and how viral a great to good message can be when well executed. Luckily for me, most of my clients have at least a Facebook account, so the learning curve is usually not completely “from scratch.” One of the most common tools from a commercial push, however, is Twitter. And while Twitter is wonderful in its simplicity and usefulness, it’s less so in its sophistication. The privacy guards that gave Facebook the advantage over MySpace present a bit of a challenge for the novice on Twitter. In addition, the novice gets the medley of media commentary on the service. The most recent comment I heard from a client repeated statistics such as X% of Twitter is reported to be nonsense… without much reference or understanding of the value in the tool or the community.
In response to these valid perceptions, my Social Media brief includes the tactical and the practical. The “practical” includes such things as, in relation to Twitter, warnings of unsolicitied followers, and in some cases, the nefarious intent of the followers. In blunt terms, I warned them that yes, you may have porn sites following you. Ignore it…
But what I want to focus on is truly the Community. If it weren’t for Twitter, as an example, the ability for me to learn about people in a similar role, their interests, their skills, and new gadgets that are out in the social media and SEO space, would be hampered greatly. (The Pull) Since I no longer work in an office of thousands of people, Twitter has brought the thousands across hundreds of companies and practices to my very own “door step.” I can learn from my colleagues in Australia, the UK, Canada, and right here in Atlanta. I understand that the resources they “push” give me the very best of what they have to offer.
The same types of social skills that apply to success among people who know each other personally, whether in personal or in business relationships, apply to Social Media. The #1 motivator in business is to “be in the know.” Secondly, to be recognized. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and hundreds more social media tools allow these very same human desires to be satisfied–quickly and directly. Blatant sales, just as in a direct physical interaction, don’t typically work. But the mutual desire to benefit one another does.
So, to keep on recognizing and “motivating” your followers, Retweet, or “RT @” what someone tweets. Make a note to someone on their wall on Facebook. Tell a business that is on Twitter that you enjoyed their service. Write a recommendation for someone on LinkedIn. Who knows what may come of it? Just as I thanked the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra (@AtlantaSymphony) for putting on a wonderful show, they in-turn gave me a special offer via Twitter as a thank you. Now THAT is customer service, and THAT is building community. What did that do for the ASO? Well, case in point, I am talking about the ASO (recognition) and just like in real life, away from the computer, I am thankful for their recognition and will remain a loyal customer who goes to see as many as their events as possible.