Why social media is not about Social Media

Sydney Harbour Bridge crowded with onlookers during the water and aerial display, 19 March 1932

How many of you have read Groundswell by Josh Bernoff and Charlene Li?

I have a copy of the original edition.

It is excellent.

However, as much as it pains me to say, the social media ‘debate’ hasn’t moved on much since the book was published.

In fact, up until recently, when I culled a significant number of my feeds to Google Reader, all I was receiving was post after post about social media. And not the type that helped me understand the bridge-building capability of the paradigm, but, rather, the type that just told me, week after week, about the latest nuance to this and that social media platform.

In truth, I am not that interested in the wizardry of the social media platforms.

It is a road to nowhere, and given my location in the world, I will be forever chasing my tail if I think I can stay ahead of the curve.

In Groundswell Messrs Bernoff and Li adopt the P.O.S.T. acronym, which is still the best way to view to social media:

P – People

O – Objectives

S – Strategy

T – Technology

I not only use this in my own social media endeavours, but it is something that I refer to constantly when speaking or consulting.

I never start with the platforms save to highlight the fact that they are not social media. As trite as it may sound, social media is built on generating engagement. No one is going to compliment you on your use of Tweetdeck, Seesmic or Hootsuite.

If you have ventured forth on the social media path then you should have worked out where your clients gather or the proclivity of your tribe to consume content in one form as opposed to another. If you haven’t don’t waste your time experimenting, ask them.

Your firm has certain objectives.

The stand out candidate is revenue.

You may not be able to say with any degree of accuracy how many clients that means but you will have a fair idea. You can look at the historical data, and even allowing for the increase in hourly rates, you will be able to work the average billing per client. That will give you a number.

And so, where then does social media fit in?

Is it going to replace some of those clients for less cost than your other marketing efforts?

Or do you see it as a new business generator?

I have heard many people talk about brand awareness. But being aware counts for nothing if there is no call to action.

When I started my business, I thought the trick would be to aspire to be the most well read, thoughtful and knowledgeable in my sector, but my emphasis  very quickly changed. People, for all the novelty factor, are not that interested in the tools. They want to know how to build bridges with their clients, referrers and those that are likely to scale their efforts.

Of course, I still offer the odd LinkedIn course, but what I am focused on is enabling you to make a difference to your practice, and something that, ideally, can be measured absent a sophisticated tool like Radian6 or Alterian.

This means focusing on:

1. Excellence

2. Creating remarkable content

3. Understanding the competitive landscape

4. Thinking about Brand You

5. Involving your marketing efforts with social media

6. Aligning your firm’s objectives with your social media efforts

7. Considering the platforms where your clients are likely to congregate

8. Making sure you focus on the execution and not the discussion

9. Developing a mindset that is open to change

10. Showing the importance of your website – if that is the place you have chosen to syndicate your content

If you think social media is about LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook then you are deluded. Your clients couldn’t care less about these platforms. What they care about is how your service helps them.

Next time you hear someone talk about social media, you need to understand how the latest evolution of Twitter or LinkedIn is going to make a difference to your clients.

Meeting them.

Understanding their needs.

And offering a brilliant solution will count for more than any amount of Tweets.

All things being equal people do business with people they know, like and trust, and that is where you should focus. In my world, social media might help with the ‘know you’ but most clients will still want to meet you before they can make an informed decision to buy your services.

I am not about to turn my back on social media but next time someone tells me about this new, fantastic platform, I will simply ask them to show me the money. Who, or how many people, have built and sustained a remarkable business using that platform?

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