What makes you think you have a solution?
Last week I overheard a conversation about a technical roadblock between colleagues. I immediately jumped in with a solution. Big #FAIL. They did not want a solution from me, and as it turned out, I didn’t actually have a solution. The problem was way over my head.
Luckily, we are friends, or at least colleagues. This wasn’t my first conversation with them. But if we didn’t already know each other, this would be one of the worst ways to introduce myself. Yet this is exactly what social media marketers do every day.
You jump into the middle of conversations on Twitter, forums, LinkedIn groups and elsewhere, pitching a solution before you even know what the problem is. Even a used car salesman has enough common sense to ask a question before launching into a pitch. This quote, from a survey response published in Lab Manager Magazine, captured what is happening perfectly:
“Social media is being abused by vendors as a “free advertising” conduit: if someone asks a question in a forum, they immediately get jumped on by vendors trying to sell them something.”
Your social media program must be about relationships first. Without a relationship, there is no foundation to sell from. There is no ability to communicate over time.
If you are serious about social media relationships, here are three tips to ensure you are building relationships, not borrowing tactics from ambulance chasers or used car salesmen.
- Join conversations because you are interested in the topic, not to push your own agenda. Social media platforms are open, and perspectives that are not clearly self-serving are welcomed.
- Share information from others freely. Like, comment on, or retweet good information, insight or entertainment from others. On twitter, a common guideline is only one out of every eight tweets should be your own information. The point is: don’t focus on yourself.
- Add something to the conversation. Bring your own perspective, experience, or additional data. Ask yourself if you are making the conversation better for others by participating, or is it just an opportunity for yourself.
If you are not already using social media actively, before you do anything else, start using social media as an individual. Like pages from others in your industry, follow on Twitter or join at least five groups on LinkedIn.
If you participate actively and look to build individual relationships, you will quickly identify the companies and individuals that are just using social media to blast their own message. You will experience people butting into your conversations. Then, when you join conversations as a marketer, you will understand social media etiquette better than you can learn it from any book, seminar or blog post.
Don’t be a used car salesman in social media. Start forming relationships by actively contributing value and serving the audience, not yourself, first.