I’ve always considered myself a bit of a purist when it comes to social media. I believe strongly that it’s more important to engage in conversations and build relationships with people, both as an individual and as a company or brand, than it is to come at them selling product. If you build relationships, the products will sell. Sure, it’s a longer build, but with it comes longer benefit.
But I am also a social media consultant who counsels businesses on how to use social media successfully. Each time I discuss the business goals or reasons why a client wants to use social media, the answers come down to one thing: selling more stuff. It’s a harsh business reality. If you don’t make money, the business goes under. If you don’t make more money, people lose their jobs.
Blogs and social networks emerged because people (i.e. – individuals) wanted to connect on a more personal level using technology … or perhaps because the technology barrier was lowered enough to allow people to connect on a more personal level using it. These interwebs were not invented for business purposes. (They were invented to help Al Gore fix the ozone or something … I forget.)
As a result, the social media purists have laid down the law and, so, to participate in social media as a business, you must do things like, “participate in the conversation,” “engage your customers,” and “talk with us not to us.”
I’ve got news for you. In the world of business, all that talk will get you exactly nowhere. Conversations do not ring the cash register. Engagement does not sell more product. Talking with people just means you have to take time to listen which prevents you from spending valuable time selling more product.
(I’ll pause a moment so my social media friends can curse a bit.)
No, I’m not turning my back on the social media community or mindset. But I am trying to make a point all the social media evangelists out there need to grow up and face: If you don’t stop selling the fluff and start driving the bottom line, you’re going to have to go back to whatever you were doing in 2005. It’s not about convincing the curmudgeon. It’s not about waiting it out until digital natives are calling the shots. It’s about making social media drive business for your clients or companies. If you don’t, you’ll soon hear, “You’re fired,” and it won’t be from Apprentice reruns.
I’m all for your principles. I’m a big fan of The Cluetrain‘s “markets are conversations,” notion. But I can promise you a conversation never paid the damn electric bill.
Make your company blog drive search results to the keywords you want to win. Present calls to action that lead your Facebook fans to buy your product. Entice Twitter followers to subscribe to your e-mail newsletter where you can present similar calls to action for purchase. And if you think doing that turns consumers off, look at the millions of dollars Marriott racks up from Bill Marriott’s blog. Look at the sales Southwest Airlines attributes to it’s social media activity. Look at the $3 million Dell reported earning from its @delloutlet Twitter account. Look at Wiggly Wigglers, which has 90,000 worldwide customers, largely because when they talk about a product on their blog they put an “order here” link along with it.
They don’t do this because they hug and kiss everyone. They do this because they make a compelling argument and persuade you to buy things, then they give you the opportunity to buy them. It doesn’t mean they aren’t social. Just that they’re smart.
Share your content, engage your audiences, talk your talkity talk all you want. But walk the walk, too. Move the needle. And not the UV meter on your virtual stereo, grasshopper. Move the one that makes the cha-ching sound.
Then, and only then, will you last.
My vest is on. Fire away. The comments are yours.
IMAGE: By Vladimir Agapov on Shutterstock.com