More businesses than ever are exploring the possibility of using social media tools and sites to help grow their business.  But many of these efforts aren't very effective, and I think that is due to many businesses simply misunderstanding what social media is, and why it's so important.

First, what exactly IS social media?  Asking 10 people might result in 10 different answers, but for simplicity sake, lets say that social media is a group of tools and sites that let you easily create and share content online.  Blogs, social networks, and podcasts are the common forms of social media that most of us are at least somewhat familiar with.

The problem that I think many businesses have, is how they view social media.  I believe many businesses (of all sizes) see social media sites and tools as new channels to publish content into.  In order words, they view social media as being marketing channels.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Notice in the above definition of social media, I said that these sites and tools are ways to create and share content.  Why use the word 'share' instead of 'publish' or 'distribute'?

Because sharing implies interaction.  Publishing and distributing implies one-way channels.  Social media is rooted in sharing content.  It can be content you have created, it can be content that someone else has created, but as a whole, social media sites and tools are so popular because of how people are sharing and interacting with content.

So then the question becomes, how can businesses use social media effectively?

By creating more value for the people that interact with your content, than you receive back from them.

So your focus changes from 'what can I get from social media', to 'how can I use these tools to give value to others?'.  It sounds completely counterintuitive, I know.  But remember again that social media is rooted in sharing.  In order to start sharing, you have to create content that others can FIRST find value in.  That prompts them to want to share that content with other people.

Hint:  That content isn't advertising.  For example, we won't find much value in a blog post telling us about the sales your nursery is having on lawncare products this week.  But if you post 'Ten Ways to Have a Gorgeous Lawn by the Fourth of July!' on your blog, THAT is content that we can find value in.  Since we would likely find value in your second post, that makes it far more likely that we will share that post with other people, which helps promote your lawncare business.

You create value for us with the 'Ten Ways' blog post, which prompts us to promote your post (and by extension, your business), and that creates value for you. 

If you want to use social media to grow your business, always remember that your goal is to use these tools and sites to create more value than you receive.  Think sharing instead of publishing.  Think communication instead of marketing. 

The more value you can create for others with social media, the more value you will receive back as a result.  But it all starts with creating and sharing value, not extracting.   

June 24, 2008





Mack Collier is a social media consultant, trainer and speaker. He has been actively immersed in social media since 2005, and in that time, has helped advise, teach and consult with businesses of all shapes and sizes on how they can better connect with their customers via these amazing tools and sites. While being passionate about the social media space, what truly excites Mack is the human connections that can result from the proper use of these social tools. His motto is "Don't focus on the tools, focus on the connections that the tools help facilitate." His goal is to help his clients create those connections with their customers, and nuture them into relationships that help grow their bottom line.

His social media 'homebase' is The Viral Garden, which in 3 years time Mack has grown into an influential marketing/social media blog with a monthly readership of over 175,000. He is also a frequent contributor to the website Marketing Profs, as well as the marketing blog Daily Fix, and small business blog Search Engine Guide. His writings have been referenced in several mainstream publications and websites, including The Washington Post, MSNBC.com, Ad Age, CNET, and The Boston Globe.

Mack is also a requested speaker and has presented at some of the top social media conferences and events, including South By Southwest Interactive, Marketing Profs Digital Marketing Mixer, and Small Business Marketing Unleashed. He is also passionate about teaching companies how to use social media sites and tools more effectively, and offers training and seminars privately to companies, in addition to his public speaking schedule.

You can learn more information about Mack's social media training and consulting services here. If you need a social media speaker for your event, or want to know where Mack will be speaking next, click here. If you want to email Mack, click here.

Mack wrote this bio. The third-person thingie is just for fun.






Comments(11)

Mark,

I love this article because you give business owners the real and true reason why they should be using Social Media. As an avid user of the Social Media sites to help build my business I totally agree with what you said "...social media is rooted in sharing. In order to start sharing, you have to create content that others can FIRST find value in." Not only should we be providing and sharing great content we need to use the same marketing ethics we would use in a magazine or any offline marketing venue. Spamming never is the answer. Building Social Equity is the game and in the long term will bring huge results and returns.

Thanks for the great article.

Thanks for bringing this up. It will be a sunny day when companies use social media for what it is - a SOCIAL MEDIA.

Thanks Joe. I think they are attracted to the 'media' part, but don't realize that the 'social' descriptor is where the magic lies.

Great post and I completely understand where you are coming from! Any thoughts on how to promote Social Media amongst small business when they might lack the time or even initiative to make a push?

This is the first is a great article for those who are new to social media and how it works. I can't tell you how many times at the company I work for we encounter so many businesses who want to get into social media but don't understand that it is about "sharing" and "communication" rather than "publishing" and "marketing". Great post.

That content isn't advertising. For example, we won't find much value in a blog post telling us about the sales your nursery is having on lawncare products this week. But if you post 'Ten Ways to Have a Gorgeous Lawn by the Fourth of July!' on your blog,

"Any thoughts on how to promote Social Media amongst small business when they might lack the time or even initiative to make a push?"

Daniel this can be a real concern for small businesses, because they don't always have the time/staff to launch a full-blown social media strategy.

That's why I always recommend that businesses start by monitoring what is already being said about the online. I've written here a few times about how to start monitoring the blogosphere, and why this is so important. Check out these posts:

http://www.searchengineguide.com/mack-collier/someone-is-probably-blogging-about-your.php
http://www.searchengineguide.com/mack-collier/should-you-really-care-what-bloggers-are.php
http://www.searchengineguide.com/mack-collier/when-you-monitor-the-blogosphere-what-do.php

"Any thoughts on how to promote Social Media amongst small business when they might lack the time or even initiative to make a push?"

Daniel this can be a real concern for small businesses, because they don't always have the time/staff to launch a full-blown social media strategy.

That's why I always recommend that businesses start by monitoring what is already being said about the online. I've written here a few times about how to start monitoring the blogosphere, and why this is so important. Check out these posts:

http://www.searchengineguide.com/mack-collier/someone-is-probably-blogging-about-your.php
http://www.searchengineguide.com/mack-collier/should-you-really-care-what-bloggers-are.php
http://www.searchengineguide.com/mack-collier/when-you-monitor-the-blogosphere-what-do.php

I've read quite a few articles about businesses not being able to leverage the social media opportunities fully. Your article provides some useful insight into why some may be far more successful than others. Ewan Kennedy.

The points you make here are definitely right on. Another factor I've observed is that companies are impatient with social media. They think they need to be able measure quick results. Asking them to share content and sit back and wait until some measurable results come in, is a tough sell. Therefore, many companies are still reluctant to embrace social media marketing.

hey some good stuff here!

When we work with clients for Social Media we tend to focus on the fact it's lead generation, isn't "instant" and takes time and as many have said it's about having a "conversation" and turning off the Usual Sales Pitch...

We also find out their market reach - local, regional, national or international, then do the research on potential market reach (OK, we cheat using our social media monitoring tool, soon going Beta) but we find bringing it to terms a business understands - monetization - really helps.

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