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
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
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.