Jan 13, 2011

Focus On Conversations Not Platforms

Social media is a hot, hot topic. Every day I hear discussions on how to use social media more effectively. The questions come from all directions. Should we be on Twitter? How about Facebook? What about Yelp, Foursquare and Gowalla? And more importantly, how do we use these platforms to drive sales?

These are all good questions, but they’re misdirected. The question is not which social media platforms to be on. The question is how to use them to tell stories and create conversations.

Three ways to spark a conversation

Jeffrey Gitomer preaches, “People don’t like to be sold, but they love to buy.” He’s absolutely right, especially when it comes to social media. Sales messages don’t travel on social media. They fall on deaf ears.

You need to get out of the sales pitch, and into a conversation to engage your market. Social media platforms lend themselves to 3 types of dialogue:

  1. Shared experiences
  2. Common interests
  3. Common values

Look at these 3 types of dialogue from a different angle. What would you talk about with colleagues at a cocktail party? You might start with the weather, but that gets boring fast. You eventually look for points of shared interests. You could talk about personal areas of passion like health and the environment (common values), hobbies like skiing or art (common interests), or events and conferences you attended recently (shared experiences).

Take those cocktail conversations, at least the ones you’d have in a business context, and use them as a launch pad to find interesting things to talk about in social media.

Engage your audience naturally

The growth and excitement surrounding social media is causing many companies to put the cart before the horse. In their rush to be “in” social media, they’re jumping into the platforms without a strategy.

Honor your conversations. Not all topics are ideally suited for Facebook or Twitter. Some need more room to create a meaningful dialogue. Not all thoughts can be conveyed in a 140 characters. You may need a few hundred words. You may need visual aids. You might even need sound.

The social media landscape is growing and maturing. You don’t have to be all things to all people. Select the platform(s) that suit your content and foster the conversations you want to have.

Be pragmatic. Don’t forget to sell

Ok, I know I just wrote “nobody likes to be sold,” but be pragmatic. A direct solicitation or product pitch is not an authentic way to start a conversation. But people still need your services. Let them know where they can find you, and what you have to offer.

The foundation of your sales message is a website that clearly articulates who you are and what you do. Next, make sure your social media pages on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and any other social media platforms you use all articulate a high level value proposition and a link back to the mother ship.

You aren’t creating content and building an audience for the good of your health. You’re doing it to build relationships, let your market know you’re out there, and giving them pointers on how to find you when they’re ready to buy. You need conversations to build relationships. And you need relationships to drive sales.

What’s your take? I’d love to get your perspective.

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