Saturday, April 03, 2010

Remember the "social" in social media

Social Media Matters
By Brian Cormier
Moncton Times & Transcript
Friday, April 2, 2010
Pg. F6, Metro section

Remember the “social” in social media:

One of the most common mistakes that users of social media make is that they simply think "being there" is good enough. They don't share much of their own lives or thoughts, other than hawking their wares, i.e. selling. They never retweet, reply, or use the "like" and "share" buttons on Facebook. They only talk about business. They never get personal. In essence, they forgot about the "social" in social media.

I had a very interesting conversation at a business reception a few weeks ago. I was talking to another person active on Twitter about this very subject -- and about how some people believe they're the cat's meow of social media but make the big mistake of thinking that "volume equals quality". Actually, people need to understand that content is the key to social media, not volume.

During the conversation, I described a local business person considered by many to "get" social media. They are, in fact, renowned for it and have garnered some publicity for it, as well. My take on the person was different, however. I remarked how I'd rarely -- if ever -- seen this person share anything about their own life -- barely even mentioning a good restaurant in town or a movie they've seen lately. It was all business -- and all about them. In fact, I'd stopped following them on Facebook and Twitter for that very reason.

The problem was that they were boring me to death. Zero to say other than stuff about their industry -- and even that stuff wasn't particularly interesting. It didn't even have anything to do about the local market. I couldn't care less about the market indicators in Zimbabwe (I'm exaggerating) in which they thought I'd be interested.

In fact, they are an expert in their field, but their use of social media could be much more social. So, during my conversation at the reception, I'd described this individual without mentioning their name and the person I was talking to blurted out the name right away. I laughed out loud. "So, I'm not the only one," I said. Clearly, I wasn't.

Lesson: If you think social media is going to do wonders for you simply by posting links related to your industry, you're wrong. The fact is that we already realize you're likely good at your job. A lot of other people are good at their jobs, too.

What we need to know is this: Why should I like you more than your competitor? Do you have pets? What do your kids do? What are your hobbies? Did you do anything dumb lately for which you can make fun of yourself? Lots of people in the world do good work. What we need to realize is that we tend to do business with people we like -- and you're wasting an opportunity on social media if you don't realize that.

If you're a real estate agent and only post links to the houses you have for sale, all you're doing is knocking at my door (i.e. my Facebook newsfeed or Twitter feed) and trying to sell me something. There are a couple of hundred others in town who can do the same thing. What you need to do is differentiate yourself from the others personally, not professionally. Help me to like you as a person.

Promote a charity event for some friends. Share some links that you thought were funny. Congratulate someone in the community for doing something nice for others -- and not for business reasons... just do it to be helpful and nice. If you're on Twitter, strike up some conversations with people. If all you're doing is posting links and talking about your business and wondering why social media isn't the "miracle" it was all cracked up to be, it's probably because you forgot the "social" part. Share. Be generous. Be personal. Help others. Be a real person, not a link-posting robot.

Making mistakes:

We all make mistakes. This week, I misinterpreted something and posted an opinion that turned out to be terribly wrong. When I was called out on it on both Facebook and Twitter, I apologized for the error and took responsibility.

Unfortunately, the person who called me out on the error kept coming back for more like some hyena who just wanted to nip away at the ankles of a wounded zebra. Doing this in private is one thing, but publicly is another. Many assumptions, misinterpretations and accusations were made that were overly angry and aggressive.

If you make a mistake, admit your mistake promptly. No one is perfect. Apologize graciously and quickly. The person who pointed out the mistake, meanwhile, should accept the apology equally as graciously and quickly and build a bridge and get over it already. No one is interested in reading a catfight on Twitter or Facebook. The credibility of all parties is hurt when arguments are public.

Social media is a process, not an event or instant cure-all:

Building your brand or image on social media doesn't happen overnight. If your company or organization suddenly starts using social media only during a crisis and then wonders why no one is buying it, it's because you didn't build credibility or a presence first.

Social media is not an overnight fix-it for you, your company or organization.

Author Seth Godin said it best: "The reason social media is so difficult for most organizations: It's a process, not an event. Dating is a process. So is losing weight, being a public company and building a brand. On the other hand, putting up a trade show booth is an event. So are going public and having surgery. Events are easier to manage, pay for and get excited about. Processes build results for the long haul."


If some of the people you follow on social media drive you nuts, try this: stop following them instead of criticizing them publicly. People don't do that often enough. Instead, they get toxic and whine and complain when they should just cut ties. Social media should be fun and productive, not a pain in the rear.

Brian Cormier is a writer, blogger and communications consultant. Social Media Matters appears every Friday. Contact him at or visit his blog at Questions are welcome!


Julianne MacLean said...

Great blog article, Brian. Really enjoyed it - good advice.

Rayanne Brennan said...

Good for thought Brian!

Dave Gallant said...

Interesting read Brian, thanks...


Brian Cormier said...

Thanks, everyone!

Brian Cormier said...

Thanks, everyone!

Claude said...

Interesting post! I agree with most of what you have said. I especially like the point about cutting ties instead of conducting online personal attacks.
The only point that I am struggling with is that it's important to add personal information to allow you to come across as a normal person instead of being all about business. I agree with the idea. However, I really hate it when people talk about their personal lives all the time and in nauseating detail ( they are having a coffee, waiting in line to buy something or other useless information). Where do you think we should draw the line?

Brian Cormier said...

Thanks, Claude. Well, there's no easy answer to that one... no scientific formula, per se. It's whatever you can stand. There are ways to hide people in Facebook, where you're still their friend but they don't show up in your feed. Don't think there's a way to do that on Twitter - but if anyone knows of one, post a reply! At some point, I just "stop seeing" that stuff. It's just part of the game, I guess. If it gets really too much, you'll just have to bite the bullet and hide/unfriend or unfollow them. I tend to just ignore it. There are ways of making the banal and routine quite entertaining through humour and self-deprecation, but that's not done by enough people. You can always try dropping some funny hints. "Hey John, thanks for letting me know you went for coffee. Can't wait to hear about your next trip to the bathroom." Some people will take the hint... some won't. I wish there was a magic wand to answer your question. There's no easy answer.

Dave Gallant said...

@Claude: You can create lists of people to follow in twitter.

I create lists of specific people that I want follow... and if there are any that tend to be a bit of a nuance, I either don't include them in that list, or remove them from the list. That way, I don't need to unfollow them and hurt their feelings.

@Brian: Tweetery and Muuter will allow you to mute your tweeps...

Brian Cormier said...

Awesome! Thanks, Dave!

Brian Cormier said...

Actually, I knew about the lists -- I just don't use them that often. Thanks for the links to the two sites! I'm going to check them out.

Dave Gallant said...

My pleasure!

Dave Gallant said...

The only thing I don't like about muuter, is you do temporarily unfollow your tweep.

Brian Cormier said...

OK thanks. Definitely going to check them out, although I have no problem whatsoever unfollowing people. LOL

Claude said...

Thanks for the great suggestions guys. I will check out the links you provided.