Social Maturity-Have we reached it yet?
Over the last six months, we’ve seen social media use continue to burgeon. Google+ has been added to the social media stable and has grown phenomenally. Facebook continues to grow with almost all major brands having Facebook Pages. And now there is a new social network, Heello, started by Noah Everett the developer of TwitPic. As if this weren’t enough, it seems that Twitter has now become the province of luring *women* who offer no text in their tweets save a shortened URL (whatever you do, never click one of those links!) and bots who “auto follow” you at every tweet.
While tweeting the other day, I happened to mention the name of a town in North Carolina which I plan to visit. In less than three minutes, I was auto-followed by no fewer than 20 businesses in Asheville. I tweeted this annoying behavior by the “bots of Asheville” and one of my Twitter friends Christina Lor, @Skimtheocean, responded with the intel that there is a “social media consultant” in the Asheville area who advises many businesses and who presumably sets up social media accounts for her clients. According to Christina, this consultant recommends auto-following. What a tragedy! This is an epic fail.
Social media is, when used best, a conversation between people, and by extrapolation between people representing brands and other people, who just might be customers. Never should it be a rote, “Welcome to Moes” type of hail as you enter the virtual location. Good Twitettiquette is that you (when finding someone Tweeting about a topic or place of interest) respond as a person. For example, “Oh, I love Asheville.” or “Our restaurant is just off Pack Sq. We’d love to have you stop by. Ask for Marj!” These are real things real people might say when overhearing someone speaking about at topic in which they share a common interest.
Do not mistake Twitter, Facebook, or Google+ or any other social media channel as a one-way broadcast type tool. We’ve moved beyond that. Sure there are small businesses who blast out tweets, never monitoring for responses or caring how they are perceived. They would do well to sit on the Twitter bench. There are consultants who say that there is some magic juju to be found when you reach 2,000 followers, but I’m here to tell you that there is a lot more magic in having an engaged, select group of followers who naturally amplify your message, sharing it and responding to you.
What can small business owners do instead of auto follow?
- Set up a search of the terms or phrases related to your business. You can do this in many Twitter clients such as HootSuite, CoTweet, or TweetDeck.
- Set aside time to converse with people on Twitter.
- Review your saved searches; responding to people who have similar points of view or interest. When responding, observe the same types of etiquette you would use when joining a conversation at a party. Listen first, and when there is an opening in the conversation, politely add your thoughts.
- Develop messages for social media that reflect your values as a business.
- Use scheduling to organize your conversation openers. However, remember when using scheduling, you are not excused from reviewing and participating in the conversation.
What social media is and isn’t.
Social media is perceived by many to be a free tool to blast out messages to thousands. However, it is truly a channel in which you can listen to what people think and say. It is a not-so-new way to interact one-to-one with individuals and in the process, allow them to get to know you and your business as real people providing services or products one-to-one. It is not free. While it may be free to sign up, or use some management tools, it requires time (which is equal to money); either yours or a staff member’s, to listen, participate and respond. Ultimately, social media is a conversation. With people. Not bots.