I recently sat down for an interview with freelance writer Kristen Hampshire for a piece on social media to be featured in the May issue of Lawn & Landscape magazine.
Among the many questions she asked, two really stood out: "What mistakes have you and others made using social media?" and "What have you learned from these mistakes?"
I noodled on this after the interview with Kristen and have since come up with my 5 Social Media Truths that I think are an answer to these questions.
Here they are. Ignore them and risk becoming irrelevant now and into the future.
Truth #1: Unmarketing rules
People get online for typically three reasons:
1. To find a specific piece of information (a chili recipe, for example)
2. To find information related to a favorite subject (gardening, politics, clown painting :-)
3. Entertainment (music, gaming, social interaction, etc)
I don't know of anyone who hops online hoping to be marketed to by a landscaping company. Do you?
Meaningful content trumps marketing.
Meaningful content is:
- Helpful and useful to your followers
- Relevant and in demand
- Engaging--able to spark conversation and deep dialogue
Teach people something.
Make them think.
Make them smile.
Truth #2: There is a time for listening, and a time to play
As conversations and relationships began to move online, this truth was ignored by many businesses.
I don't want to be shouted at from a dozen different directions. I want to converse--you know, a discussion? I want to listen to you if you have something meaningful to share. And vice versa--I want you to listen to me.
There is too much talking online and not enough listening.
Successful companies and individuals understand how to listen. They understand how empathy connects people and humanizes brands.
But, listening is not enough.
You have to get off the sideline--your number has been called. Strap it on and get your ass in the game. It's time to participate!
Truth #3: Humans like humans
We all have faults. Yup, even me. I swear too much, I don't always think before I speak (or tweet), and plenty of others I won't bother sharing.
I have a feeling you have plenty yourself.
Hmmmmmm, maybe it's because...we're all human!
So why don't we act like it?
I can relate to other human beings. I don't relate well to robots who lack a personality, have no faults, and hide behind a corporate curtain.
I want to do business with real people. So do your customers!
Put your real-self out there. Don't be scared.
Truth #4: This is hard work! (gasp)It has taken me nearly three years to reach two thousand subscribers here. The same can be said for attracting the hundreds of followers on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn (you're all awesome).
Dare I say it? It's been hard work! Holy crap, imagine that!
This isn't easy marketing, folks. This isn't like handing out door hangers and placing ads in the Yellowbook.
This is all about building your reputation and influence. Not an easy task.
Building a strong reputation online requires deliberate, intentional action--all the time!
This isn't something you dabble in when you're not busy selling plants or plowing snow.
You've got to be relentless!
Truth #5: Everything will change
MySpace once ruled the social media jungle. Then Facebook passed them by in December of 2008 (in number of unique visitors). Facebook has since been valued at a gazillion dollars and won a couple of Oscars.
Things change in this space. They always will.
Once you get comfortable and think you know how to use something, it changes. Or something new and improved comes along.
We have to be flexible with this social media and be willing to adapt accordingly. I know, not something our industry is particularly good at :-)
The tools of social media will change. These truths will not.
Add something meaningful. Engage. Be real. Be intentional--but open to change. Follow these five truths and you'll find success.