When I think about social media, I start to sound a lot like somebody’s cranky grandma.
Back when I was starting out in marketing, we didn’t have all this Twitter or LinkedIn or Facebook. If you wanted to run an ad, you bought a classified. In the newspaper! Which people had to pay for!
Did I mention we had to walk to school in the snow, uphill both directions, even in May?
The internet, and the free social platforms that have been developed for it, have given us genuinely amazing tools to connect with other humans. Those tools have accomplished a lot of good … as well as some harm.
Today, social platforms are critical to content marketing and digital business. They help us find potential customers. They act as amplifiers for our content. They help us connect with people and learn more ways to help them.
So if social media is so important, how come so many small digital businesses are doing it so wrong?
It’s one thing if your local bank is a bit … unsophisticated in its use of social media. They’re supposed to be slow to change.
But digital businesses like yours and mine? We should be good at this. Let’s look at some of the things that hold us back.
Bad habit #1: Spreading yourself too thin
It can be depressing to realize how many different social platforms are out there. And for every one, large or small, someone will tell you that you simply have to be there.
I’m telling you that you do not simply have to be there.
You should probably have a presence on the social platform that matters the most to the audience you serve. But it makes no sense to try to have a viable, meaningful presence on every platform you think might have some customers.
If you need someone’s permission, I’ll give you mine. You don’t have to be on every “important” social platform. You probably shouldn’t be.
Focus on one or two. Show up, pay attention. Make fewer, better connections.
Bad habit #2: Consistently ignoring context
Social scheduling tools are fantastic. The Copyblogger team certainly benefits from them. But schedulers can also create very weird juxtapositions.
Your Twitter feed might be blowing up with a serious or even tragic event … and there are your scheduled posts, blathering on about your launch.
We all miss things sometimes. And most people understand that social media schedulers can make us a little tone-deaf … temporarily.
But it’s hard to care about a social media presence that has clearly been put on permanent “set and forget” mode.
When I see a small digital business — particularly one that revolves around one individual person — who never seems to notice what’s going on in politics, sports, current movies, hit TV shows, or anything else … it’s hard to feel like there’s any connection happening there.
Bad habit #3: Talking more than you listen
One thing about those “set and forget” accounts is they don’t seem to do a lot of listening. (Which is why they’re so oblivious to whatever is blowing up around them.)
Failing to get onto the platforms and listen to what people have to say about your topic is a terrible wasted opportunity.
Product-to-market fit is the cornerstone of any successful business. If you can figure out what your audience wants, and the value they put on it, you can shape your offers to meet their needs.
Social platforms give you an incredibly user-friendly listening post. Don’t squander it.
Bad habit #4: All chit-chat, no strategy
Okay, real talk for a moment.
It’s so much more comfortable to chit-chat on social media than it is to actually work on your business.
You can spend every second of every day sharing memes, squawking about trivial outrages, and letting the social media noise make you feel like you’re doing something.
That’s about as productive as spending 18 hours a day sitting on a barstool with the other bar flies.
Maybe you actually do have the insights that would solve all of the world’s problems. But unless you get your ass out of that bar and into the world, no one will ever benefit from them.
Bad habit #5: All strategy, no chit-chat
On the other hand, if everything you do is part of a carefully choreographed sequence of funnels and trip wires and optimized squeeze pages leading to upsells and downsells and cross-sells … your audience starts to wonder if there’s a human being anywhere in there at all.
No one wants to feel like they’re just fuel for your marketing machine. The whole point of doing business with you — with a smaller, more personal business — is that your customers can make a connection with a human being.
Not the “brand voice” concocted by an ad agency that they get with their bank. And not an “internet cash machine” designed to suck money out of their wallet.
Social media platforms are where we hang out. They’re where we get silly.
Wish I could get "I got ham but I'm not a hamster" out of my head.
— Sonia Simone (@soniasimone) August 15, 2012
If you don’t ever post something random or conversational, just because you feel like it, then your social media presence is just another collection of ads.
And in 2018, we’re all very, very good at ignoring ads.
Finding the right balance for your situation
We have to find that smart middle ground.
Not spending all of our time yakking on Facebook and thinking that’s “business.”
But also not setting up soulless automated “funnels” that ignore the social context. (Especially if your business is you — your name and your face.)
Copyblogger is a brand that has a pretty curated Twitter feed, although we do have kind, friendly humans who listen and respond to conversations.
But we also have a Facebook group where we can have more in-depth, human conversations about business, writing, clients, sales, and the finer points of English punctuation.
And “Sonia Simone” is a human who also has a business, and who makes conversation on social media about business stuff and personal stuff. The techniques that make sense for the larger brand aren’t nearly as effective for the individual human.
How about you … where are you on the chit-chat/strategy spectrum? Do you think that’s the best place for you to be? Let us know in the comments …
Reader Comments (16)
David Boozer says
Perfect, just perfect Sonia!
Sonia Simone says
Aw, thanks David. 🙂
Maurizio Corte says
A perfect useful article, Sonia!
As Dale Carnegie taught, in a conversation listening is more important than speaking. I am a retired journalist and I see that is important to use social media as platforms to communicate, than using them for informing about what you think, sell or want to say.
In Italy, for example, the Democratic Party lost the elections because they didn’t listen to people needs and thoughts.
P.S. Sonia, your surname is Italian, isn’t it?
Sonia Simone says
My surname is French, not Italian, but Italy has a very tender place in my heart. 🙂
Great article, Sonia! Definitely a must-read for clients who don’t understand social media strategies. Thanks!
Neil Simpson says
I totally read your quote about hamsters as being from Nina Simone…..
…it makes more sense now 🙂
Sonia Simone says
I was thinking more The Killers, but Nina Simone opens up a whole new world of acoustic possibilities there …
Thanks for hitting all these points Sonia. It’s great to be reminded about the company you want to keep on social media and to keep it all a real conversation.
Michael Corley says
Honestly Sonia, I’m not sure where I am on the chit chat/strategy spectrum.
Largely because I’m still trying to figure out whether social media is part of a push or pull marketing strategy.
Would love your thoughts on where the balance exists
Claudia Befu says
Hi Sonia, after reading your article I realized that I’m more on the “strategy” spectrum when I bother at all to be on social media. Any advice for people who want to be “out-there” – and genuinely connecting – but not on a daily basis?
Sonia Simone says
I think the best option is probably to schedule a regular habit, but keep very tight boundaries around it. So maybe it’s 15 minutes a day. Or you do a pass in the morning and one in the evening to just make a bit of conversation with someone. That’s one reason it’s important not to be on a million platforms — even that minimal commitment can be really time-intensive once you get to more than 1 or 2.
Keith Pennington says
Thank you for the great article! I’m in the process of starting a new business and I always feel overwhelmed when I think about trying to keep up with social media!
Sarah Clay says
Great article Sonia, thank you. Sometimes it is hard to get the balance right between the chat and the serious stuff – good to be reminded!
Boy am I guilty of spreading myself too thin. Not just with social media either… I tend to be equally stuck in strategy as well :-/
I’m just a mess, lol! Is there any hope for me? 🙂
Upinder Hoonjan says
Great read – I work in the learning and development field and we are starting to integrate learning solutions through social media. One of the early lessons I am learning relates to point #5 – following through with a sound strategy for long term chit and chat will help keep our target engaged. It’s a tough balancing act of using social for business purposes while maintaining the integrity of the social platform which is fun and acts as social outlet and personal soundboard.
LJ Sedgwick says
I started using social media as a user way before I ever started using it “for business” so I think I still manage to balance scheduled stuff and conversational things. But even then, I try to tweet out 9 or 10 interesting, fun, or just plain cool articles for every 1 of my blog posts! I still see social media as something of a giant global water cooler and I’d be sad if I didn’t chat to actual people.
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