When we talk about “media” and the future of business tend to conflate the predicted future with the present. Seth Godin tells us that people who build tribes (online) will win out in the new economy, one TED talk has basically launched an entire industry of social media gurus.
It’s not that he’s wrong, it’s that he’s managed to make a prediction about the future that feels like the present. He takes a small collection of contemporary examples that support his theory, like the guy turning old typewriters into iPad keyboards, and uses them as the basis for his “the future is now” mantra. For the most part, however, business is still done in person or on the phone not over twitter.
I have 5000 twitter followers. People consider me a go-to resource on the social web for lighting design information. (If you don’t believe me google it) of all 5000 twitter followers, many if which are interior designers and architects, I’ve been engaged to do real business 3 times. I’ve done a lot of free stuff, speaking, writing, hosting, etc, but someone I know on social media actually emailing and saying “hey let’s work together” has happened 3 times that I can remember.
Maybe that says more about me and my ability to leverage my online clout (or is it klout?) or maybe it’s that we’re still waiting. Maybe the future Seth and Neil and Chris and Gary and the rest of the social media gurus are promising is like Godot, and we’re all sitting here - waiting.
While we wait we make ourselves busy scheduling tweets that are relevant to our personal brand because we’re told we must be present to be relevant, every time someone checks their social stream we must be there. Except no one is really present, we’re all just reading each other’s scheduled tweets. We’re busy gaming our websites for better SEO. We’re convinced that the next version of Google will integrate G+ so we better start posting there NOW. Even if we have nothing to say, better post early and often. I wonder, what if we spent the extra two+ hours a day we are currently using building our personal brands on calling contacts personally, or emailing people we’d like to work with? I wonder what the ROI is on that? Or what if we spent those hours working on extraordinary piece of content that people shared for us?
I’m not saying that you can’t make something happen online. I’m saying that the tribes we build might be great cheerleaders, but that doesn’t mean their wallets open up when it comes time to support your next great widget. Have you noticed the people who build the biggest followings online (and make the most money) generally are promising ways to help other people sell? They are selling selling. What if they were selling, say, accounting services?
The web is littered with stories from the consumer and tech world of crowd sourced success. If you’ve invented a new iPad stylus or a watch that connects to your iPhone, strangers will pony up on Kickstarter to buy one. These are the exceptions that prove the rule. Take it from someone who tried to raise money for a project on Kickstarter and take it from someone who self-published a book. Your tribe will be there to encourage, they’ll click thru to the video, they’ll read the preview, but even your most ardent retweeter might not click “buy” or “donate.”
I’m not writing this to discourage you, and I’m not saying don’t participate. I’m not bitter either. I’ve just learned that the social web amplifies everything, including its own hype. It’s full of social media gurus telling you to invest your time and money in the social web. They’ll even take a fee for their time helping you, but before you pony up (time, money or energy) consider the source.
So what does this little screed add up to? Why am I bothering you this Sunday morning with my thoughts on social media marketing? Well because I think the social web would do better if focused more on the things that matter and less on the things that don’t so here are my three things you should do if you’re a small business that matter way more than following the social media rules.
- Share something when you have something amazing to share or say. Not to fulfill a schedule. (h/t Amy aka @nomeatballs on Twitter for this one )
- If you find yourself struggling to find time for social media, you probably don’t need social media.
- Choose your favorite social platform and use it to be a real human, not a personal brand, be funny, be bitter, be nice, be happy, be real. We like people, not personal brands.
See, and you didn’t even have to get a Hootsuite pro account.