Social Media: People First, Then Tools!

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I recently presented a  workshop on Facebook for Business at “Social Media Saturday”, a half day event sponsored by SCORE and WBDC.  The agenda covered six social media topics: Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, You Tube, Blogging and SEO.

In addition to a collection of tools, the average businessperson needs a way to understand the whole, and connect the social media dots in a way that makes sense for his or her unique business.  The Indian folk tale (illustration accompanying this post) about 6 blind men describing an elephant comes to mind. In addition to the social media parts, we need to remember the big picture.  To paraphrase Tamar Weinberg, a leading social media voice and the author of the blog “Techipedia” and the book  The New Community Rules:  Marketing on the Social Web:  “It isn’t about the tools, it’s about the people”.

In true Monday morning quarterback fashion, if I had a chance to do it again, here’s what I would add in addition to a discussion of tools:

  • Social networking today is no different than it was twenty years ago. Sure, the conversation has moved online, but people are still people. Business networking was always about figuring out who you need to know, establishing a connection, and developing trust – on the golf course, in the board room, at the charity event, at the trade show.  It still is!  Only one thing has changed: now those initial connections can occur online.
  • Before you start blogging, tweeting, joining facebook, etc., identify the people who matter most to your business (to use the jargon,influencer identification”).  Research where these individuals hang out online, and start a dialog.

For a child-oriented business, you might try try to get to know local mom bloggers.  For a food oriented business, it might be food writers.  It’s your job to identify your influencers, and connect.  (Of course, if your target audience is not spending time online, do not waste your time there.  Fish where the fish are!).

  • “Participation is not marketing: the effective use of social media must mimic real relationships”. (Tamar Weinberg).

As an example:  Over the past week, I received several Valentines Day client appreciation emails, beautifully branded and personalized.  Do these efforts make me feel special? Am I more predisposed their brands?  Yes, and yes!  Sure, we have these amazing new social media tools, but human nature has not changed. As Lisa Barone says, be a damn human!  Use your creativity to make meaningful human connections.

By putting people first, the opportunity to achieve business goals with social media is greatly increased.  First define your strategy to connect with people, then learn the specific tools that will help you achieve your goals, filter the noise, and develop a engaging presence in the right channels.

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About Rhonda Hurwitz

Rhonda Hurwitz is a content strategist and marketing consultant who helps mid-sized businesses develop more effective online strategies. @rhondahurwitz on Twitter, and on Forbes.com: http://blogs.forbes.com/people/rhondahurwitz/
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