Many small businesses have reached a fork in the road with respect to their social media marketing. As they get their feet wet in the social media waters, there is a realization that this is really not marketing at all.
Or is it?
If social media is marketing, then why are so many small businesses struggling with the dynamics of personal vs professional social media accounts – especially in the arena where most small businesses are focusing their efforts – Facebook?
One Web – One Community
The first thought that comes to mind is that this is one Web we are talking about. So, does it make sense to have separation between friends and customers when more than likely many of your customers are also good friends?
I understand that some of your customers, maybe even your best customers, who consistently pay their bills on time – are content to have nothing more than professional relationship. Nevertheless, they probably also reside in the same community as you do.
This is why having a community focus may be the solution.
Separating your friends and customers into distinct lists or groups to accomplish specific social and business objectives may ignore one essential quality – they are all connected to you as a result of your presence in the community they share.
Community Relationships are Partners
Here's a scenario: "Jeff, I'm getting a lot of engagement on my personal Facebook profile, but I'm having trouble transitioning some of that activity over to my company profile."
One explanation for this is that on your personal profile you are having conversations with friends – friend to friend. On your business page you are taking the role of a business – a seller, which naturally places everyone else into the complimentary role of buyer.
Wouldn't it be better to just encourage conversations on your Facebook page – any kind of conversation, and then let business become a by-product of that, if it happens at all?
Having a productive conversation is a partnership. This is why we refer to our spouses or significant others as partners. The point is that relationships are social and personal first, before they become anything else beyond that.
Where's the Value
For any partnership to endure there has to be an exchange of value, one that the respective parties perceive to be equitable – or nearly so.
Smart business leaders are interested in what their customers want – as they should be. While this is prudent on a business level, it ignores the fact that your business partners are people first. It may be more relevant to learn what they personally want, and that requires being personal.
What do people want? Among other things, they like to learn, to laugh, and to make emotional connections. Thus, the challenge for small businesses ramping up their Facebook pages and other social media accounts is to first consider the personal objectives of your friends and customers – while keeping an eye on how that relates to your business.
This suggests the means for increasing engagement with your Facebook page is to be more personal, more relaxed, and maybe even a bit weird – and for that matter, doing the same on all of your social media networking sites.
Marketing today for any business is a new game, one that relegates most of what I learned in my MBA program as irrelevant. It is a game, but games can be won if you are willing to learn new skills.
Engagement is key – and if you can call that marketing, then its a new form of marketing for many of us. This may not be what some of you wanted to hear, but I'm just calling it as I see it.
These new skills are not surprisingly people skills. To be effective with social media is to understand how to be interesting, entertaining, educational, and more. What matters most is understanding your core audience.
The only way I know of to accomplish that is to be personal.
Get involved. Meet new people. Try new things that take you out of your business role as you know it now. There is a reason we call this new media. For the most part, it's new to all of us.
To be effective and get desired results for your business you have to be adventurous, open-minded, and willing to experiment and learn as you go.
Think of this as a game. Play well, make good business decisions, be personal, and you will meet with unexpected successes.
That's a promise.
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Until tomorrow, Jeff