Suggestion: don’t just call it all social media marketing. Call at least part of it community management.
Why? Because words and phrases get worn out. Or they get clogged like a motor boat’s propeller in a swamp. And social media marketing has been worn out by too many people with too many fake names talking up too many products with too many fake offers.
I’m not at all against social media marketing; it makes perfect sense in some contexts. The big brand using social media to deliver messages, for example, is social media marketing. And Marketing is not a dirty word. Marketing is getting people to know, like, and trust your brand, so social media ought to be one of the tools.
But community management is a better way to describe the business role of developing personality, relationships with people, and conversation. Marketing is getting people to know, like, and trust. Social media belongs there. Social media should be part of the marketing mix, especially for smaller businesses, individual businesses, and expert businesses.
But there is a part of social media that differs from most of the rest of the marketing mix because it’s inherently conversational. Conversation means as much listening as talking, and no shouting.
Furthermore, the conversation is social media isn’t just a simple dialog, with two people at a time; it’s multidimensional conversation, with a lot of different people involved, at different levels, and different times. Authenticity, meaning real people, real opinions, and real participation, makes a huge difference.
And that, essentially, is community. So at least a subset of social media marketing is community management. It’s helping people, solving problems, expanding the community, and managing issues. It’s building the sense of belonging, involvement, commitment, and caring.
By guru business I mean the expert business, and particularly the one-person expert business. I mean consultant, coach, adviser, researcher, business hired gun, life coach, trainer, and so on. I mean a person who makes a living by selling (real or imagined) expertise, experience, and knowledge.
I was a business planning consultant for most of the 1980s and early 1990s, working almost always alone, just myself, no company. So that’s an example of an expert business. And I’ve been thinking lately about how much social media has changed that business model for the better. In this case – but with one notable exception – change is good.
Benefit 1: Marketing your expertise is way easier
There is a new way of marketing that is so much better than the old way. Call it the Web, social media, blogs, Twitter, or the combination; it means way more reach, automatically, if you do it right.
Consider the comparison, now vs. then: I lit out on my own as a business planning and market research expert in 1983. I had my credentials, of course, including academic degrees and a fancy title with a brand-name consulting company, plus some published works. But how did I make myself known? Word of mouth from clients who’d worked with me as an employee, yes. But from there it was a struggle to get my articles into magazines, my self onto the podium at the big trade shows (such as Comdex), and to finish a couple of published books on my main subject matter.
Today, in comparison, successful experts build their business by a combination of useful blog posts, active mini-blogging on Twitter, ebooks, and work with Facebook and LinkedIn. Do you see the pattern there? The gatekeepers are gone.
Where it used to be important to validate your expertise by getting through the gatekeepers in corporate branding and publishing, nowadays can’t you validate your expertise by making good sense on your blog? Believe me, that’s so much easier than the old way of publishing, speaking, and giving seminars.
Benefit 2: Acceptance is based on expertise more than setting
I posted this related thought on this blog Tuesday, about how clients can get better value from a one-person business with no overhead. Who does the work? The client is much more likely today, compared to 20 years ago, to accept and even approve of the fact that you’re on your own. Not having a company around you is no longer cause to wonder what’s wrong with you.
Benefit 3: With gatekeepers devalued, it’s the work that matters
And then there’s this last thought, which I hope is true: today we judge experts by their work, meaning their writing and speaking (and tweeting), much more than we used to. Today an expert’s work is more immediately available, and with less distortion through gatekeeper filters, than ever before. Isn’t it?
How do you evaluate a guru ahead of time? Usually the about page and the content of the blog. There’s less interference there. Back when I started, it took getting through magazine editors to get published, or event managers to get a podium, or joining or creating a company.
Do you frown on an ebook because it wasn’t published by a name-brand publisher? Do you mistrust a blog because it isn’t in a major business publication? Not so much. Am I right?
And the warning?
The bad news is the other side of the good news: It’s the work that matters. Today you have to either do good work or settle for clients you can fool. It was easier back then to hide mediocre work with a company around you, or an editor of a magazine to rewrite it. Today, if you claim to be an expert, you’d better create some content to back that up. Transparency is cool when it’s a bright and beautiful looking glass that highlights and spotlights you. It’s not so nice when it’s a magnifying glass that’s going to burn you like an ant in the backyard on a hot summer day.
I really like klout.com for three good reasons: 1.) it’s about measuring online influence and I’m big on metrics as a key element of business planning; 2.) it’s a great example of a strong startup based on need — entrepreneur Joe Fernandez building something he wanted to use, and getting VC funding; and 3.) they released a new 2.0 version today (VentureBeat covered it … and there’s more detail on the Klout blog).
Metrics are the best possible drivers of good business planning processes and collaboration, because metrics can make feedback, the toughest part of management, almost automatic. Klout offers metrics on social media influence, so you can go beyond just counting followers or friends or whatever. True, I also like Klout because my daughter is marketing manager there. But I’ve been advocating this kind of social media metrics for a long time. Here for example is what I wrote about metrics just two days ago on Small Business Trends, which led to a discussion of metrics and measurement and better ways to evaluate performance:
I’ve seen objective metrics, like sales, costs, expenses, calls, subscriptions, downloads, visits, page views, minutes per call, or unique visitors work pretty well, especially when they’re part of a regular planning process. I still remember how well the metrics worked in my first job, as an editor for United Press International, when they gave us scores for how many newspapers used our stories instead of Associated Press.
So, with that in mind, here’s a (relatively) new facility to put numbers behind your social media efforts. Think about this as a tool for managing Twitter performance (if you don’t see the video, click here for the source site.)
So the magic here is that Klout gives you a numeric score for your Twitter presence. I’m pleased. I’m a 45, which is 90th percentile. Sure Guy Kawasaki’s at 100, but my 45 beats a lot of people I know and respect. (What? Me competitive?).
So if you’re dealing with social media performance for a team, in business, maybe you can set goals for Klout scores and then follow up. Include the Klout score in plan review sessions.
What’s your score? What’s going to be your score goal for your management metrics?
A nice person almost apologized to me for not having her business on Facebook. I said: “but why?”
Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and all the rest of that “social media stuff” may or may not be good business. But not just for its own sake. It has to be part of a strategy.
Otherwise, it may or may not be fun, depending on who you are and what you like to do; but it’s not good business without a related plan for how it’s supposed to help. Does it generate leads? Page views? Validation? Or is it just a rationalization for spending time doing something you like, like keeping up with friends, being clever.
My blogging has a business strategy. I don’t sell anything, but I do talk about business planning and business management. It relates to my books, my software authorship, and the company I founded. It generates page views in the Bplans.com domain. It validates.
So it’s fun, but it’s good business too. In this case, at least. It relates directly to validation of product, to page views, and to marketing objectives.
What is it for you? What’s the business objective? How to you measure achievement of that objective? Do you have metrics to review? Do you remember to review them?