What’s the Point of Social Media?

Have you ever stopped to ask yourself that question? How did you answer it? What if we ask someone else? Are they likely to give the same answer or a different one?

We’re also likely to give a different answer than people at the top social sites would give. So lets look at the point of several sites.

  • LinkedIn: To help professionals network and deepen the relationships they already have or are just developing.
  • Facebook: It’s changed in scope from its origins but Facebook allows us to engage with our friends and families on a more personal level sharing experiences, video, photo’s, etc.
  • Twitter: Twitter lets us stream micro thoughts to others and see what others are thinking or up to.
  • You Tube: Allows you to post to share experiences, entertainment, outrage, etc with others.

**Scot Allen’s response does a better job of describing the above tools. It’s worth the read.)

When you read through these descriptions there is a huge component missing if you are a business person. At no point in the descriptions does it say that any of these top sites were created to help you sell some product.

Billboards were created to sell products. Commercials are produced to sell product. Print Ads, radio ads, etc ……… So we have a set of tools that were not created to sell products and a set that were developed to sell products. What’s the problem?

Well for one people have started tuning out the channels designed to pitch them on a product or service. Second, everyone is so gaga over social media that there is simply too much buzz to do nothing. So what are you going to do?

  1. Quit using the same tactics in social media that you used in advertising: This is a channel that doesn’t want to be sold to …directly. Indirect means of selling can actually work very well.
  2. Quit expecting results overnight: This doesn’t mean that you can forget about ROI or other useful measurement, it just means you have to have some patience. If I want to send 1 million emails I buy an email list. If I want to reach 1,000,000 people in social media I need to build up my communities over a long period of time.
  3. Understand what it is you have to offer someone who chooses to connect, follow, or friend you. If I am a consumer in your target market and I choose to follow you what’s in it for me? Why should I engage or stick around? Here a hint … it needs to be at least one of these – interesting, exciting  relevant (per Michael Yoder)   , or valuable.

I used to list 5 or 10 things whenever I wrote a post like this, and I could list a lot more of things to do and not do. But, this is social networking so the giving and receiving should be equal or at least constantly changing like a see-saw.

So I’ve started the conversation with these three. Its up to you to keep the conversation going by adding your thoughts and ideas as comments.

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Published by

Sean Nelson

Sean has been a Keynote speaker at Norvax University, conducts social media workshops and webinars, and has released three books on LinkedIn and written several social media guides. Sean currently runs Social Media Sonar, which in addition to providing free resources, manages social media strategies and tactics for companies. He is also a partner in Surge Labs, a conversion rate optimization company, helping companies improve conversions and profitability through scientific testing of Landing Pages, Websites, Email communications, and Shopping Carts.

7 thoughts on “What’s the Point of Social Media?”

  1. OK, I’ll bite…

    1. LinkedIn allows you to do focused networking and even prospecting. People are far more receptive to sales inquiries when it’s highly relevant and you’ve done your homework. Secondly, a basic rule of networks: people tend to know people like themselves. Ergo, if you focus on meeting people like your ideal client, you will meet even more people like your ideal client, i.e., more people filling the top of your funnel. Thirdly, the Answers section is invaluable for: market research, demonstrating your expertise, even as part of a campaign around an event or product launch.

    2. Facebook is becoming the new email newsletter, in little bitty chunks. If your customers are passionate about your product or service, they want to know what you’re doing, and Facebook is becoming the preferred place for them to get that information. Also, video converts to sales at a ridiculously high rate (more on that below).

    3. Twitter is all about presence — near real-time interaction. Twitter is a bakery with too many cupcakes at the end of the day tweeting out that the first five people at the shop get a free dozen cupcakes, and everyone else who shows up gets a substantial discount on them, while supplies last. Twitter is me getting a full-fee speaking engagement because a colleague couldn’t make it to the event and needed someone qualified who could make travel arrangements to leave the next day.

    4. Search engines love videos. A video is 53x more likely to appear on the 1st page search results than an article. And YouTube is the #2 search engine.

    Videos work:
    80% of web users have watched a video ad.
    52% took action after viewing the ad.
    22% visited the website.
    15% visited the store.
    12% made a purchase.

    All that, plus if it’s sufficiently entertaining, people will promote it for you.

    I’m not saying that social media isn’t also for the reasons you listed above, but if people spend all their time in social media just “being social”, without real business results in mind, guess what? They’ll have a lot of fun, make a lot of friends, and probably get just enough business to validate what they’re doing. Meanwhile, they’re missing out on seeing 3, 5, 10 times the results because they’re not focused.

    Social media metrics are meaningless. They demonstrate activity. Don’t confuse activity with progress. Stay focused on business results. Be social, enjoy the ride, but the destination is still to grow your business, not your network.

  2. Thanks for your post, Sean. I agree with what you’re saying, especially the part about quit trying to use social media the way you use marketing. Brian Solis calls social media “unmarketing” in his book, “Engage”. I also agree with what you say about engaging with people: “…it needs to be at least one of these – interesting, exciting, or valuable.” However, I might substitute “relevant” for “exciting”. I don’t think there is anything wrong with being exciting, but I think it is more important and worthy of a “like” or “follow” if what I am posting is relevant.

  3. Scott,

    As usual I write a comic strip and you come back with a college thesis. Thanks for the thoughtful, engaging, and informative response. While the point of the post was that people need to stop treating social media communications the same as advertising channels, I do believe that as a business or business person the activity should support doing business. Done right and there is a lot of business to be done in “social” media/networking.

    I always enjoy reading your perspective and walk away a little more knowledgeable.


  4. Michael,

    I am officially banning the word “exciting” and replacing with “relevant”. Thanks for the comments. Also took a look at your blog and I look forward to making some time to read more of it.


  5. First off thanks for the article and the comments. I love learning. I am still fairly new to the social media aspect for my company (I offer Safe Money Strategies, Life Insurance and Health Insurance). A comment that I would have to make is I agree that content needs to be exciting, valuable and/or relevant. Something that I have learned in my years in the working world is part of it is marketing/sales and the other part is simply timing. I feel that I am using social media to build a base of contacts then get my message in front of them over and over (this helps for the timing part since John Doe may not need to protect his money today but 6 months from now when the market tanks and he has lost 30% he may be looking for a new strategy…then he sees my posts).

    I also think that it seems that a lot of people (my perception so far) is that people will connect but that is it. I am taking this a step further and several people I have contacted about meeting to see how we can help each other. Then I will go to networking events as often as possible to reach out to these people and get to know them.

    I am also very open to learning what has worked with each of you. Like I said earlier I like to learn.

    Thanks again for your posts.


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