This is part 3 of a 3 post series. [View part 2]
An extract from Sonja Falvo's new eBook: http://www.sonjafalvo.com/books.html
FOCUS ON CONNECTING OTHERS IN A MEANINGFUL WAY
There are many ways to approach social media and as many ways to find success. People like Robin Dickinson find amazing success by not only creating direct connections to his company but more so by facilitating connections for others (on social media and off). But this is not about a conclusive idea on how to use social media or what social media platform is best for you. I want to keep an important question in your mind before you consider these things.
The initial goals most people I’ve worked with strive for on social media are big numbers; judgements on what is successful or not are based purely on amounts of friends, followers or connections etc. While there’s some merit to this approach, it is important to question why we want to be on social media. The obvious answer for business owners is to make money.
This type of honesty is a great platform for something much more profound. Consider this, your product at some point came about to “fill a gap in the market”. This essentially says, there is a human need not being met or a human problem not being solved and that’s why your product / business exists. So whatever you sell, somehow it solves people’s problems or meets some human need. This is not necessarily a material need -there’s markets for emotional needs, economic needs, intellectual needs etc.
In this way ‘making money’ is secondary to the more primary reason your company exists. Start by asking:
- How does my company contribute (fulfil needs / solve problems)?
- How does my company create connections and build meaning in society?
- When you understand that – social media / business / life success awaits you!
MEAT AND COFFEE
If you got to this point after reading the above, I’d probably say you’re thinking that ‘this is all very interesting but it’s a shame that it lacks meat’. Where’s the substance? How can all this be applied in the ‘real world’? So not to be branded the “ideas man” of this eBook – here’s a few paragraphs to sink your teeth into.
To be certain this example is real (enough), I thought about one of my favourite coffee shops a couple of blocks from where I live. It’s called “A coffee and a yarn”. The “yarn” part is the “having a yarn” (conversation) reference but also refers to knitting. It’s a coffee shop like any other -tables with cups full of sugar sachets placed in the middle -but right next to the sugar are baskets of wool and knitting needles. It’s a coffee shop concept that captures the knitters’ niche and it is growing in “coolness” as a thing to do to fill in the time (in Newtown, Sydney at least).
“A coffee and a yarn” -what is the deeper business intent? I suggest before diving head first into social media, to start by gaining an understanding of your deeper business intent. That way you’ll have a clear (or clearer) grasp on what sets you apart, but more importantly how your offering solves problems or meets the needs of the wider community. My personal thinking about the success of a coffee shop like “A coffee and a yarn” is not just that it targets a growing niche but it acts as a reminder of something that you could say is part of our cultural DNA.
It was once commonplace to get together in the process of making gifts for family, community or the tribe -slowly, manually and lovingly. We don’t do this anymore; we go to the shop and buy gifts or with a few clicks online, a gift arrives at our door sometime later. There’s no argument about the incredible convenience of all this – but with that communal making process gone, so too perhaps does a bit of heart with it.
A business like “A coffee and a yarn” contributes in a wider sense by being a reminder of this and in addition, supplying the space and mindset to bring this back into a modern setting. That’s my stab at what could be its deeper business intent.
THE PEACE OFFERING – FOR YOUR TRIBAL LEADERS
Now we know something of the business intent, we need an offering to help us draw in our tribal leaders. This can be done with social media. First imagine walking into an unknown tribe long ago with your message of deeper intent. Would you just waltz in empty-handed? I doubt that would be a good idea. Expect to be running out, possibly even with a spear dangling out of your back.
What you need is a “peace offering”. Robin Dickinson’s peace offering was his willingness and genuine interest to craft “Sharewords” for businesses free of charge. He introduced this idea on his blog, started with a small group and it grew from there. Let’s do something like this with “A coffee and a yarn”.
Our peace offering will be: an intimate gathering, free food / drinks and content for social media.
1. Create a blog called: A making community – the soul of the gift.
To interject this nice list I’m making, I think it will be useful to consider a real world analogy when strategising this social media approach. Imagine you wanted to create a community space in a town centre. The idea is you want people to get together, talk about your product, give you some ideas on how to improve it and hopefully sell loads of it. Because you’re worried about attendance, you’re prepared to give away some expired product lines you were going to ditch anyway.... How could that be a good idea? Still it’s what the majority of businesses do on social media.
So, rather than being a blog for one business, we want it to have the potential of being a community space around things people will be passionate about (this is a key difference to traditional business blogging).
A “Wordpress” blogging platform has some great community enabling tools – we will start with a “Wordpress” installation.
2. Create a post about an up-coming event called “A making community – the soul of the gift”. The event will be an intimate discussion group about the process of making gifts and what it means in a modern context. This will be followed by a craft workshop. The idea is to record this event (perhaps video stream it) so that this can be added on various Social media platforms. This is part of the peace offering.
SEEK OUT YOUR TRIBAL LEADERS
People often make the mistake of pitching only the big fish. If you do that, expect to have a lot of knockbacks. If you don’t have a big tribe, why would a tribal leader of the biggest tribe want you as an ally? Chances are, they wouldn’t – they’ll see you as just one of the many pitching them daily. So I suggest you focus your energy on small to average followings / connections on social media. Pitch the big fish when you’re a big fish – you’ll have more success.
- Make a list of people with a similar range of community building expertise. Twitter is a good place to start. Do a simple keyword search on http://search.twitter.com or try http://listorious.com . Have a look at people’s profiles, if they’re creating relevant on-topic lists (e.g. craft / knitting etc.) it’s a good indication they’re also the type of community builders you want to target.
- Extend the list to administrators of relevant http://www.meetup.com groups, Facebook pages: http://www.facebook.com/pages/ , http://www.eventbrite.com organisers and LinkedIn groups: http://www.linkedin.com/groupsDirectory . These people have a community building focus too.
- Send the invite via email if you can find it (you want to make it a personal request). Otherwise use the social media platforms you’ve found people on. Don’t make a ginormous list that will be unmanageable either – focus on small and quality (remember the type of attributes you’re looking for to get the best results).
Ask people to comment for expressions of interest on the upcoming event. Then use the comment area as an organising / further discussion platform as well.
BUILD, BUILD AND BUILD FURTHER
All this stuff is procedural. There’s no point focusing too much on procedure and platforms when you don’t know how this will benefit the wider community. All the right procedures in the world, just won’t stick. You can have the fanciest letterbox on the street, but don’t forget it’s the house that you live in!
- Use Eventbrite to legitimise and organise your event
- Capture the event on video
- Build all the social media spaces around: “A making community – the soul of the gift” (A facebook community page, a twitter account etc. Remember, this is not about your product or offering, if you want to attract a community – think about eventually creating a community space for others to use. Resign yourself to let go of some of the control. It will be liberating! And you’ll find people will be far more interested in your product anyway.
- Post the video on several social video spaces. Tube Mogul is a free social video distribution platform – this will save you a lot of time.
- Ask your new friends to be co-writers on you community blog. Profile there businesses / projects on it. You can use Wordpress’s ability to profile contributors to the blog. Start moving towards what http://www.mumbrella.com.au did for the Australian media and adverting space (industry news / guest posting / ongoing video episodes).
- Use Facebook to connect an intimate group of people. Interview members using status comments (Facebook comment activity keeps the status on the top of other people’s streams, which helps gain more activity and prominence).
Overall the idea is to start with small step to make this concept bigger and bigger. The first stage is to leverage and combine the audiences of smaller community builders. This will be a benefit to all involved. Start by priming the wheels of Reed’s Law -then watch it take effect!
I’m going to stop there. I guess I just have to be the ‘ideas man’. There’s a lot more of this procedural stuff I could write about for days but I’m not sure you’d enjoy it and I wouldn’t like to start boring you to tears! So here’s hoping the tips to this point are useful. Beyond that, I hope you can see that with the higher value of your business in hand that the success you’re hoping to attract on social media is well on its way.
If you don’t believe me, have a closer look at what Robin Dickinson’s doing with Sharewords and the Centurions... A definite one to follow