On Business: Social Media Tip of the Day

By | Monday, August 11, 2014 Leave a Comment
You know when businesses fail on social media? When they treat it as just another outlet to get their brand out there. You know the ones I'm talking about, right? Where their Twitter feed has lots of notes, maybe written casually, but not really directed at anybody. "Wow, what a great Superbowl! A great time to hang out with some friends!" Or worse, directed at everybody. "You ready for big game? Make sure you have plenty of our chips on hand!" It feels like any ol' mass media, not social media.

Now, granted, you can use avenues like Twitter and Facebook to promote your brand, and it makes sense that businesses want to try to engage consumers and potential consumers where they already are. But while they'll teach you in business courses that social media represents a "many to many" conversation, it's really only done well when it's "one to one."

I caught a comics creator recently who Tweeted about his dog undergoing some surgery. Nothing life threatening, but upsetting nonetheless. Several hours later, he came back, saying his dog was fine, but none too happy about weaing a cone of shame. (Obligatory cute dog picture included.) Purina then responded with a personalized virtual get well card, which included a cartoon draing of a dog wearing a similar cone. I'm guessing they've got a search bot looking for "cone of shame" and then have an individual follow-up with the personalized response. Did Purina get this guy's business? I don't know, but I expect he looks at Purina as a little less of a faceless corporation now.

With comics, it's even more frustrating because you know there's exactly one person behind that account. The vast majority of comic creators can't afford to pay someone to do their social media for them, so if you see a post from them, you can pretty well be sure it was, in fact, that person. Well, sort of. Some folks (and I'll admit to being one of them) set up automatic posts as well. Every time a blog post of mine goes live, links are automatically sent out to Twitter and Facebook, and a copy of the post shows up on Tumblr. It's fairly cold and impersonal, but I do it to guarantee that "I" continue posting even if/when I'm not actually available to do so in person for whatever reason(s).
But I try to make sure that I personally spend time on those sites interacting as well. Responding to what other people are saying, adding my two cents to various discussions, asking after people's pets and other loved ones, congratulating them on birthdays and other milestones. I know that if I did nothing but promote my own work, then there's very little for people to connect with at an individual level. It's no different than a corporate talking about how you should buy their chips for your next party.

Of course, who am I to talk? I've always been pretty bad on execution with anything remotely approaching social media. (Back in the day, I used to shut down discussions on BBSes just by weighing in on the discussion. I would comment, and BOOM! The conversation just stopped. Happened on web message boards all the time, too.) Check out the volume of Likes, Retweets, etc. and I expect you'll find it's pretty average at best.

But that's still better than some creators I've tried following who've been absolutely terrible! Their posts are nothing but self-promotion 100% of the time, and I will absolutely stop following them if that's all they're doing. There are many more effective and efficient ways to communicate that type of message, and it just clutters up my already-full social media stream.

So my business tip of the day, and this is directed pretty squarely at you freelancers out there: you can go ahead and use social media to do self-promotion, but don't let it be the only thing you use social media for! I'm more apt to buy your work if you're friendly and respond to my questions, or Like my comments, or whatever. If you just take me for granted as a reader all the time, I probably won't continue to be one!
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