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Should I have a Facebook page? Is my audience on Twitter? Do I have time to invest in social marketing? Why am I doing this?
Those are all great questions and some you should most certainly be asking yourself if you’re thinking of engaging in social marketing. Or even if you’re already doing it and looking for better results.
They can be tough to answer but they’re not the questions I’m talking about today.
The questions I’m talking about today are even tougher than that and have a lot more to do with your business approach and philosophy than with the mechanics of marketing.
Do I have answers? Heck, no! Besides, my answers might be very different than yours. But I do have ideas. And those ideas may just help you make sense out of the toughest questions you probably didn’t even know you had to answer.
Who Am I?
No, this is not an existential question about your purpose and the meaning of life. But it may be just as tough to answer.
Somehow the idea of “being online” and “being social” has taken on an otherworldly aura. Humans have been engaging, sharing and building relationships since caveman days but only since the dawn of the internet age have we ceased to understand how to do that.
We overcomplicate things and make up new rules for what we’re supposed to say or when and how much we’re supposed to share. Experts everywhere remind us to do things like “be human” as if we had forgotten our actual birthright.
Think about the last time you were at a business event or a dinner party. Did you strike up a conversation with the guy next to you or did you wring your hands in uncertainty over whether you should talk about yourself or not, whether you should mention the canapés or bring up the weather?
Yet we “get online” and stare at the blank status update boxes and empty web pages of our lives with no idea what to say.
You can solve that problem by understanding who you are. And even if you think you have a pretty good handle on this, even if you can pop into a Google Plus conversation like you’re waltzing into a cocktail party, I bet this is tougher to answer than you think.
The thing is, you are more than the sum of your parts. Sometimes you’re cheerful and sometimes you want to throw your computer out the window. Sometimes you’re funny and sometimes you like to complain about the rain. Sometimes you geek out, other times you get political, occasionally you share your deepest fears and once in a while you get on your soapbox when something really burns your buns.
It’s not so easy to say who you are because you’re not a static person. You think differently, feel differently, behave differently in different situations and at different times.
I bet the conversations you have with your mom are different than the ones you have with your boss or your kids or your neighbor or your best friend. And I don’t mean the content of the conversations. I mean the tone, the phrases, the “you” that you infuse into them.
Before you can begin to use social media for marketing you have to decide who you are going to be. Will you be sharing the irreverent witticisms that pop into your head every six seconds? Are you willing to voice a contrary opinion even if it doesn’t win you any friends? Would you prefer to play the pacifist, the voice of reason?
Whatever you choose, you still want to be yourself, the same way your mom always told you to “be yourself” when you asked how to get the cute boy (or girl) to like you in seventh grade. You don’t want to put on airs or pretend to be funny/outrageous/peaceful if you aren’t.
You don’t want to invent yourself or create a false avatar for the purpose of “being online” – you simply want to be the parts of yourself that you’re comfortable being.
Maybe you’re not willing to express your darkest fears online or maybe you feel that full disclosure is just your ticket. Perhaps you’re only willing to get on a soapbox about particular topics and stay out of others. Or maybe you want to be in the midst of every fray.
There’s no right answer here.
How much you say, what you say, how you say it – that’s for you to decide. Just don’t forget to be the human being that you are.
Let your personality shine. And recognize that you are still in a social situation and that it does call for graces and calibration and awareness. The boorish buffoon at the party will go about as far in life as he will on Facebook.
What’s The Difference Between Me And My Business?
In the small business space there is often a fine, blurred line between you and your business. In the vast majority of cases we are our businesses.
I just talked about being you and being human, and that’s so important for your social presence because nobody wants to do business with a logo or a building or an abstract entity.
You know how when your internet service goes down and you call the service provider and yell at the guy on the other end of the phone because this is the third time in two weeks and come on can’t you fix it? You know somewhere in your rational brain that the poor service rep on the other end of the phone has nothing to do with the behemoth that is the internet company causing your problems – but you yell at him anyway because you can’t yell at a building or a behemoth.
But in the small business space there is only us. We may have “company pages” and logos and visual branding but at the heart of the business is We, the people.
So when you get online to do your social marketing, are you marketing as yourself or your business? What’s the difference?
It’s no small philosophical question. The logistics of having a “business” account and a separate “personal” account are not even the tip of the iceberg.
When we first started out on social media, Ralph and I, we had a “friends only” Facebook policy. That was our private space where we would catch up with high school friends and distant cousins.
I remember the first time a client sent us a friend request. What to do! Do we accept, risk crossing that line between business and personal or do we decline, and risk alienating a new (paying!) “friend”?
Eventually we both gave up the notion of separation and now we’re “friends” with everyone from actual friends to clients, colleagues and sometimes strangers if they seem interesting enough.
To some extent, we had to rethink the “Who am I?” part once we shifted perspective. No longer were we isolating those conversations with mom. Our clients were listening over our shoulders, too.
Did we make the right decision?
Well, for us we did. I can’t tell you what you should do. You may very well want a private place where you carefully vet the members of your personal community. Or you may want to bring everyone into your inner circle. You may answer the “Who am I?” question very differently depending on your answer to this one and how much of yourself you expose as part of your business.
The more engaged you become online, the more the lines blur. You can’t hide behind a logo or a company name. But how you do business socially and to what extent is something only you can decide.
Think about your approach and what matters to you. Think about how you can be the human face of your business and maintain the balance you need between business and personal. It’ll keep you up at night for a while but if you engage socially and with purpose then you’ll find that your online relationships will be more rewarding and you’ll do better business because of it.
What do you think? Can you answer these questions for yourself? Are there others that keep you up at night that you’d like to explore? Let me know in the comments!