Recently, in the Social Media Today group on LinkedIn (LI), someone asked this question:
“One of my contacts just said they’d be canceling their LinkedIn account, feeling it’s utterly worthless…any feedback out there?”
Working as a freelance writer (in both journalism and copywriting), I use social networking daily, both as a strategy I employ for clients and in my own career. And, YES, I have gotten clients through LinkedIn and connections that have lead to client referrals outside of LI. I’ve also received requests for additional information or portfolio clips from nationwide associations and organizations that keep lists of journalists for pitches and press releases. I’ve even received books, vodka and software for review all generated by my presence on LI.
In fact, two of my largest clients were found on LI. But even before I had success there, I found it to be an invaluable resource. I think it’s true that a large percentage of those disenchanted with social media are those who do not understand it nor do they “like” or regularly participate in social media. In fact, I have had clients who outright dismissed it altogether because they didn’t want to “deal with it.” To those clients I say, “then steer clear,” because in the end, it will be “utterly worthless,” for them as well. (I’ll explain why further on.)
But one of the other reasons people get discouraged about SMM is that they don’t understand the intangible, immeasurable impact that engagement carries with it. Certainly, there are ways to measure your SMM ROI but none that truly paint the full picture of engagement.
They’re Watching YOU
According to data presented at Buzz2010, from Charlene Li — the largest groups on the internet are sharers and watchers. These are people participating in social by reading, watching and learning, who may or may not share a link with someone else, and who you are reaching but will NEVER hear from. They are the folks, reading this post right now, who never dare to chime in. And though they may not chime in, they could be linking someone else to your content or they could be gaining a favorable impression of you, enough to check out your blog or business and enough to pass on your information to a friend, colleague or family member, should they need it. These are your “immeasurables,” they are your largest audience.
So whether it’s LI, Facebook or Twitter (or any other social networking site), these platforms can and WILL fail, in the face of someone who thinks of them as something they have to “deal with.” That effect increases exponentially if you come into the realm of social with expectations about what you will or won’t get out of it. If you’re doing this, you might as well quit now — You’ve already failed.
It’s Called Social for a Reason
Because, first and foremost, social media is about the SOCIAL aspect. It’s an opportunity to get to know people, share your expertise, help each other out and learn something new. It’s also an amazing opportunity for you to control you brand’s image, while staying in touch with the people who make your company a success. Allowing you to address issues or concerns that your client’s may have, while educating them on your business or product and helping them solve a problem they may have. It’s the ultimate in customer service — when it’s done right.
But insincerity can be felt, both in person and online and the kind of savvy consumer that employs social media, is the kind that hates the hard-sell. This isn’t about throwing a few dollars at the local paper to run an ad for your sale and it’s not a “quick get in, get out and reap the client rewards,” sort of venture. This is about building “real relationships,” and you either get that or you don’t. For those businesses or individuals that don’t want to take the time to get involved, any platform could feel, “utterly worthless.”
Get in Where You Fit In
Lastly, not every platform is the right platform for your particular business. I have clients whose businesses do quite well with Facebook or Twitter but garner nothing from LI but in my personal experience, LinkedIn is the number one client generator. That doesn’t mean, that there isn’t some benefit that either of us could reap from the connections and conversations that happen on these other formats (but that’s a topic for another blog.) The point is that you have to find the social spot that works for you, for your style, for your clients and for your business.
Just like in the “real” world you have to find the place in the SoMe world where you fit but you can’t do that without going to a few get-togethers, introducing yourself and checking everything and everyone out. That’s the beauty of social, if you engage in earnest, you can’t fail.