Yes, social media and social networks exist because of technology. However, what they enable is corner grocery style interaction. In other words, digital and social tools [such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+...] make possible rich relationship building. The kind we have based society on for eons.
I'm not talking totally inane interactions via social media tools. I'm really not interested in sharing favorite quotes or breakfast treats - unless there's more to the exchange based on the relationship context.
However, social media and social networks have allowed me to connect with kindred spirits from across the country or the globe - all because of social connections.
With LinkedIn, the connection is social professional.
With Facebook, the connection is social casual.
With Twitter, the connection is social affinity and that's where I've discovered some of the richest professional relationships yet based on shared interests and shared examples of deeper content [e.g., blog articles].
When I describe the benefits associated with social media and social networks for business professionals, I often sense surprise - even disbelief.
The assumption is that the tools are for youngsters.
[That's also part of the magic of these tools: users have redefined them! Different groups of users have developed different ways of using them. How my niece uses Facebook has nothing to do with how I use it.]
The other assumption is that because they cost nothing to set up, no effort is required to make them work effectively.
Furthermore, if these are communication tools, simply getting them set up is enough to guarantee success.
And, by blasting a sales pitch, people will line up and make a bee-line to your business regardless of what they were doing and whether they are even interested.
And, if that's how you develop and nurture business relationships, is your business thriving?That's not how the corner grocer built his business!
Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn aren't mass communications vehicles. Rather, they reflect what made the corner grocery successful: a means for offering distinct value to specific customers. They are tools that enable responsiveness to customers, that demonstrate a business person's human side, his/her trustworthiness and deep interest in the business.
Embracing these tools means starting from zero and gradually building relationships over time through consistent and dependable interaction. Not too different from how a corner grocery builds relationships and credibilty over time. They require thoughtfulness, deliberate effort and an ongoing commitment to sharing value consistently over time [think informative, entertaining and useful content].
Social tools are about relationships and connecting with others who care as much about our topic as we do - and aren't effective when done lightly and inconsistently.
How, then, to get started?
Stay focused and grounded, never stop paying attention to customers and the digital and social clues and cues that relate to them. Take small steps forward and remember to always deliver value.
Would you agree?
Image Credit: Mike's Corner Store on Flickr