First published on Forbes
Many teams - in their rush to build a social business or inbound marketing plan - forget this important first step into a world of social media: In order to think social, you need to act personal. Incorporating this thinking into your program will yield you a chance for success. Miss on this thinking and you are certain to fail.
The flaw comes with outdated thinking about how businesses should interact with consumers. It doesn't matter if you are B2B or B2C - or some hybrid; the expectations of consumers have fundamentally changed. They no longer expect to be "messaged to," they expect to part of a discussion. They no longer want "polished, jargon rich content," they expect to be able to relate on their terms and under their timelines.
Organizations can both talk to consumers like they are sitting directly across from them and scale this to reach a broader audience than ever before - if they set up their social programs correctly. There are three general steps you need to take.
Social Means Connecting With A Person
Where teams get this wrong is where they think this is just another broadcast channel. If you want to broadcast your message to a lot of people, or if this is just a "numbers game" for you, you are better served with something like email marketing, where there is a greater tolerance from consumers for this type of messaging. Think of it like this analogy - which of these would yield you better results: handing out flyers for your company's sale at the front door of your local mall, or handing out those same flyers to folks in the pews right before church service?
The social platforms cater to consumers who are in a certain frame of mind. If you want to sell to them, and they aren't in the mood to be sold to, you lose. Start thinking about what your consumer is doing on these social channels - why they are there - and develop programs to those folks based on what they want. Think of this like they are individual people and you are catering to their needs.
Scale Your Personal Interactions
No organization is going to be successful unless they can scale their marketing to reach new consumers or audiences. Again, the rush to scale is where most groups fail. Once you have established how to converse with you audience like they are people, you can begin to scale those interactions. I recently interviewed Ted Rubin, Social CMO of Collective Bias, who better articulated this problem of scaling than I could. He believes that "lurkers" - those who aren't vocal in your social media audiences - are just as valuable as the vocal minority. When you engage with individuals on a social platform, you are leaving that relationship open for others to see. As those "lurkers" interact with your brand, they see and are reacting to your interactions with others. Create open, engaging dialogue with a few and you will open your doors to exponential others who take note of not only what you say, but how you say it.
Build Your Social Business
Once you have created this personal dialogue with your communities, and others have begun to see it, you will be amazed at how quickly your brand perception will change and grow in the market. There are still relatively few businesses who act like people with their consumers; Those who do it well now have a greenfield opportunity in the market. You can scale your business using social, but it takes you thinking like you having engaging personal conversations in order to do that.
The big fear is scaling your business while staying personal. But that is like thinking what you want to major in college while you are starting pre-school. Yes, the steps you take then will lead you to choices for college, but you have a ways to go. Focus on learning how to communicate first, and start to scale this up. Over time, you will make decisions to adapt to your audience, drive new programs, or add resources to make this model work.