Social media is free, right? Simply register for 50 social media profile accounts, start tweeting, facebooking and linking and you'll have tons of free leads, referrals and an instant community, right?
There is no short cut to social media.
Why you ask? It's easy, to setup profiles, easy to get new friends, easy to get followers and grow your community. Sorry folks, social media is not free. It will consume your greatest asset which is time. In business we all know time is money. So no, social media is not free.
The next question I often hear from our new clients and other small business leaders is "OK, if it's not free then, you know the fast way to get there, right?" Then they continue to explain that they know they're behind and should have hopped on the social train sooner. They want me to help them find the shortcut to get there faster.
Yes, we know the ecosystem. We know the approaches to engage. We know how to help them create and nurture real relationships. We know how to create compelling and relevant content that supports their brand and will help them begin to build a community.
And yes, of course, we know the tools and technology. We can help them prioritize where to start based upon their business goals and objectives. We can help them tweak as they go forward.
Social Media is One Big Relationship Fueled by Conversation
It's one big conversation made up of millions of conversations. Relationships are created and nurtured by connecting with real people via a conversation. Yes, business transactions happen on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Yes, sales funnels are filled with highly qualified leads if you put together the right pieces, infrastructure, strategies, tactics and sales funnel.
However everything in social media is based upon relationships. It's based upon your ability to connect 1:1 with other people. It's a personal decision who you want to be "friends" with. People will always buy from people. We buy from people we trust and brands we know.
1. the quality or state of being related; connection
2. connection by blood, marriage, etc.; kinship
3. a particular instance of being related.
4. a continuing attachment or association between persons, firms, etc., specif., one between lovers
1:1 Connection Is a Requirement, Not an Option
There is no short cut to relationships. There is no magic auto-relationship tool you can test as a free 30-day trial. Yes, you can get all the free tools you want. You can create the best sales funnel in your market niche and then teach them all how to do the same and make a great living.
However, the one thing you can't do is give them the magic tool to build a relationship. Relationships take time and investment by both parties. Relationships and conversations require two people to be engaged in such, not just one!
So the next time you hear a supposed "social media guru" or "sales funnel expert" offering you the fast short-cut route to the most leads you've ever had in your life... take a second look. Look underneath the covers. Look what's really behind the black curtain before you fall hook, line and sinker to the next get rich quick scheme.
Websites no longer work in the model "build it and they will come!"
We have had numerous clients come to us who have been scammed. They are sitting on a website they spent thousands for yet it is doing not much more for their business than that old phone book they took straight to the dumpster that the local phone company dropped off.
We looked at acquiring a small agency last year that had a decent set of clients in the local area. However, when we looked behind the covers they had done nothing but built an online equivelant to the old phone books of yester-year. The poor clients were sold a bill of goods and had no platform to build a relationship and leverage the tools and tech of social media and online marketing. As you can imagine, we didn't move forward as there was nothing to purchase. Half of their clients were broke and they had done nothing to help that matter. They fell into the trap that if they built the website, the people would come. They could then hop on social media for free and all would be great and positive including their ROI. Wrong! As we started reaching our to their clients we quickly learned they were far from happy. Any further investment would have delivered nothing but a negative ROI and terrible start to our business.
Business Platforms Not Websites Enable Success in Social Media
The best path to success in social media is to focus first on the people and objectives and second on the tools and technology. Then, next comes the development of a business platform that supports all of the above. A business platform is different than the websites of "yester-year" that I am still seeing many small agencies and clueless supposed social media consultants and gurus selling.
A business platform will support your business goals and objectives. If developed the right way a business platform will be the hub that will enable you to build relationships by communicating with real people. It will help you share information and leverage the content to bring people closer to you and your community. Business platforms are more integrated. They provide a platform for growth and sustainability.
Guess what! Business platforms don't happen over night and can't be built in a vacuum of a developers back office. If an agency or consultant wants to build you a website or business platform and doesn't need to meet with you several times to discuss your business goals, objectives and audiences then RUN!
A solid business platform will bring together you, your clients, your partners and your friends by leveraging content, conversation, your website and the tools and technology of online marketing and social media. The goal is to create a sales funnel that will capture leads from multiple starting points.
The path to your business is not one way or a simple fork in the road. It's more like a spaghetti maze that should be inspiring your audiences to connect with you regardless of their starting point. Regardless if they start at LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr or Quora the platform should make it easy for them to get to you. It should enable the easy nurturing of a relationship. A relationship that opens up doors for conversation and building trust!
Do Your Research!
If you know you are behind in the world of online marketing and social media, don't fall for the short cut sales pitch. Do your research. Ask the hard questions. If you don't know what to ask, do you research so you will.
You can not trust every Tom, Dick and Harry out there just because they have the Facebook, Twitter and RSS buttons on their website. Look beneath the covers. Do they have a platform for business and life? Ask them about their sales funnel. Confirm they have an email nurturing program and subscribe to it. What are they doing in their business to foster real relationships and be part of the conversation? If they are doing little for themselves, it's almost a guarantee you'll get no better.
Is their approach integrated or is it filled with silo's that do little to build community and real relationships? Check out the engagement they are receiving and participating in on Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin. Is their Twitter stream filled with nothing more than weekend parties, boyfriend chats and their own sales coupons? Or are they truly engaging and drawing the attention of their peers, clients, partners, thought leaders and influencers?
Bottom line, if you can't see visual success an agency or consultant is achieving in social media then it is unlikely it exists. It's also unlikely they'll be able to do any better for your business even if it is on your dime.
Take the time to do the research and make decisions based upon both qualitative and quantitative data. Go with your gut but back it up by real ROI and results that are proven.
Enjoy the Journey!
Don't get down and frustrated after you read this post. Instead put on your social backpack filled with resources, mentors and positive attitude. There are many useful resources you can leverage online to learn the tools and tips of social media.
Remember, anybody can teach you the technology. However, it is going to take a serious investment by you and your team to join the conversation and build relationships. Investing in people will bring great reward in both business and life. Invest in the lives and the businesses of the people you serve. The people of the businesses who you want to buy from you. Remember it's the people who buy from people. Unless you connect authentically with the people, they'll never trust nor buy from you!
What path are you on? The path to success or the path to find a non-existent short cut? Are you taking the time you should be in your business to build real relationships? Are you taking the time to provide relevant content that inspires people to connect with you? If not, why not? Quit focusing on the tools and tech only. Start paying some attention to the art of engagement. The way in which you communicate and nurture real relationships with real people.