When you are involved in the world of Social Media, it’s easy to get enveloped in the “let’s hold hands and treat each other well” blanket. I often wax poetical (or maybe just wax) about how important community is. I talk about how strongly I feel that chats are important because they help you meet people.
What I don’t talk about very often is how to use Social Media to make money. There are several reasons for this. First, even though I am out here learning so that I can help support our clients, many of our clients are not using Social Media right now. This is because a lot of our clients are in niches where there just isn’t a lot of Social Media activity. As I have stated often, if we feel like Social Media isn’t a good idea, we don’t shove it down anybody’s throat. Also, I am not here to make personal profit. I am an ambassador for Clayman Advertising. Am I hoping to meet people who might want to work with us? Of course! But that’s very different from trying to get people to purchase a product.
The question pops into my head now and again…is all of the talking I do about community, helping people who are new to Social Media, saying thank you, promoting others…is that all relevant to someone who wants or needs to make money using Social Media?
My answer is that it is.
The new kid on the block
The thing is, a lot of people who have been navigating these waters for awhile have an understanding that there are unwritten rules. I don’t expect anyone in my community to randomly send me a tweet saying, “Hey buy this now!!” They would not expect the same from me. I don’t expect anyone in my community to send me a link that randomly leads me to their e-commerce store. They would not expect that from me. In short, as you develop your own community in the world of Social Media, using all of the best practices that you hear about everywhere, you become like a group of really good friends. You evolve to the point where you know that this person tends to blog at this time. This person always seems to help you promote your blog posts. The community develops a rhythm.
If you are using Social Media to make money, it would be easy to think that you can get started right out of the gate. In fact, though, if you are not careful, you can end up looking like that darned person who always seems to crash gatherings of good friends. Nobody really has a lot of patience for that kind of person, and more often than not, you’ll find that the doors and windows will be locked, the shades will be pulled all the way down, and you won’t get anywhere.
Buying is based on trust
Another reason why I think it’s essential to wait a beat before trying to sell is that people in the world of Social Media are not going to click anything unless they can generally trust you. There are too many phishing schemes. There are too many spam attacks and bugs. You have to make a name for yourself, prove that you’re not a bot, prove that you can be trusted. Only then will people begin to say, “Oh, ok, let’s see what this person has to share with me now.”
Developing that kind of trust takes a long time. It takes a daily, consistent effort of supporting other people, showing that you can help other people, showing that you know what you’re talking about, and showing that you are a good resource. Doing all of that requires, it seems to me, all of that gooey and mushy kumbaya stuff.
Many would find this frustrating
I know that if you are looking to make money, this is not the message you want to hear. It’s easy to dismiss us “community” folk as kind of the Social Media flower children. You might be saying, “That’s nice and all, but this is the real world, and the real world is about profit. It’s about driving people to your site, where your buy now button rests comfortably in your side navigation.” I know that this is an entirely new facet to marketing that we haven’t had to worry about. You didn’t have to build a relationship with a magazine for them to place your ad, right? You send them an order, you send them money, and boom, your ad appears.
Is this really so different? Doesn’t business in the offline world also have its kumbaya contingent? You know, the people who do business based on handshake agreements? The people who excel at customer service? The people who will help you on the business front but then will also recommend a really great musician for you to listen to? And speaking of placing ads, isn’t it true that if you have a really good relationship with your contact at the publication, you can negotiate better placement and maybe even better prices for yourself or your client?
Would you randomly go up to a customer in real life and say, “go to my website and buy something, please”? I doubt it. So, why approach Social Media any differently?
Start before you start
If you think that you are ready to jump into Social Media to make money, my advice would be to start building your community 3-6 months before you hope to start making sales. That’s not to say that you stay mum about your endgame, but what it does mean is that you don’t do any hard-selling. You need time to find your voice. You need to make sure that when you are ready to sell, there will actually be people following your tweets. You need to make sure that some of those people will click the links that you post.
In my case, I had blogged and tweeted for about 5 months before I added a link about our ClayComm 2.0 services to my blog site. I don’t point to it a whole lot, but it’s up there. I didn’t start pointing out what we can do to help companies market until I showed, through persistent interaction, that I knew what I was talking about when it came to the big picture and to some minute details. I am still not hard selling now, but if I was trying to sell a product, I would know how my community would want me to proceed. I would know how to avoid becoming that “annoying” salesman.
So what do you think? Can kumbaya and making money co-exist? In the movie Austen Powers, Austen represents the kind of naive flower child while Dr. Evil represents (funnily enough) profit and capitalism side of the equation. They are enemies. What if they could help each other out? Maybe that’s just me being kumbaya again.
1st Image by jorge vicente. http://www.sxc.hu/profile/jmjvicente
2nd Image by Rob Owen-Wahl. http://www.sxc.hu/profile/lockstockb