During what I call my “summer of chats,” I, as you might guess, participated in a lot of Twitter chats. So many, in fact, that I now call that time period my “summer of chats.” Ehem. I was participating in chats because #blogchat had introduced me to the fact that Twitter chats are great ways to meet people with similar interests, share ideas, learn, and network. So, I participated in #blogchat on Sunday, #mmChat (Marketing Monday) on Monday, #leadershipchat and #Custserv on Tuesday, #imcchat on Wednesday, and #b2bChat on Thursday.
It was a lot of chats.
In terms of my social media presence (or “stuff” as I like to call it) all of these chats were great. But there was one little flaw with my great plan, and I bet you may be falling into the same trap.
You see, by participating in chats with “people like me” I was actually networking with peers or even competitors. I was not participating in chats where potential customers were likely to be hanging out.
That whole community and being human thing
A lot of emphasis has always been given to the power of community in the online world, and with good reason. When you find yourself participating with a specific group of people in lots of conversations and chats, it’s pretty nice and it can even be pretty powerful. The online world is a great place to meet great people, to share ideas, to learn how to expand your business, and more. But the shiny factor in this part of the online world can really take your eye off your ultimate purpose if you are using social media for business. You need to be looking for people who will buy from you.
Now, in my own online community, I can count as friends many great people. Some of them are PR experts. Others are marketing or SEO experts. Others are social media wizards. I wouldn’t trade any of these folks for the world, but do you think it’s likely that a full service agency person is going to contact me, a woman from a full service agency, to do some work? It’s possible, but not highly probable. They might like me a lot, but our services simply are not what they are going to need.
The Serendipity Factor
A lot of people, when talk about online communities comes up, notes that you never know who one person may know. Any person you meet could end up referring a person they know to you. That’s true to a certain extent, but if you are networking solely with people who are in the same business as you, is it likely they are going to send that person to you when they could just as easily earn that person’s business? People are good, but not usually that good, especially during these trying times, right?
This logic applies regardless of the business you’re in. If you’re a lawn and garden person who has networked with other lawn and garden people, you’re not likely to get a lot of new customers. If you’re a jewelry maker who has networked with a lot of other jewelry makers…well you see where this is going. Yes, a person might give you a referral if a person would benefit from local or person-to-person attention, but beyond that, your sales will probably not see a bump.
So what should you do?
You don’t have to ditch the idea of networking with peers (or competitors). It’s still fun to meet people who might share similar life experiences. Just make sure that you balance that part of your online presence with what will pay your bills. Try to find some chats that might be of interest to existing or potential customers and get yourself known in that crowd. Do searches to try to network with people who are asking the kinds of questions you can answer. Focus some of your content on the stuff that would be of interest to existing and potential customers, not just to your colleagues and competitors.
Now it’s your turn
What has your experience been with building sales in the online world? Have you kept that as a priority or have you found yourself networking more with people in the same business as you? How have you balanced your goals? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pinkmoose/85013785/ via Creative Commons