Social Media is Not a Trick Question

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I’m attending the Web 2.0 Conference in San Francisco this week! Yesterday, I got sunburned walking around in Nob Hill and near the Golden Gate Bridge, and now I’m in a dimly lit conference room listening to Aliza Sherman talk about social media strategy. (If anyone knows any good places to get breakfast around here, I’m all ears!)

I was struck by something she said in her presentation. She asked the audience, “Who are you trying to reach with social media?” Her question was followed by a deafening silence, so she responded, “this isn’t a trick question.” Of course businesses are trying to reach people who will buy their products, she said.

At many tech conferences, whenever speakers ask questions like these in reference to social media, they are looking for someone to say something that sounds old-school so the speaker can bash that person for not knowing anything about social media. You mean you want to sell people stuff on social media? That’s not how it works, idiot!

Well actually, that is how it works. However, we should rephrase this. Instead of saying you want to sell through social media, think about trying to grow your business through social media. There is a difference. You engage in social media not only to find existing and new customers, but also to tell them about your company, get their feedback, and build great brand awareness…which hopefully leads to more business.

The thing that companies struggle with is that social media usually operates a few steps away from a direct sale. Just because a company is on Twitter doesn’t mean its followers are going to be converted into paying customers.

Aliza suggests identifying several direct actions you would like your followers/fans/friends to take, other than buying something from you. Maybe you want people to give you feedback on your products. Maybe you want them to comment on your blog posts, or watch your video. Maybe you want to identify new business partners or employees from your community.

While not direct sales, these actions are no less important for a business.

It is important to make the distinction that social media is for business growth, not just sales. Sales are certainly a part of your strategy, but not the only part.


Author: Hannah Johnson

When I first came to New York City, I almost ran over Liza Minelli with my suitcase. Then I got a job in book publishing.

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