Today in Sincerely Held Beliefs

Let’s discuss for a minute what the past few hours have revealed about the way people use social media. Specifically the people who run pages for their businesses, charities, or tribute pages. They think it is personal. Let’s examine why that is a bad idea, shall we? They apply bad principles to their businesses or pages they maintain with such certitude that people really believe it is something that anyone could do, and reap the benefits of. Let’s start by debunking these notions, shall we?

How do you know if your page or account is of benefit to you or your cause? Are you simply interested in grabbing their attention and getting a like or a share? Do you ever step back and ask about a person who knows nothing about your business or brand and what will they think as they come to your profile or page? If you aren’t asking these questions then you should not have a page on social media.

Even after today’s quick survey found most people don’t care or won’t even take the time. Their pages are simply vanity measures, with a thousand “followers” or likes and each post has a couple of engagements, sometimes the page itself liking its own post. These are all amateur moves, done by people who think they know all too well what people want. Let me just use the same tactics as employed on my personal page and that will be that. However, if they knew what people really wanted, then there would be more engagement, more actual interaction, greater community input. Which leads to more sales, more visibility, and more return on your investment.

That doesn’t mean just your friends and close acquaintances liking all the same things. No, it means sincerely bridging a gap between you and the people you are trying to reach. It also doesn’t mean a whole host of people who are attracted to you the person. Drawn in by your writing, product, or services. Those able to clearly see as you’ve articulated, for everyone, what you are about. This is an organic space, and like all, can be messy which is why you have to insist on having protocols & safeguards in place. These are never offered in what passes as social media advice. In fact they start with telling you “Content is King” (when this has obviously changed drastically) and then move onto what time of day to post (almost always wrong), and then finish with someone robotic tool that will not turn you into a real live person or brand that actually interacts but into Skynet bombarding their social media streams/newsfeeds/timelines with pithy offering that are canned or strained, or both.

There is a real thirst & hunger for what I like to call ‘artisanal content’ and a huge opening for people who actually have something to offer. Yet it won’t look anything like what the ‘thought leaders’ are telling you it is. It quite honestly will look like the direct opposite of that. Number one myth we can bust? You can’t do it all, and the expectation that you can is just as dangerous as the “Superwoman Myth” is to women. Why is it this technology which makes self-publishing, and mounting your own one-person PR campaign has lowered the bar so low that in reality a bot can do it, and has.

There is a life-coach, or social media guru/specialist/expert around every corner and more than you can swing a stick at. They are almost always the most venal of all internet cheerleaders and the worst form of sycophant possible. They will, like diet pill marketers, clickbait their way into your lives and tell you it is all possible, that you can go viral, get tons of leads, and that you can reap all these rewards if you just pay them.

They are full of aphorisms, daily quotes, and links to their material which is usually woefully outdated, underrepresented facts and wholly concocted myths that make it seem approachable. You really only have to commit to giving them your email address, fulfilling their lead generation, and hopefully signing up for their courses or ebook downloads. With a hope that you will hire them in the future. These are the very people who still earnestly believe that maxim ‘Content is King,’ they have to, because their business or livelihood depends upon it.

Social Media isn’t personal, to you the business owner. Anymore than the sign you hang on the window stating that you take a selection of credit cards, or your store hours, or return policies. Even if you a solo entrepreneur and the only one for whom any of this information is viable. Even then, that transfer of information is nothing more than standard best practices. Your goal for any publicity or marketing through these new channels should and can be measured wholly by the impact (be that quantitative or qualitative) and not merely by your anecdotal experiences.

Moreover, there isn’t a day that goes by the encountering someone who, having used social media as they do for themselves personally, doesn’t look me in the face & say “it doesn’t work for me…” or “you don’t understand my market, it requires the word-of-mouth…” with all earnestness. Each time this happens, holding back a belly laugh is the greatest challenge. Social Media is nothing but word-of-mouth, in fact it is what happens when that word-of-mouth can get all the way around the globe & back again at the speed of light. You must sincerely understand the difference if you are to have your efforts rewarded.

Yet even though it is based on these word-of-mouth sources, it isn’t personal. Many a celebrity or instant internet star or even misguided teen may disagree with this, but alas they generally aren’t business owners. No matter what their brief bio says. Recently several people who have decided to forgo having an actual website, but instead opt for tending a Facebook Business Page or Instagram account, or other long abandoned, misused, or practically dormant social media site has tried to explain to me why it doesn’t work for them.

Well of course, that would be their experience. Never, has one of them admitted that they didn’t really understood how any of it worked, or how they are interconnected, but instead have just thrown up their hands and said they were now trying something else. Whatever new site, one they had not tried previously tried. This would fit with their misguided narrative about how social media is a waste of time. For over a decade now this very scenario has played out, over & over again with small businesses. The truth is, the way they do it, it is waste of time. When likes/comments don’t actually translate into actual sales, then of course something will seem amiss. Yet posting quotes, pretty pictures, memes, etc… only works if that is what you are selling. Wasting time & effort on any one social media site as a way to drum up business is also a huge waste of time.

Every single day another business or entrepreneur, or even freelancer’s digital presence passes before my eyes. Often several a day, and in almost every single case there is no real way to connect with what they do. There is rarely more than the simplest template-filled, cookie cutter experience, that does absolutely nothing to differentiate them or what they do from a clattering mass of imitators or others clamoring for the same sliver of space in the Attention Economy.

In Part Two of this series we will examine the three main archetypes which always play out when you try to do it all yourself. There is much to be learned if you are trying to understand the shifting sands by which Social Media is playing out  and the ways in which having a strategy for this is the best protection. In this new economy based solely on your limited attention span, we often fail to forget that not all attention is worthwhile.

Scrolling Gif Image from Nour | Things that Gather Dust Tumblr [original artwork]