The other day, not for the first time, I heard someone utter the phrase that most of us here on the Interweb listen to in disbelief:
I think Social Media is a fad.
What. The. Hell.
I’ve heard and seen other Social Media enthusiasts Tweet similar conversations (because, you know, Twitter is the final frontier of the Over Heard). The Tweets are often laced with, on the mild end, amusement, and on the, er, less temperate end, disgust.
But I had to stop and think for a minute. Often, the people who are saying these things about Social Media aren’t idiots. In fact, I’ve heard it slip out of the mouths of people I’m pretty sure are smarter than I am (though they can’t dance like I can. BOOM. (Disclaimer: I am a terrible dancer).
And then it hit me: they don’t dislike “social,” they dislike “media.”
In other words, they’re skeptics about the tools.
Because I bet if you sat down with them and had a serious conversation about having real, meaningful conversations between companies and customers, businesses and buyers, famous people and fans…they’d be on board with that.
What they’re not on board with is the noise. Because that’s what Social Media can feel like to the non-habitual user (seriously, we heavy users need a support group or something. Let’s bring booze).
They’re averse to what I like to call “Digital Jizzery.”
It’s a crass term, I know, but I made it up during one of the biggest shit-shows Social Media has to offer, South by Southwest Interactive.
Everybody has a new idea, a new product, a BETTER WAY for you do use Social Media tools RIGHT NOW AND ZOMG, MY PORN CHECK-IN SERVICE IS GONNA TAKE OVER THE INTERNET. (Also, YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG.) And when you’re with that many people who are pushing their agenda down your throat, it can be exhausting. They’re the self-proclaimed gurus and experts, and probably the same people who’d shove their grandmother in front of a train if it meant they’d get an extra check-in on Foursquare.
Sorry. It’s gross behavior; it deserved a gross term.
The people who participate in digital jizzery have the opposite problem from our friends who think Social Media is a fad. They’re much less about the Social, and much more about the Media (and how the Media can potentially help them get rich). Yes, you can use Social Media to drive leads and sales and to market your latest whozit, but not at the expense of losing the human element that Social Media provides.
So what are the common traits among the people who get it right? Here’s my two cents:
1. They never forget the human element of the medium
Not to kiss ass (MUAH!), but Lewis does this really well. When he first started on LinkedIn, he spent hours sending personalized, genuine messages to people he wanted to connect with. That’s human…that’s REAL, because you’d never walk up to someone on the street and say, “HI I’M SARAH. BUY MY EBOOK.”
Call ‘em what you will in your own lingo (e.g. customers, clients, leads), but the people giving you their email addresses? Never forget that they are human. And never forget that something as simple as a personalized DM or a quick email of thanks or acknowledgement can mean huge things to someone (and in return, may get you more customers, clients, and leads).
2. They know the tools don’t matter, the conversation does
So you don’t have a Facebook Fan Page. Or you do, and every blog out there says it sucks because it doesn’t have a custom landing tab. Who cares? Are you still having real, meaningful conversations with the humans surrounding you? Do you do it on Twitter instead of YouTube? Or through a local networking site like Cbusr instead of LinkedIn? Sure, the tools should probably fit your intent, but if you’re rockin’ it out on the Bird Wire and that works for you? Get it. (And once you start rockin’ it in your chosen medium, and see need for improvement, then read up on how you can do it better and more efficiently.)
3. They’re honest and transparent (they fess up when they mess up)
There is no better example of this than the Red Cross.
You all remember this scenario, right? A rogue tweet went out on their national account that suggested one of their employees was having a great time getting hammered on Dogfishhead beer (and who wouldn’t? Try both the 60 and 90 Minute IPA. Noms). The Red Cross could have gone all Chipotle on it and lied, but instead they handled the situation with grace and humor. They were human to the humans who interact with them. The result? Dogfishhead was so impressed, they started their own blood drive campaign in support. Good vibes all around.
If I can drive one point home to anyone who ever asks me questions about the Interwebz and blogging and business, it’s that the Social is far more important than the Media. People always ask me, “But HOW do I start a conversation?” And that’s when I say, “Forget that it needs to be 140 characters or less, how would you talk to someone in the same line for coffee? Or how would you introduce yourself at a networking event? A birthday party? At church?”
It’s the same thing when using a Social Media tool. The tools only help us reach other humans in a speedier, more convenient, or more highly specialized way…but the people on the other side of that screen? Still people. They have problems, and triumphs, and need bathroom breaks just like we all do. So when in doubt, default to that human element.
It’ll work, I promise. No more digital jizzery for you.
Sarah J. Storer is a blogger, speaker and storyteller who calls Columbus, OH home. Her internationally read blog, “The Naked Redhead” (www.thenakedredhead.com), is a quirky mix of life, love and relationship advice, sprinkled with the odd snarky musing. When she’s not writing for TNR, she enjoys helping businesses and entrepreneurs with creative social concepts. She is currently looking forward to debuting both her new TV and radio shows in August, and one day, hopes to enjoy the simple luxury of a full night’s sleep.