About a year ago, the big social networking news was that Ashton Kutcher set a record on the most rapid rise to having more than one million followers on Twitter.
That record, and five dollars, could have bought him a small latte at the Starbucks on Wilshire Boulevard. As I discuss the use of social media with people, too many times I get drawn down that same vortex of talking just about the numbers. And, don’t get me wrong – numbers are important. In social media, numbers equate to people with whom you can communicate directly about your message. In my business, numbers are a paramount concern and that’s why I take pride in the fact that my in-house team (the same team who work the social media network for our clients) has built my profiles to a cumulative 55,000 followers and rising every day.
What the numbers mean is that I simply have an audience. However, what I do with them is as important as what I did to get them.
Now, I’m not talking about marketing to them. I’m not talking about getting your message out to them. I’m not even referring to the idea of using them to help get other followers. All those experiences are very one-sided and while you get a lot of benefit, it’s arguable whether they are getting as much out of those processes as you are.
No, I’m referring to something much deeper. I’m talking about engaging my audience. I’m talking about generating an exchange of ideas with them. I’m talking about something that rarely gets mentioned in reference to any kind of marketing at all. I’m talking about serving them.
The slippery slope of talking too much about numbers in social media is that it becomes easy to forget that those numbers are actually real people on the other end of that keyboard. It’s not 55,000 followers; It’s 55,000 people. If they choose to follow you, you have to ask yourself what kind of experience will it be for them. Will they profit from following you in some form or another? Will you offer them insight and knowledge, regardless of whether it turns into any business for you? What will they get out of it all, compared to what you believe you’ll get out of marketing to them.
Most businesses operate under the theory of fair exchange that is taught in business school. Vendors are paid by customers for a product or service. The customer gets the value of what he paid for and the vendor gets paid an amount commensurate with that value. It’s a fair exchange. Pretty simple, right? In social media, I believe we should apply what is called the theory of exchange in abundance. Under this theory, a customer pays a vendor for a product or service and that vendor then supplies what has been paid for, along with providing additional value. The result is that customer is far more inclined to do business with that vendor again. Actually, this principle of exchange is the best policy for all business.
People who use social media for marketing purposes should ensure that they are providing a lot more value than simply trying to get their followers to open their wallets. They should share advice, knowledge and insight with their followers, and send them messages not intended to market themselves, but rather intended to improve the lives and businesses of their followers. In that sense, they are participating in exchange in abundance.
It means that instead of treating your audience like numbers, you treat them like people who are following you because they believe a social networking relationship with you, in its simplest terms, may yield some value for them as well. You engage them on a level beyond just what they can do for you. You engage them in a mutually beneficial exchange of ideas, thoughts, concepts and knowledge, aimed at doing nothing more than serving them as individuals. And, if they should choose to transcend those online social media tethers and engage you in a commercial relationship, they’ll already know something about your business.
They’ll know you exchange in abundance, which to them means you’ll be as good in business as you are online. Making a total stranger respect you and like you, and want to engage you in a business relationship simply from what you broadcast to your social media group, is the absolute height of marketing and the soul of good business.