Social Media Spells Opportunity?

social media icons everything-prFor the small business owner, the use of social media could mean more customers, sales boosts and increased brand reputation. But to achieve these goals it is not enough just to join a social network and go with the flow.

Social networks rely on the power of their users, who group together in sharing similar interests (in the form of links, images, videos or sound). Sometimes, to belong to a group it is necessarily to adopt its prejudices and biased opinions. In real life, groups are led by leaders whose charisma and personality are strong enough to serve as an example to the rest. Online things are not so simple. In social media/ networks, we cannot speak of leaders in the common sense of the term. The online leaders are the power users, the early adopters who are skilled enough to build the group and to influence the community.

The more powerful the user is that submits your story to Digg – the better chance it has of making the homepage.
Chris of 10e20

Social networks are crowded places and, as with any crowded place, it’s hard to “stand out.” The web has already become a bubble of gibbering crowds. Not only are folly and nonsense increasing in numbers, but every interest, personal, political, religious and business easily degenerates into confusion and propaganda. Whether it is personal fame, or bigger profits, or justice, or a better environment that we desire; to succeed in any social network we must write our philosophy in blazing headlines and sell it to the market. But how do we sell to sellers? How do we market to marketers?

There is literally no way to fully benefit from the use of any social network without being a popular user or without having a massive community. There are not enough people using a social media site who are there “just for fun.” Most of the users are there to market their own values, products, services and brands. To be successful in their quests they are involved actively in the perpetual “thumbs up – thumbs down” game played by the crowd. This is the case for networks like digg, Reditt and StumbleUpon. In crowds like Twitter the marketer needs an army of enthusiastic followers, people who are ready to react in real time. Twitter is a race against time, where every second brings something new and the new is not always valuable. As a matter of fact the valuable loses ground to imitation and second-hand truths.

The power user is aware of these aspects and he will then focus on the extraordinary, trying to submit to the attention of the group more value. Then the “sharing” begins, and with it the noise: “vote for this story”, “digg this”, “follow this.” Noise that reflects on the user, that affects his life: he spends his time working for the community: voting, researching and submitting more material. To those who are not active users of an online social network, these might seem like simple tasks. Submitting a link takes a few seconds. But finding that link and writing and insightful comment to support the “whys” are not.

The “whys” are almost never asked, but they are unconscious realities: why was this story worthy of a submission to digg; why should I vote for this story (what’s in it for me?) and so on.

Because the nature of sharing in a social network is not driven by consumers; if you’re not interested, you just skip it.
John McCrea

For the small business owners, social media spells opportunity only if they manage to become power users. Only the one who “has the say” can influence where the other users go, what they “vote for” and what they “vote against.” Only a power user can get real time responses from his Twitter followers. Without real time response Twitter has literally no value.

Microblogging services like Twitter break down if you have more than 100 followers. People like Jason Calacanis might disagree, but I’d argue that by him following 26,672 people he’s obviously not actually interested in what those people are doing (nor would it be possible to actually interact meaningfully with them).
Ryan Carson

Without real time response most of the other social networks are useless too. Social media is the pulse of the moment, and without understanding this concept, without being able to keep the pace with its “lifestreaming”, the small business owner will not gain much from the use of social media.

BusinessWeek columnist Steve McKee is so enthusiastic about the use of social media that he encourages all small (and big) business owners to “jump in.” In his editorial Why Social Media Is Worth Small Business Owners’ Time he even goes further, explaining that

“The biggest reason to use social media is that it’s free. You can be a significant player online without laying out any cash, and in this economic environment cash is king more than ever.”

Indeed, the use of social media is free, although time consuming, but I wouldn’t call it the “biggest reason to join.”

There are more important reasons and obviously more important advantages than the ones Mr. McKee refers to.

Mr. McKee probably is not aware of the fact that social media hates advertising and anything that resembles shameless promotion. Obviously Mr. McKee is not a power user, or else he wouldn’t even dare to make a statement like:

“If you were to take on, say, one social networking site per month, by the end of ’09 you would be ahead of 90% or more of your peers (and your competitors).”

I know of no social media power user who is successful in more than one, maximum two social networks. Taking on 12 social networks and exploiting them up to the point they deliver “dividends within weeks” is an impossible task for any human being. How do you keep track of hundreds, if not thousands of users, friends and followers each day, for each of these networks? When do you find the time to respond to all their messages, requests for votes, suggestions – for if you don’t you are doomed to lose your status as a “power user.”

To make a long story even longer… if you use a social network and the social media as a whole for the sole purpose of promoting your business, you are going to wake up singing a lonely tune.

Use social networking to meet people who share your interests. Use social media to find those groups who might be interested in what you have to offer, but instead of introducing your goods directly introduce yourself. Talk about who you are, what you like, what defines you as an individual. Show people that you care about their dreams and ideals too. Be active in a dialogue about what they want and need. Link to your company discreetly in your profile: those who are interested in learning more about your business will follow that link.

If you do choose to promote your business actively, do it unobtrusively.

Corporate Twitter, yes you want them too. If you look at Comcast and Burger King, you can see how they use twitter to talk to folks, engage, and otherwise have fun with their customers, or address issues with their customers.
Dan Morrill of TechWag

Social media does spell opportunity, but not if you stamp your spamming messages all over it, and definitely not if you engage in a horde of networks you simply cannot keep up with.

After reviewing many of these social networking sites, it is obvious that most successful internet marketers are participating in this scene, to some extent. However, a word of warning here…these sites are not meant for blatantly promoting your own website and opportunity. They should be used to exchange ideas and information and to develop relationships with like-minded people.
Jan Shimano of Sun and Games

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