The Social Media Network Party
And how to make it work for you
Now that we finally have definitive data that shows that social media as a direct sales channel is useless I can go ahead and use an analogy, different to an online marketplace, that actually works.
Social media is a party. More than that, all social media is a party. But there the similarity ends. The kind of party each social media platform is, is determined by its participants who ultimately govern both intent and expectations.
So, if you find yourself travelling between places, or have some time to burn at home or have a little time to invest in building an online brand for yourself and are wondering how to best apportion your time consider what it is exactly you want to achieve and dive into the place most suited for it:
Facebook: The world’s largest social media network is a family and friends party. You know the one where your family and friends will get together and where, maybe, they will invite the odd stranger because someone knows him? If your family gatherings are dominated by talk of birthdays, weddings, outfits and what happened at the last party where you all got together then this should prepare you for what you can really expect there. Facebook is great for keeping in touch with people you already know and kinda peering into their lives as they share part of their activities but despite the fact that it has the same in-depth commenting and sharing tools as most other social networks it has not, on the whole, succeeded as a means of in-depth engagement.
Part of the issue lies in the connections. When it’s friends and family you are talking to you are not always prepared to engage in full-on debates about anything beyond your choice of holiday. Part of it lies in intent (and expectations). We go to Facebook to sort of surf-and-check but that is just about it.
LinkedIn does help you connect with other professionals in your field and if at times it feels like a platform drowned in a cacophony of voices you clearly haven’t been to many business dinner parties (or have conveniently forgotten just how loud and self-serving they can be).
Linkedin: This is the online equivalent of a business dinner party. First of all you are on your best professional behavior there. You don’t go to LinkedIn to share your latest golf handicap or crow about your love life. You do not share birthday party pics or your wedding day. Talk there is restrained and constrained. It’s governed by professional concerns and driven by professionalism. Just like you ‘chill’ with your colleagues at a dinner party where you discuss business developments and pricing policy so, on LinkedIn you need to be able to show that you can talk about things without forcing the conversation or simply parroting current dogma. If there is a place where you need to show your credentials by listing your professional successes, this is it. LinkedIn does help you connect with other professionals in your field and if at times it feels like a platform drowned in a cacophony of voices you clearly haven’t been to many business dinner parties (or have conveniently forgotten just how loud and self-serving they can be).
Twitter: This is like a free-for-all street party. Everyone is there and just about anyone can show up. If there are cliques there it’s because there are cliques there and each person brings his cadre of friends (or finds new ones). Just like a street party the ‘bandwidth’ of information exchange is constrained by the medium. It will take a lot of soundbites before you begin to get a handle on anyone. And just like a street party the value of what they throw your way will be determined by its direct relevance to you within the context of your interaction. Some things you can completely brush off and walk away. But move around long enough and you’re bound to come across at least one person who sounds like they are interesting and have something of real value to say.
Google Plus: This is an open party you can go to. Because you really have no idea who will be there this is probably the scariest one of them all and if you are a little bit shy as well it can easily end up with you feeling isolated, feeling irrelevant and wondering what the big fuss is all about. Approached with an open mind and the willingness to take at least a few small chances it can become the place where you find world experts and celebrities rubbing shoulders with everyday folk and connecting based upon the value of the conversation rather than the perceived importance of the individual. The conversation can get pretty involved and passionate there, but there are two compelling reasons why Google Plus stands heads and shoulders above any other kind of party and they go by the names of: “Engagement” and “Collections”.
While almost every other social media network has the same (or very similar) tools for fostering online conversations intent and expectations do drive the online interaction which means that engagement within the Google+ platform tends, on average, to be deeper than most other places on the web even when the subject of the conversation is difficult.
The other reason, Collections, is just as compelling. It gives each of us the ability to follow specific content rather than a person. The online world seems to be as predicated around personality cults as real life except it is even more so. While we may indeed like somebody enough to want to follow them online and be privy to their every online activity and read every word they publish it is more likely that what we want from them is restricted to their expertise. Collections on Google Plus, uniquely, provide just that ability. It’s like going to an open party only when we know that the conversation is going to revolve around rock music and Pink Floyd will attend.
So you shouldn’t expect every social media network to be the same even when the functionality of each one isn’t all that different from the others. Nor should you expect to enjoy the same kind of experience in each one. And as far as selling is concerned, just like at a party, each social media network is great for people getting to know you and therefore creating a brand but a “This is what I do. Buy my stuff!” message has never, ever worked.