[ This post originally appeared in my newsletter. I don't usually repost, but I've had a lot of interest in this topic recently, so I thought I would share it here as well]
We marketing types are good at giving advice about using social media tools to “have conversations” and to “build relationships”. Like a lot of advice, this is easier said than done.
Another theme growing in popularity these days is the idea of blending your online and offline communities. You may have read articles about using online activities to drive participation in your offline activities. Examples of this would include promoting your open house on LinkedIn or Tweeting daily specials to bring people into your shop or restaurant.
One of the challenges I see with this approach is it encourages broadcasting rather than conversations. It’s very difficult to build relationships or start conversations if the majority of your messages are commercials.
But what if you used your offline activities (and communities) to help drive your online activities?
Another challenge I hear business owners express is most of the people they see using social media are marketers – they have trouble finding potential customers or referral partners on social media sites.
One way we can overcome this challenge is to bring our existing “offline”, community with us to the online world. Giving your existing group of customers and referral partners another tool to stay in touch can help strengthen that community. I also find that it is easier to attract new members when you already have an established core as opposed to building a community from scratch.
Not comfortable using tools like LinkedIn or Twitter? You are most likely not the only one in your network that feels that way. The members of your network who are comfortable using these tools will be happy to help you. Here are some tips to help you learn these tools and strengthen your community:
- Start small. Pick one tool (LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.) to focus on rather than trying to master them all.
- Commit to posting one update a day. It really doesn’t matter what you post, share something about your business or your personal life with your group.
- Commit to responding to at least one of the members in your group. Social media is a set of tools for having online conversations. Having conversations in this manner may take some getting used to, so practice with friends.
Focus on the conversations rather than the tools and I believe you will be successful.
Have you found ways to blend your online and offline communities? If so, drop me a note below, I’d love to hear from about what you’re doing.
Bill Brelsford Small Business Marketing Consultant