A "LIKE" Is a Like and a Friend Is a Friend

June 16, 2012 by  Filed under: Marketing 

Most business people realize that the real goal of Social Media Marketing is to create additional sales revenue over the Web. Offering current and potential customers compelling content leading them to an order page is the ideal way to grow sales. “Will you be paying by P.O. or credit card?” Don’t you agree that this is a very mechanical approach, which does very little to build any degree of customer loyalty and almost nothing to help you earn long-term clients?

Online catalogs and shopping carts fail to humanize the customer experience. They discount the value of people interactions in building solid business relationships that can last for years.

The Internet has made too many people lazy and – actually -somewhat less social. There are those, who can sit at a computer all day and pump out all sorts of communications without having a single telephone conversation or face-to-face meeting with a customer, vendor or professional associate. This is a concerning trend, especially for home-based businesspeople, bashful job seekers and others that simply need to “get out more.”

There is another alarm going off and needs to be heard. Social Media can be very deceptive in creating a false sense of friendship and personal commitment among virtual strangers. I am confident when I say that no one on Facebook has three thousand friends. It is virtually impossible to juggle that many quality relationships in our busy lives. Most of these Facebook people are not your friends. They are simply Facebook “Likes.” Nothing more. You may be entertaining and informing them, but there is no guarantee that you are actually (emotionally) moving all that many of them. By the way, the same applies to all of the other Social Media platforms where you can easily collect people like kids collect baseball cards.

Do you disagree with my very honest appraisal? I am not trying to burst bubbles, just point out a little human nature that I have experienced, first hand. If you’ve attracted 4000 likes to your pages, you must be an interesting person or have an interesting business. What you probably don’t have, though, are too many willing to loan you money or care for your pets while you are away on vacation.

Try this easy experiment to learn the truth for yourself. First, post what you think is an almost universally funny joke on your Facebook timeline, sit back awhile and observe. There is little doubt that in the first ten minutes or so, you will have about a half dozen “likes” and a few friendly comments under your post. A few close friends may even “borrow” and “share” your post among their own network of Facebook friends. You’ll likely feel great about those relatively few interactions stemming from a single post. The reality is that no matter how many interactions you receive, that number will only represent a tiny percentage of your total number of online friends. Why? Some may not be online when you post and miss your contribution. Others, may simply not think your joke is as funny as you do and simply pass it by.

Guaranteed, some will even mumble under their breaths, “he has too much time on his hands and his silly posts are annoying.” I, myself, have heard this comment from time to time. It goes with the territory, I’m afraid. After all, we’re dealing with human nature here.

Next, create another post asking all your Facebook friends to tell their friends just how wonderful your new business and products are and recommend that they all visit your website to take a look (not necessarily to buy anything). I can assure you that very few will take any sort of action with your request, despite knowing that this is very important to you, your family and your livelihood. A few real friends may do this for you, but the remainder will “not want to get involved” recommending a casual online acquaintance’s business and products to their own friends. Yes, most Facebook friends are faceless, casual acquaintances that will gladly share a laugh with you, but not necessarily your needs or offerings among their own Facebook network. By the way, if you get different results, please E-mail me and I’ll do more than change my appraisal.

Real flesh and blood relationships? This is where a service like meetup.com comes in. The people at meetup.com understand that the most effective way to create real-life relationships is a warm handshake. We can’t get around what is one of the most basic relationship-building “tools” there is – the live, face-to-face meeting and warm handshake. It has always been like this and will always remain as such.

Meetup.com does charge their “organizers” – you – a small monthly fee to use their service. For about $18 per month (less, if you accept an attractive multi-month discount) to set up a group that is assembled around a common theme, to meet and discuss the subject matter. Pretty simple premise.

There are “meetups” happening around the world on a wide range of topics from knitting to molecular chemistry. The topic you choose (if there is n audience for it) doesn’t really matter as much as the intent to physically meet at a chosen location. A targeted audience will always appreciate the opportunity to get together with like minds and press the flesh, especially when the value of such a meeting is made clear to them.

Using meetup.com is very easy. Their website is very intuitive and there are only a handful of steps to register and announce your group. All groups are searchable by topic and location. The organizer is provided with ample space to explain the group’s purpose and it is critical that your purpose is clear and that your invitation to join the group, compelling. If there are other groups like yours already operating in your area, you may just consider attending one of those meetings and not trying to re-create the wheel.

There are other services similar to meetup.com that charge no fees. http://www.bigtent.com is one such service. Just realize that many of these meetup.com clones fall short in the amount of generated traffic As a result, serious organizers may get a misread on the number of those that might be interested in attending their meetings and bail out on the entire effort. Because meetup.com is well established and much better know, it may be wise to spend a few bucks and go with the industry leader for this purpose.

There is no substitute for getting out of the office to go and meet live prospects at a conveniently -located venue. Once you have met and conversed with others about a topic of mutual interest, you have taken the very first step in building sustainable relationships with future customers and others that may also be helpful to your personal and business interests; as you may be to theirs. Do not discount the value of such personal interactions, as there is no friend like one with the smiling face and warm handshake.

Marc LeVine is President of ICA Social Media (aka: Integrity Consulting Associates), a company that takes the fear and mystery out of Social Media Marketing allowing small businesses of all kinds to make sense of it all and earn revenue through its use. Check us out at http://www.icanewfriend.com. Follow us on Twitter @icanewfriend. Follow Marc on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/marc.levine1

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