Last week I was dining at Centros in Sacramento with my 60+ year old friend. We talked quite a bit about social media. She works in the fund development department for a non-profit. She asked me to explain to her what all the fuss is about with regards to social media. She said that she did not understand why anyone would waste their day in front of a computer talking to people on line when relationships are most powerfully built in person. She felt overwhelmed with all the different online communities and she was clearly having a hard time wrapping her brain around Twitter. “I just don’t get it,” she kept saying. So, I gave her the highlights of how social media and Twitter are changing the way we connect online.
A brief history of Social Media
On a very basic fundamental level, humans have a great desire to connect and share with one another. When you understand that, then you will understand the power of social networking sites. It’s also important to understand that social media evolved from the early 80’s. People were connecting online via bulletin boards, forums and general chat rooms. My business partner built one of the first IBM PC bulletin boards which the Sacramento PC User group later adopted. The bulletin board (platform) allowed the users to share files, upload and download files, create forums and manage user registration. Keep in mind there was no Internet at the time. Back then everyone had to dial in to him to connect. He was the “platform.” He was to the users of the PC user group what Twitter is to its users today. Later, came the live chat rooms where like-minded people connected via the Internet to discuss a specific subject matter, i.e.,politics, dogs, motorcycles, etc.
Make social media part of your marketing plan
Today, people are connecting online through platforms like Face Book, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Twitter. These platforms facilitate getting a message, product, idea out to the masses in seconds. So, instead of having one person as the hub or platform that allow people to connect, we now have online platforms called social networking sites, which brings us to my friend’s question. “Why would anyone want to connect online when face-to-face is much more powerful?” Here is where the power of social networking sites like Twitter and Face Book are often misunderstood. Just because you are connecting with people online does not mean that you stop using the telephone and other means of communication tools. While having a face-to-face interaction with someone is absolutely the most powerful way to build, nurture, and cultivate relationships, it is also the most time and labor intensive.
With social networking sites, you are no longer limited to your local outreach marketing efforts, which are often expensive. Moreover, your online marketing strategies should not replace your face-to-face efforts of building relationships with your customers. It should be complementary and supplemental. Think of social media as a marketing strategy incorporated into your overall marketing plan and in today’s business environment it is vital to have a PLAN for your business.
Brenda Horton owns Hware, a software company that develops business tools for small businesses, entrepreneurs, non-profits, and start-ups. She is the membership co-chair of the Sacramento Social Media Club.
Brenda Horton will be teaching a beginners class on Social Media at the Nevada County Association of Realtors on Friday May 29th from 11:30 am-1:00 pm. For more information and registration call 530-272-2627.