What Does It Mean To Be Social On Social Media?

What Does It Mean To Be Social On Social Media?

If you've read even just a few blog posts on social media marketing for business, you've likely heard the expression, "Be Social." It embodies both a goal and a chastisement for businesses who want to use social media to help their business, but struggle to understand what that means or even what it looks like.

It's a topic worth discussing in great detail, and something that applies to all social networks and platforms. To help cover every aspect of the question, we will spend time reviewing it from both angles, To Be, Or Not To Be (Social).

To Be (Social)

Imagine that I have invited you to join me at my local networking group meeting. Every Friday morning we gather over breakfast at a local establishment, with the goal of getting to know each other more, exchanging referrals, and learning about each other's business and industries.

If you've never been to one of these meetings, the format is largely the same. Business owners gather and before the meeting officially starts, mingle and chat with each other. At the beginning of the meeting, new members and visitors are introduced, and everyone attending is given an opportunity to say something about themselves - their 30-second commercial. After that, one predetermined attendee is invited to give a more lengthy presentation, after which there are announcements and more mingling.

This is the situation that you find yourself in when using social media. Assuming you're using any particular network for business what you're doing is social networking which is just like business networking in real life.

Social Media Marketing for businesses should be about creating and strengthening relationships with other people online. On a one-to-one basis.

On whichever network or networks you choose to focus on (and it should only be one or two), spend your time educating, entertaining and engaging with other people. Share posts and commentary that other people might be interested in, just as if you might offer an interesting piece of news to discuss at that networking breakfast.

Look for opportunities to jump into conversations that interest you. Genuinely. If you're wondering how you can work a link to your latest blog post into the conversation, you're doing it wrong.

And it starts with connecting with individual people that you have a real interest in getting to know better. You'll start with the people you know in real life like friends, family and colleagues, but you need to expand and grow from there.

That means, rather than following or connecting with random people, you need to be selective about who you connect with. We will talk about the wrong techniques that people use here in a moment, but the idea is that each person that you connect with should bring something to the table, whether they're providing valuable information and insights of their own on your industry, or are the kind of person who might be interested in your services. Or know someone who might be interested in your services. Connect with people that you genuinely want to talk to and learn from, or teach, and be open to whatever kind of relationship develops.

Now, when it comes to introducing yourself on Social Media, your 30-second commercial is your profile. Your profile image and bio is your opportunity to make a great first impression on someone who is "meeting" you for the first time. So treat your Bio or Summary or About as an opportunity to invite a new acquaintance to get to know you better. Certainly, talk about who you are and what you do, but do so in a conversational style that invites questions and ideas, not bullet points that read like a resume. On LinkedIn, for instance, you can use your Summary to really talk to someone viewing your profile and be interesting and engaging right from the start. On the other hand, on Google+, it actually starts even earlier, with your Hovercard. Your Hovercard is your virtual business card, and it appears any time someone hovers over your name throughout Google+ and Google properties. The Hovercard includes your profile image, cover photo, name, location, follower count, title and a button to circle you. Like any business card, you can use that quick snapshot and imagery to pique someone's interest and encourage them to circle you or click your profile to learn more. All of these considerations are important because when you decide to Connect / Friend / Follow / Circle someone, your profile is the first thing they're likely to look at if they don't already have a strong personal relationship with you.

Now, when I was in Sales and regularly attending business networking meetings, we actually kept track of Referrals. Each time you gave or received a referral or testimonial for another network member, one or both of you would fill out a card and turn it in at the next meeting. The purpose was to monitor and encourage reciprocation. A business network cannot function if some members are only ever taking referrals from other members, and never helping to give them business in return.

By the same token, a large part of any successful social media strategy should be an element of giving and reciprocity. When someone is kind enough to mention you or share one of your posts, thank them. When one of your peers or colleagues shares something interesting of their own, compliment them on it and consider sharing it with your own followers.

Once you've adopted these habits of connecting with people deliberately and appreciating them consistently, it's time to develop Your Voice. Dr. Covey explained that one of the key habits to creating a successful life and business for yourself is to establish your own voice, your own style of communicating and relating to others. On social networks, I refer to this as the Three E's:

  • Educating
  • Entertaining
  • Engaging

Everything you do should be designed to accomplish one or more of those three tenets. In fact, if you can consistently create posts and social media activity that accomplish all three, you'll notice a dramatic improvement in your social media standing.

You see, by educating other people, what you are in fact doing is helping other people, and that's one of the most powerful things you can do in life, not just on social media.

And when you entertain people, it helps them to relate to you and get to know you on a more personal level.

And through engagement, the people who have connected with you can come to respect you and see that you're approachable and genuine.

These are the activities that will create opportunities for other people to KnowLike and Trust you, and that is the basis for a strong relationship and solid business.

If you take the time to craft a social media presence that accomplishes this, you've created a Win-Win scenario for both you and your connections.

For me, that begins and ends with creating valuable content, like this post, that is meant to help people, businesses, understand specific aspects of Content Marketing. I write blog posts several times a week that explain social media marketing techniques, talk about the latest developments, and help business owners to "keep up."

When I share my posts to social networks, particularly LinkedIn and Google+, I go out of my way to create an introduction or commentary for the post that invites discussion and interaction. In fact, I've been known to essentially write a second blog post about that blog, but it's all designed to create incredible value for my readers and followers. And while my posts may not be as entertaining as the latest cat video, I do try to interject enough of my personal style and humour into the articles to at least make them enjoyable to read (and you can stop laughing at me now).

As a result, I have hopefully positioned myself as a resource on social networks, one that some people value as a connection and look forward to talking to. I know that's how I feel about many of you. Through my content and social shares, I have created opportunities for us to discuss interesting topics, learn and grow together, and the relationships have served to help each of us, both personally and professionally.

Or, Not To Be (Social)

So what does not being social look like? Let me know if any of these sound familiar:

1. Link Dropping - you share links to your own content all the time, without bothering to add any additional text or commentary.

2. It's All About You - you never share content from anyone else.

3. No Thanks Necessary - you never take the time to thank people who share your posts.

4. No Comment - you don't take the time to respond to comments in a meaningful way.

5. Follow The Masses - you follow thousands of people expecting them to follow you back.

You see, when you first walk into a business networking meeting, or perhaps a party, the one thing you don't do is stand up and start throwing your business card at everyone else. You approach people one at a time, and take the time to have meaningful conversations with them. The best business networkers recognize that these relationships need to be slowly and carefully cultivated. There's no Easy Button to networking.

Social Media is exactly the same. It's supposed to take a long time. That's how we work as humans. It takes us time to get to know, like and trust people, whether for business or personal relationships.

The beauty of social media though is that you can be open to whatever relationships and opportunities come up. I've made incredible friends through social media, as well as fantastic business connections and deals. It's all possible.

To Be, Or Not To Be (Social)

While the contrast of a To Be or Not To Be is a fun one when sharing tips of what to do or not to do in a given situation, it's actually even more appropriate than you might imagine.

To be, or not to be- that is the question: 
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune 
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, 
And by opposing end them. To die- to sleep- 
No more; and by a sleep to say we end 
The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to. 'Tis a consummation 
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die- to sleep. 
To sleep- perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub! 
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come 
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause. There's the respect 
That makes calamity of so long life. 
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time, 
Th' oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely, 
The pangs of despis'd love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns 
That patient merit of th' unworthy takes, 
When he himself might his quietus make 
With a bare bodkin? Who would these fardels bear, 
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death- 
The undiscover'd country, from whose bourn 
No traveller returns- puzzles the will, 
And makes us rather bear those ills we have 
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all, 
And thus the native hue of resolution 
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought, 
And enterprises of great pith and moment 
With this regard their currents turn awry
And lose the name of action.

~ Hamlet, Act III, Scene 1

At the moment he delivers these famous lines, Hamlet is going through an incredible internal struggle. His father has died, and he has just discovered that his uncle, who has since married his mother and is now his stepfather, was in fact the murderer of Hamlet's father as part of a complex plot to seize control of the country. Hamlet is understandably upset (and as confused as you were in High School when you first read the play), and is wondering not only whether or not to avenge his father, but whether or not to even continue living in these dark and dreary times.

Hamlet faces a decision not unlike that of many business owners. We may have given social media a try, but found it lacking. We may have invested in setting up profiles, perhaps hiring some help, but saw no return at all in our investment. Yet, we know that the alternative, not being on social, is far less desirable. Daily we see case studies and hear from other business owners about how they're getting leads and sales and relationships from key social networks. And we want that too!

I've been there. For years I used social media wrong, I did all the things I just told you not to do, and more. But I learned, adapted, improved, and now have a strong and thriving platform on which I am forming incredible relationships and opportunities daily.

That's not to say I don't still make mistakes. Far from it. But hopefully I am learning from past mistakes so that I can make all-new ones, and continue to use those experiences as teaching tools for you.

So consider my recommendations, and not just from someone who is preaching a typical litany of tenets, but from someone who has been down that same path you're on, and can help you find the right way. Because the fact is Social Media Success is not the undiscover'd country Hamlet might have made it out to be. You don't have to choose whether to live or die, whether to be social or not. Be Social.

Originally Published on LinkedIn, Jun 10, 2014

Mike Allton, Content Marketing Practitioner

Mike is a Content Marketing Practitioner, Blogger and Author in St. Louis, and the Chief Marketing Officer at SiteSell. He has been working with websites and the Internet since the early '90's, and is active on all of the major social networks. Mike teaches a holistic approach to content marketing that leverages blog content, social media and SEO to drive traffic, generate leads, and convert those leads into sales.

Mike is the author of, "The Unofficial Book On HootSuite: The #1 Tool for Social Media Management", "The Ultimate Guide to the Perfect LinkedIn Profile.", and "Blog Promotionology, The Art & Science of Blog Promotion."

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