A client walks into a Bar, orders a beer and starts talking to the bartender.
"Man, it's so hard to figure out what's what these days. My business could really use some punch, and everyone's saying Facebook this and Twitter that.
I was at the cleaners, and his wife was talking about email marketing, about how she uses some company to send out coupons. But the guy at the pet store told me that Facebook was the way to go - Fan page, he said people love it.
My daughter keeps saying, 'Dad, you need a blog!' but I don't want to talk about what music I'm listening to or tell funny stories - who has time for that? And Twitter...I don't even understand what Twitter is! The Librarian was talking about how the Library twitters and is using that to build their user base, but I took a look at Twitter and it's crazy! People talking about what they ate, and acronyms I don't know and words with symbols - it's like some freaking code. I don't have time to learn that.
I wish I knew what to do. What do you think?"
The bartender replies...
Well, let's face it, the bartender probably replies, "Can I get you another?" because his job is selling drinks and listening to people gripe. And he's good at his job.
There are two separate things going on here.
The first thing: If you are a marketing professional, you may read this story smiling wryly, because you see the obvious problem. This guy, he's asking his dry cleaner, his librarian, his bartender for social media advice. What's missing on this list? Someone in social media, of course. You're probably thinking "People don't ask their babysitter about their car engine repair, and you shouldn't ask the tailor about advertising."
However, that that is *exactly* what people do. They ask their electrician about plumbing and their brother-in-law about that lump in their knee, even if he's not a doctor and the person who they think is smart about that new software/technology/restaurant, etc....
People ask about what they want to know *wherever they are at that moment.* I know this because nightly I hang out on an IRC channel dedicated to a particular genre of comics, and people ask about...everything. Guns, food, rules of comportment, good hotels, proper spellings of words and, of course, social media. Take a look at the questions on LinkedIn. Many of these questions can be better addressed on Tech forums, or be answered in two minutes on Google. People ask whatever wherever they hang out because they have learned to trust the people in that space.
Which brings us to the second issue, the one that is a little less obvious to those of us in the social media world, but really obvious to everyone else.
"Social Media" is the new black and everyone is saying they do it. Everyone is the cheapest, most effective, build your bottom line solution. Since most people have just heard of this social media thing, telling clients that you've done this since before there was a name for it really don't make things any clearer. And every third person is selling a get-rich quick scheme using Twitter or some other social media platform. That guy, staring at his beer in frustration, can't open a phone book and look for "social media specialist." These people do not know what SXSW is. They have never heard of Guy Kawasaki. They need your help but, don't know who, how, or even that they need to, ask.
When someone asks you what you do for a living, do you launch into the elevator speech about social media and what you do and what you've done for other people? Or do you ask them what they do, then tell them what you can do for them?
Another IRC story - One of the owners of that IRC channel that I am on, in the middle of a crazed, unfocused chat about twenty different topics said to me, "What the hell's the point of Twitter?" I replied cheerfully, "What's the point of IRC?" She said that it was a place to talk to people about stuff she cared about. The same is true for Twitter, I explained. I gave her a few basics about how to engage on Twitter and by the end, she actually conceded that it sounded not so dumb when I put it that way. No, she is not on Twitter yet but, hey..."not so dumb!" That's a victory, in my book. I'll get her on Twitter one day. Soon. :-)
To return to our bar story, the ideal situation would be that you're sitting right next to the guy in the bar and you say, "Hi, I'm /your name/. What do you do?"
You may not be able to be in that very bar at that very moment, but if you stop by that bar every once in a while and talk to the bartender, and the owner and anyone who will listen - you know, be social - one of them might remember you and mention you to the client at the bar. That's the second best situation. Even better if that person knows your work or best, hired you and thinks you're great.
Don't explain, train or educate. Talk with people - let them tell you about their business and what they need.
This way, the next time a client walks into a bar, you'll be sitting right there, ready to help.