One of about every five conversations I have about Social Media ends up sounding like this:
"Oh, yeah, I tried /fill in the blank Social Media platform/ but it didn't work."
"What were you trying to do with it?"
"Oh, you know - promote me/my business."
"Right," I say, "but what were you trying to *do* with it?"
Then, the blank stare.
Yes, Social Media is comprised of an amazing series of tools to communicate with people. If you have a reason to. If you don't have a reason to want to communicate with people, then it doesn't matter that you don't *get* Social Media.
If you do want to communicate with people, then there are 3 Questions every Social Media presence you have must answer for your strategy to be effective:
What is this Site/Page/Profile About?
Small businesses have an unfortunate tendency to conflate the owner with the brand. In some cases you *are* your brand, especially if what you bring to the table is your personal skill set. But in many cases, your brand may be more than just you and your individual knowledge. For instance, a building contractor's profile might include information about Bob the Builder, but it ought to also include information about Bob's buildings. It's not that I don't want to know Bob, but his interest in golf is less important to me than his interest in completing jobs on time, on budget and up to code.
When you look at your Social Media spaces, what do they say about you? Is it about you on a personal level, is it about your business, does it say anything at all?
My favorite energy drink has a Facebook FanPage that says absolutely *nothing* about the brand. Spend an hour there and all you learn about are corporate communications about things that have no relationship to the actual drinks or the people who drink them. I love the drink - I am not a fan on the FanPage. Why would I be? I have no idea what that page is about.
What Are You Promoting?
Everyone brings something unique to the table. You bring a LOT of unique things to the table. If you put all those incredibly unique things in front of a person at once, there's no way to determine if any of those unique things are actually relevant to the visitor. We're back to that old standard signal to noise ratio - more of your communications must support your brand than are about "other stuff."
There's a fine balance that has to be achieved. Using Social Media means you're also going to be saying "Fine thanks, how are you?" and "What a great meal!" Too much of that and you dilute the brand - too little and you're churning out spam.
If you run a dog breeding service, then maybe people would love to hear from your dog Miffy on your page or profile, but when you sell tires, that picture of you and Miffy is taking up valuable real estate - and Miffy's Twitter feed is not really promoting your brand.
The third and absolute most important question your Social Media strategy *must* answer is:
Why Should People Come Back?
There are a million ways to get people's attention, but very very few to keep it. Only two, in fact.
1) You must be Relevant to their needs or interests
2) You must be Compelling
When I look for new pony, my need is specific. I want a company that understands that when I say I want Welsh Cart Pony, I really don't mean a Tennessee Walker. If you write about Welsh Cart Ponies, I'll drop by. If I get to your blog and it's full of advertisements for diapers and discussions of your nephew's job hunt, you've failed to maintain relevance - and you've provided no compelling reason for me to come back a second time.
You are an expert in your business, a master of your skills. I'd *really* like to hear your insight into the things you do. That is Compelling material!
One last time, take a look at your Social Media spaces. Are you sharing Relevant and Compelling information?
Interestingly, all three of these questions were just as relevant for Web 1.0 as they are now for 2.0, or beyond. Because while technology changes...people don't.
Before you throw yourself out there into the wild world of Social Media, have clear-cut answers to all three of those questions and I promise, Social Media won't fail you.