Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Power of Social Media is the Power of Choice

Once again, I claim Twitter as the inspiration for a post here on SocialOptimized. Power Twitterer and really nice person Susan Elaine Cooper (aka BuzzEdition), wrote a post in response to people who demanded she Retweet a message they had sent her privately by Direct Message.

In subsequent conversation with her, Susan said to me, "I just need them to respect my right to choose..." And it occurred to me that that, in a nutshell is what is missing from so much of marketing. Choice.

Choice is an incredibly powerful selling tool. The best sales people let you choose your own way into a sale, by offering you two or three options, one of which will increasingly seem sensible to you. The more you reject other options, the more the one that you don't reject seems like a good idea.

For a number of years I sold swords at a Renaissance Festival during the summer. It was fun, and exceptionally challenging, as the items we were selling were 1) REALLY sharp and therefore utterly impossible to carry around and 2) INCREDIBLY expensive. These weren't replicas made out of stainless steel - they were hand crafted, in some cases hand-forged and all individual works of art. At average, a sword would run about $1000. Not an easy sell. The way we sold swords and knives was to offer a choice. "Of these two, which do you like least?" was a common phrase at the booth, followed by removal of the one that was less appealing. We'd offer another option, and ask the customer to choose. After a customer had chosen the same item three or four times, we'd stop extolling the virtues of that item and just listen. Listen to the decision-making process, encourage it, derail friends attempts to stop it. It always had to be the buyer's choice to buy.

On Social Media you have an unprecedented chance to provide your audience with choice. You can't *make* people care about your business...but you can offer people a choice to care. They can follow you, check in with your business, like, retweet and share. All of those are choices made by your audience. Once they've chosen, it's up to you to listen to them. What makes them care - what are they responding to? Offer them options to do more of that and less of this other thing. Being on multiple platforms allows your audience a choice of ways to communicate with you. Having multiple messages means your audience can choose what best suits their interests/needs.

Not everyone who came up to our sword booth bought the first time. In fact, the standard was that a person would come up three or four times - sometimes they would come back another weekend, just to convince themselves that their choice was the right one.

Forcing, insisting, demanding don't work on Social Media. No one has an obligation to care about your message and no one has an obligation to promote it for you. Offer them a choice and if they choose not to care or promote, it's time to walk away. (Throwing hissy fits is never a good business practice.)

The power of Social Media is the power of choice. Offer your audience the ability to choose; respect the choice they make and those that become your market will be that much more motivated to support you, since they have chosen to care about you.
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