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The Social Media Party Line

I remember well my visits to my grandparents’ house in New Orleans as a girl. Inside their cottage home were all sorts of unusual treasures, unlike my family’s own modern home 200 miles away. Notably in the hallway, there sat a black, heavy phone with a big finger dial atop a piece of furniture known as a ‘telephone table’. That telephone line was part of a ‘party line’ and sat above an alcove in the telephone table that held a huge book of Yellow Pages – the kind we used for booster seats for the little ones. On the rare times I made a call from that grand old phone, I would often have to hang up because I’d intruded on another conversation, perhaps by a neighbor or a someone living within my grandparents’ ‘exchange’. When we went home after our visits, I’d write my grandmother a long tearful note about how I hated to leave her. It probably took her a week to get that note, and it was too expensive to call her more than once in a while.

Things change . . .
Enter computers and the Internet followed by email, then Facebook and Twitter. The list of communications tools in the 21st century is exhaustive and growing; and my once beautiful penmanship drilled into me by Catholic nuns has gone to hell in a handbag.

Networking is entirely different today as well, often having nothing to do with physically being anywhere. “Those of us who study social networks believe they matter — that things do spread along social networks,” says Claude Fischer, a sociology professor at the University of California-Berkeley. Click here to read the full article addressing the sociology of social networking.

Do you heart social media. . .?
In your business, you may still be skeptical, or at the very least uncertain about the power of social media when used strategically. No doubt you’re being cautious, but your doubts advisedly need to be dispelled.

I have a client whose business is service and teaching centered. They provide something tangible in the form of retreats and classes, and they are highly regarded both nationally and internationally. They’re ready to grow the successful venture into something larger. They’ve produced a beautiful video showcasing what they can offer their client. It has a professional yet grassroots feel to it, making it engaging and quite lovely. But here’s the glitch. With all the work they did to produce this 4 minute work of art, they are reaching a small few. Sure, it’s on the website, but how do they go about reaching those that wouldn’t normally visit the site?

Here’s where social media can play a strong role in taking your business to the next level.

I advised my clients that, since they’d posted nothing new in five months on their well-laid-out Facebook page, perhaps they could start there. “Facebook is a powerful tool,” I implored. It’s good if you have a PR or Marketing person on retainer or staff to keep your FB page current and interesting, but if you don’t, it’s up to you to do that. And sharing links to other sites that are relevant to your business will only help, not hinder your reach.

The old way of doing business (every man for himself, keep your secrets to success secret, etc.) is passe’, kaput, bye- bye.  It’s 2011, our community is ‘the world’, and sharing is tantamount to succeeding.

Another client in Austin is a well-known realtor who is successful and trustworthy and enjoys a great reputation. With all the success she is enjoying, she realizes there is something more she should be doing to promote herself. “I don’t understand how Twitter or Facebook can help my business,” she confided in me over some rockin’ strong coffee at Franks downtown. To me, that incredulity about the power of social networking for your business seems a bit naïve at this point. Yet lots of people are still there. I explained to her how social media, and that means all the tools available, (eg. Digg and Google Apps) can help you grow your business exponentially.

My client and I had a great morning and too much coffee. Two days later she direct messaged me on Twitter. “I’ve woken up two nights in a-row thinking about what we talked about. You are so right, thank you.” Already, she’s blogging more about fun, interesting things that attract an array of visitors to her site. And by virtue of the time she spends on that alone, she’ll no doubt make a connection along the way that leads to a sale that will add to her business’ bottom line.

Party On!
Social media is about sharing insights, observations, experiences.  It’s not direct sales, cold calling or shameless self-promotion. Social media builds slowly relationships that perhaps would have never had the opportunity to be forged without the internet connection. It’s about knowing yourself and what’s important to you, as an individual and as a business, and feeling confident enough to own your message, to share it; not just through clever branding tactics and a nice slogan, but sharing via genuine, honest discussion, engagement, dialogue.

Social networking, like public relations, does not create instantaneous results. In the same way you build a strong, lasting relationship with a romantic partner, developed and strengthened over time, social media allows you to slowly and gradually gain trust and insights into others who may potentially become clients, friends, or both. Be patient, and be diligent.

Warning:  Not monitoring your social media tools can be self-sabotaging. If you’re not up for the task, pay someone to do it. It’s important.

Good simple stuff. . .
Read this fun blog post about 15 social media blogs to follow! Add a couple to your RSS feed via feedburner; it’s an easy-breezy way to learn! Take the time to make yourself a LinkedIn profile and use it in your signature on all of your emails.  Once you’re cool with all of this, create a bound archive of your social media meanderings. It’s a great way to show off your business sense and chronicle your growth from one year to the next for your followers, your fans (yes you have them!) and you.

Photo by Jerry Charlotte, some rights reserved.

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One Response

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Ilene Haddad, Christine R. Cox and Andrea Schulle, theprchannel. theprchannel said: RT @andreaschulle: Check out @crcpr21 's latest post on @theprchannel! We know ur on the party line…are your clients? http://t.co/jzQAPhh [...]

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