Social Media is all about people showcasing their lives

We showcase our lives on social media

Social Media is all about people showcasing their lives. That’s it. Once you grasp this, you should see a way forward in how to use social media in business, says Shama Kabani… and her wonderful book “The Zen of Social Media Marketing“.

Why don’t more people “like” your business on Facebook or follow it on Twitter? You’re looking in the wrong mirror.

Most business fail with social media because people don’t use social media to connect with businesses or even with each other, they use to showcase who they are. It’s a living, photo diary of who they are, what they believe in, what’s important to them, what they’re up to, right now.

I used to think social media was about connection, but it’s actually about reflection. And this is why most businesses get poor results. A social site is as much a digital mirror as it is a social platform.

Remember primary school? You’re having a cheese sandwich, and the kid next to you says he likes cheese sandwiches, then he says he likes footy, and you like footy … that’s how we make friends and become who we are. The same is true when you’re a teenager and, say, your friends like rock music. They wear certain clothes… so you do, too.

The only difference is that now all that is online.  Facebook really gets the idea that people, first and foremost, want to showcase who they are. Social media is like a mirror we hold up to show how we are unique. It’s our acceptable face online; we show off, we try to be cool, we try to be funny.

It’s like we’re decorating our bedrooms again. We’ve just transferred it to the Web.

The platforms have changed, but the principles of how we behave and how we express ourselves are the same.

So how does understanding this help a business improve its social media efforts?

Most companies still focus on the secondary aspect: Getting customers to connect with them. Too many companies say, “Business is about marketing and branding. We will create a brand. We will tell people who we are.” There are too many lazy ads saying “follow us on facebook/twitter”. WHY should we?! What’s it say about us to do so, how does this help showcase our life??

If you were Harley Davidson, well, yes, that (for some) would be part of me showcasing my life. Or Porsche. Or Hugo Boss.

Liking the muffin shop down the street says something about me as an individual: maybe they only use organic ingredients and that’s important to me. Maybe they donate a portion of their revenue to a charity I support. Maybe I know the owner and am proud to spread their message to my friends. People love sharing positive things. In some way, that muffin shop is a reflection of my identity and an extension of my own personal brand.

I may have personal cravings for southern fried chicken, but I am not going to like the KFC Facebook page. For a business, what matters most is not what your brand says about you, it’s what your brand says about the people you want to interact with.

The heart of building a community is therefore recognizing what that community cares about. It’s not manipulative, it’s not sleasy, it’s the most authentic way to brand your business and grow a following online.

And don’t give me discounts or something to ‘like’ your page. I wouldn’t feel a connection to the company. It would just be a transaction. “Here’s my like, now give me my discount.”

Many real estate agencies have created social media platforms for their real estate businesses but nothing is happening. The problem was they had facebook pages and twitter accounts and such… but those sites didn’t say anything about the people they wanted to engage.

But when they change their focus and created a page like, say, “Why Subiaco Rocks,” and it was powered by a Subi real estate brand… then you can get likes because it says a lot about me: I like Subi, I like my community… and I like you for understanding that. Go see what Linda Davis has done with her Ledyard, Connecticut Facebook page in the States. She’s a grandmother and she puts the rest of us to shame. Amazing.

Sol let’s say you are a medium to large sized company. Let people connect with the CEO. It’s an extension of the brand. It’s a relationship. Who would you rather connect with, a company or a person? Go see how Richard Branson or Barack Obama does it.

The key is to forget what you want to say about yourself. Think about what your customers want to say and feel about themselves.

Here’s Shama’s summary:

1. Start with your customers.

Forget your brand. What do your customers see as their brand?

Forget your messaging. What is the messaging of your audience?

For example, there’s an Italian restaurant nearby. The interior is splashed with pictures of the owners, their families, and generations of people who have eaten there. They encourage customers to put their pictures up. When you walk in you instantly know they care about family, about tradition… you can tell family means everything to them.

People who care about family connect with the restaurant because it says something about how they see themselves.

Think in broader terms. How do your customers see themselves? What is important to them?

2. Create a platform that integrates your customers’ brand with what you offer.

A friend runs chiropractic clinics. Many of their patients were injured in accidents. So they built a “don’t text and drive” platform. They’ve created an entire campaign around preventing accidents. They frequently speak at schools and community events. They even created a pledge people can feature on their profiles to show it’s something they care about. It’s like bumper stickers on steroids.

The community cares about protecting their kids and, be honest, adults, because everyone is guilty of texting while they’re driving. Our client cares about it, too. And they prove it.

Or take American Express: Who would join a social network for a credit card company? No one. So Amex built Open Forum and created a community for small business people who need information and resources. They do crazy numbers. If a credit card company can do it… you can too.

Determine what you stand for, blend that with what your customers care about, and find the right balance point.

3. Be part of a movement.

Marketing has always been about you: your needs and your objectives.

Of course the goal is to get leads and sales, but with social media you should look at something bigger, become a part of a movement… be part of something your audience cares about.

Then you get more than bottom line results: You get to be a part of something bigger and more meaningful.

The Dallas YMCA did a campaign featuring stories about their members and how the Y changed their life. In effect they created a collage of beautiful stories and pictures. Those stories mean something to people. We all want to change our lives for the better and to be around people who feel the same way.

Bottom line: Don’t mistake the medium for the message. That’s not what it is.

Find a way to be of service–and to be a part of something bigger than your business.


For more, google ‘Shama Kabani‘, who is the founder and CEO of The Marketing Zen Group, author of The Zen of Social Media Marketing.
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