“New” Social Media Branding: Connecting in Real Time

While Aria has continued to back clients’ social media efforts, our own has remained mostly silent. The reason for this is not because there is nothing to say, it is because all the behind the scenes strategizing has left us with social media ennui.

I recently mentioned this malaise to some friends and was surprised to find that not only was I not alone, but that what I had chosen to do in an effort to combat it wasn’t all that unique either. You’d think that tech savvy people proven to be “good at” social media would simply push through the blahs by doing even more social media on our own behalf. Instead, each of us has pared back our exposure in favor of interacting with potential clients in real time. I want to reiterate this: we look for ways to interact with potential clients in real time.

Each of us have done this in different ways: by joining weekly networking groups, by holding open houses, by sponsoring youth little leagues, and one brave soul by signing up to give a presentation at a regional seminar. What was surprising was that each of us has come to the same conclusion: interacting with people face-to-face gives you immediate returns, a sense of truer connection, and means that the person will be more likely to remember you and refer someone they know to you in the future.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: Yes, but social media can also allow you to facilitate introductions and meetings with other people. You can also use it to publicly acknowledge a person/company and hopefully engender some good feelings in the public arena. When done well, social media is an awesome tool.

True, it is an awesome tool, but not the best tool when trying to expand your reach. The best tool is using your savvy to provide a crystal clear in-person experience of your company’s promise on a moment’s notice. And it doesn’t have to happen on the web or in a meeting—you can successfully reach people at any time!

A few weeks ago I was on the beltway driving back from a client meeting when my car started making strange sounds. A quick peek out the window told me I had a flat tire, which I wasn’t thrilled about changing. Even so, I got the car up on the jack…and then couldn’t loosen the lug nuts. Unable to find an available tow company or friend to assist me, I was stranded just as rush hour started. Instead of getting angry I counted my blessings: it was a lovely warm summer day and I had a little more than an hour until I absolutely had to be somewhere again. Things could be much, much worse.

Just as I was embracing the positive, a man on a motorcycle pulled up and motioned to the tire. I said that if he’d simply help me loosen the nuts I wouldn’t trouble him to do the rest. He shook his head, gruffly motioned me aside and then set to work.

I thanked him profusely and said I hoped I wasn’t making him late. His body language immediately shifted, and he looked up at me to say, “You’re not making me late for anything because I’m the one who decided to stop. So many people are too busy to stop and help another human being. Even if I had some place to be, I’d get there late and just deal with the fall out. Besides, I own a landscaping business and work very hard. Helping you here is a break for me.”

There I was, on the side of a busy highway, having the best brand experience I have ever had: I asked for the thing I thought I needed, but Kevin went above and beyond by changing the tire for me. He wasn’t trying to sell me on anything, he just wanted to help me out because he is a decent human being. He talked about how he’s seen other companies run their businesses, and how upsetting it is to see people taken advantage of so often. He was courteous, conscientious, and what’s more, his sincerity was genuine.

And yes, I am going to have him come take a look at my sad yard.

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On Taking a Break from Social Media

Every day I counsel clients to engage with their social media of choice—so why has Aria’s twitter feed and blog been silent for most of the last five months?

As recently as last summer, I would follow a single tweet down the rabbit hole of the web keen on learning as much as I could. I did this multiple times a day, losing countless hours reading things I might not have cared about but was compelled to consume because it was available to me. The web is a feast for those who are curious and I am a glutton. Ultimately, I felt as if I wasn’t learning or posting about that information fast enough, which caused increasing panic. After months of gorging myself on information and tweeting daily, I could no longer tell which tweets were integral to my business learning and which were not. What I read was no longer making its way from short- to long-term memory, rendering the hours long forays a true waste of time.

Ironically, I continued to manage social media for several clients, creating content and interacting with their audiences, and had no “side effects” while working on their outlets. I could follow links from their industry partners and competitors for an hour or two as well, but I never felt overwhelmed by it. It was just another part of the job in these cases. When I compared that to my response to using Twitter for my own business, I realized I needed a break to detox and process.

When I gave myself the time to view it objectively, I realized that I was ignoring key advice I give to clients: Don’t let your competitiveness get in the way of your message. There is no way to ‘win’ at social media, there is only the opportunity to share with those who might be interested in your products/services. What you share should either help them with their own business, teach them something, or give them insight into what your business process/thinking is. It’s ok to take a look at what the competition is doing, but don’t feel compelled to do what they are doing if it doesn’t fit your business’ personality or message.

Most importantly, behind every social media front are people and some of those people experience information overload. Give them some time to process what you’re offering them—and take the time to process information at your own speed as well.

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Gen-Y gives social media ‘whatevs’

Psychographics and demographics matter for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that they help human beings further categorize other human beings into recognizable patterns. If this group likes chocolate and that group prefers caramel and you’re a candy seller, you can either satisfy both groups by carrying a little of both, or you can specialize in one over the other. In this manner you can manage your target audience’s needs in a way that suits your special skills, goods and services.

But what do you do if your audience doesn’t follow their own psycho/demographics when it comes to social media?

I have a client who specializes in candy for active women who range in age from nine to it’s-not-polite-to-ask, with special focus on the Millennial/Gen Y group (client’s specialty changed to protect the innocent). When I first began working with her, she warned me that her customer was not active in social media. Knowing that Gen Y is supposed to be the most social media savvy and connected audience, I thought she was being naive. In general, if Gen Y sees something they don’t like, they go online to begin to affect change for the better. Further, because her audience is also female, if they have a product complaint, they think nothing of sharing that with everyone within their circle of influence—often being recompensed for their trouble by the brands themselves.

That’s the general consensus of how they’re supposed to act; that is not how my client’s audience behaves.

Over the past year of working with her, I have learned that her audience is indeed extremely involved in social media, tweeting constantly, seemingly not caring where it lands, or even if it does. I have also learned that they are extraordinarily wary of being approached by brands, to the point of mocking me when I do so on her behalf.

For instance, I overheard a twitversation wherein two girls discussed the poor performance of a product one had purchased from my client. When the buyer (let’s call her Sam) balked at having to get her mother to drive her to the store to return the product, I engaged her in a twitversation, resulting in a rather unorthodox solution (you’ll have to trust me on this one). All went silent for a few days, but as I was curious to see if Sam’s problem was gone, I went back to her stream. Imagine my shock when I discovered that Sam and the same friend were discussing how they’d been ‘stalked’ by my client’s brand, and that they were going to block it.

Fearing for my client’s brand reputation, I contacted her and shared what I’d discovered. She stoically pointed out that she’d forewarned me that her audience was quirky. A few days later she contacted me to let me know that she’d arranged with a different manufacturer to have a competing product sent to Sam for free. I sent Sam a direct message letting her know the news and waited for her to reply with her shipping address. Curious, again I checked her stream to find that she was indeed tweeting up a storm, she just wasn’t responding to me. Eventually she did, and I shared the address with my client, who told me that the manufacturer was actually going to send two of the product, one in a color of Sam’s choice and one for her friends to try out. I, in turn, sent this info back to Sam.

And received no reply.

Two weeks later, when I checked back in with Sam to find out if she’d received the product, she tells me she’d not. Trying to prevent another badmouthing session, I advised my client. Within seconds, the new manufacturer’s social media rep contacts me and says that she contacted Sam two weeks prior (the same day I gave my client all of Sam’s information!) but that Sam had never responded. As it is It is the manufacturer’s policy not to send anything until they’ve made ‘contact’ with someone, the social media rep’s hands were tied.

Because Sam refuses to respond to the manufacturer, she is not going to receive two FREE products. So much for Gen Y being social media savvy!

If you have any similar anecdotes you’d like to share, or have any information on what might be happening with this group of young women, my client and I are eager to hear it!

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