Have you gotten caught up in the all the social media hype? I know that I'm on a bit of a rant today but it seems like the only thing people talk about these days is social media. Don't get me wrong, I use social media as much as the next guy - but I'll be the first to tell you that it can be largely overrated.
I was recently talking to a friend about Facebook. He told me that he had over 500 friends. I quickly responded by telling him that I had more than 700 connections on LinkedIn. He fired back telling me that he had over 5,000 Twitter followers. I laughed out loud and told him that I'm flirting with 10,000 followers on Twitter (@mfleischner).
Then he asked the most powerful questions of all, "What's the point?"
And he was right - for the most part. The reality is that many of your Facebook friends, Twitter followers, Google+ circles, and so on will never really account for more than a number. It's true that you can leverage your base through some type of linear dialog but don't expect to be going to ball games with people on your list. The typical back and forth can be somewhat meaningless. You know, the I post something, you post something banter! But at the end of the day, many of these people are not your friends and will likely not buy what you have to offer.
How to Use Social Media For Profit
The question I seem to get a lot is how to build social media for profit. Even though my general accounts are a mix of friends, followers, and lookers, other accounts that I've developed are small but focused. For example, those following this blog are all interested in marketing, Internet marketing, or SEO. This is a homogenous group that I depend on for feedback and interaction. In fact, I use your comments to shape what I talk about on this blog.
When you h`ve a voice in a specific group, focused on a specific topic, the audience is much more likely to pay attention to what you're reading, what websites you use, and even the products your buying. That's typically how you can earn affiliate commissions or promote your own products.
The best place to start with any social media marketing campaign is at the beginning. Think through what your goals are, what you will cover, and specifically, who your target is. Regardless of objective, belonging to your social media circle is going to have to produce value. What makes you unique? What information can you provide that no one else does? What's your draw?
After you've started to generate content for your audience and share information or resources that create value, then, and only then, can you start to monetize your social media accounts. Posting information on products or services, ad revenue, and other streams of income are possible if you have an engaged audience. Keep in mind however, that you'll have to nurture relationships if you want to make the most of your social media accounts. Said another way, social media isn't a used car show room - its a place where you build relationships.
Think 2 step marketing. Using social media is really all about relationships. Once you've developed a relationship the next step is to spend more time together and share what you have. For example, when I launched my book, SEO Made Simple, I gave away a full SEO chapter of the book on the Marketing blog out of respect and appreciation for my readers.
From my perspective, this is the best way to build relationships over the long term using social media. In addition to getting the word out, social media has a lot of benefits even if a large portion of your audience isn't all that engaged. Social media isn't about numbers, it's about relationships!