I’ve been teaching classes on social media marketing to business professionals for about a year now and I’ve found that there is definitely a group that “gets it” and a group that doesn’t.

The successful ones keep in touch with me long after the class is over and tell me how the social web has dramatically changed their lives through exciting new connections and business opportunities.  For others, I can usually tell by the end of the first class that it isn’t going to “take” no matter what I say or do.

I’ve thought a lot about what separates these two groups because I care about my students and I want them ALL to succeed.   Both groups start out motivated enough to plunk down their money and attend a class.  Everybody is attentive. They take notes and engage. They’re all successful business people receiving the same content with an equal opportunity to learn the strategies and channel tactics. So what’s the difference?

I’ve decided that it boils down to one important difference: MINDSET.

Meet Social Sue. She’s urgently trying to get on Facebook and Twitter because she’s heard all about social media and she’s afraid of falling behind.  Her marketing budget has been cut and she needs to find a way to sell more with less — fast!  She’s already overworked and sees the social web as just another source of pressure.  That makes her a bit skeptical — and even afraid — of opening up this Pandora’s box. Her customers have been complaining about her business on various sites and she wants to find a way to contain the damage and even eliminate the negative comments if possible. She thinks life will be so much easier if she can just find somebody to set up a Facebook fan page for her … like me : )

Sitting next to her is Social Sam. Sam is open-minded and excited about exploring the possibilities of an entirely new communication channel.  He realizes that he needs to focus on the bottom line, but he’s eager to immerse himself in this new platform and learn more about his customers and marketplace. He wants to meaningfully connect his business to customer wants and needs.   Sam knows it will take time to learn, listen, experiment and master the channel, but recognizes this is a wise and necessary investment if he is to be relevant in his marketplace — traditional advertising measures seem to be less and less effective. He’s heard a lot about Facebook of course, but is open to matching the appropriate marketing ideas with his business strategy.

There is a subtle difference between these two folks.  Both of them have an urgency to learn and an obvious business case for integrating the social web with traditional channels. But the difference in mindset seems to make all the difference in the world. At least that’s my experience but I’d like to hear from you of course.

A challenge for me — finding a way to work on this mindset with students upfront in the class.  Is that possible?  Some people seem to have a pretty strong bias toward “Sue” from the start. Maybe I’ll even use this post as a teaching tool!

What about you?   How would you convert a Sue to a Sam?

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