Oops! I made this Social Media mistake. How about you?

By Stanford Smith, Contributing {grow} Columnist

Many passionate and hardworking social business operatives are making a business-killing mistake.

Proud of their impressive Twitter followings, Facebook crowds and Klout scores they are lulled into a false sense of security.

The rude awakening often comes when they try promoting their product to their audience. Suddenly, their enthusiastic following vanishes into thin air leaving behind crickets and one or two “mercy” sales.

Their error is simple. They have invested too much time engaging their peers and have overlooked their customers in the process. This social rut is easy to fall into, let’s see if you are in danger of falling into it yourself.

Pop Quiz:

  • Do you spend hours trading @mentions with people with profiles identical to your own?
  • Do you struggle to remember the Twitter handle of a customer but can rattle the usernames of 5 social media A-Listers in 5 seconds flat?
  • Are you afraid that promoting your product would offend 90% of your followers and blog readers?
  • Are you hoping that your followers will share their audience with you when the time is right?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions then you are in danger of being popular and broke.

But, don’t beat yourself up. I’ve been in the exact same rut. In fact, I started and shuttered two blogs before I realized that being social is different than “Social Business.”  Knowing the difference is critical to your success.

This is How Social Business Works

The world of Social Business is like your typical high school cafeteria.

Take a second to remember lunch hour.

Striding into the cafeteria you quickly made dozens of “life and death” social decisions. Sit with your friends? Invite the new kid to your table? Introduce yourself to the Student Government crowd or take a risk with the Jocks?

Depending on your social goals: getting a prom date, finding the best parties, not getting hassled on the school bus, you picked your “community.’

As a hormone happy teenager, I should have sat with crowd most likely to attract the cheerleaders’ attention!

Instead, I spent my time, dreaming and drooling from afar with the chess club geeks. My buddies were “Stand By Me” cool. We encouraged each other. We had our own language and didn’t miss an opportunity to hang out on Friday night.

But, my buddies rarely helped me get a date.

It’s easy to make the same mistake on social media.

Sure, it’s comforting and safe to hang out with people with similar interests. But if you are in business, you need to sit with a different crowd – your prospects.

Why Do We Get Trapped Selling to Our Navel?

It’s easy. We go to a popular conference in the name of research and networking. We meet some cool folks, share some raucous memories and head home snug in our mental rug.

Meanwhile, not one new person with cash and a purpose has been introduced to our blog. Oops. Not one person with signing authority has started to follow our Twitter account. Double oops.

Here’s the tough love. You should be networking and masterminding with professionals who share similar goals. You should not build your business on these comfortable get-togethers.

If you do, then you are needlessly delaying your success. You should immediately take a frank look at your activities and focus them on finding and attracting quality prospects to your blog.

How to Find Your Prospect’s Social Watering Holes

Finding prospects is a different game.

By nature, prospects don’t want to be found. They lurk in the shadows only making an appearance when they can’t afford to stay anonymous anymore. When they do step into the light they sign-up for email newsletters, register for webinar, or put you on the RFP list. Retweeting, commenting, and liking isn’t their style.

Like a lion on the Serengeti your best bet is to find watering holes, where your prospects gather to network, trade advice, and share resources. The watering hole location is different for every industry and prospect type:

  • C-Level Executives read top-shelf trade publications dedicated to their profession. Sites like the Harvard Business Review is a likely watering hole. Comments and guest post gigs can give you instant visibility with this crowd.
  • Passionate hobbyists hang out in niche-forums where they exchange tips and compete for social credibility. Joining these forums and being a resource for new members while discreetly promoting your expertise is a winning strategy.
  • Micropreneurs and service professionals like attorneys, home appraisers, coffee shop proprietors and insurance agents often run in packs. You can spot them congregating around LinkedIn Groups or following one-another on Quora. Answering questions on LinkedIn, creating niche-specific twitter lists on Listorious, and hosting free webinars never fails to attract their attention.

It Will Be Tough (but profitable)

By the way, if you blog solely for pleasure then hang out with whoever you wish.

But, If you need to show results for the time you spend on the social web then get serious about sitting with your prospects.

Make sense? What are your social business strategies for finding and attracting prospects?

Stanford Smith obsesses about how to get passionate people’s blogs noticed and promoted at Pushing Social, except when he’s chasing large mouth bass.

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  • Killian @ Open Plus

    Great post. I guess there’s nothing new about saying we should all be targeting the right customer group, but somehow in social media people seem to lose this focus on this. 

    “Are you hoping that your followers will share their audience with you when the time is right”

    I think you just hit one of the biggest myths in social media!

  • Guilty. Thanks Stanford.

    (I’m in philanthropy, so I had to extrapolate from some of your examples, but point still taken).

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the reminder Mark. Targeting Linkedin groups and Q&A are great ways to find the prospects.

  • Celene Harrelson

    Thanks Mark, Stanford is one of my favorite bloggers.  I recently discovered I had gotten myself in this situation and am slowly digging my way out.  Honestly, I am enjoying my new found audience so much more than my audience of piers! I love my piers, just in a different way.  Stan, this post is exactly spot on! 

  • Rob Kravitz

    This reminds me of a trap many of the folks in my industry (environmental consulting) fall into when they spend more time at trade shows focused on environmental issues (packed with other consultants and regulators) rather than at trade shows geared towards their target clients (manufacturers, developers, etc.).  While these insular trade shows, LinkedIn groups, etc. are valuable for keeping your skills sharp, networking for collaborative efforts, recruiting (or being recruited), they are no substitute for the old adage “follow the money” and being associated with the trade shows, Linked In groups, etc., where your prospective customers spend their time.

  • Mark Schaefer

    Hey Rob!  If you see this could please send me your email address?  For some reason I still have your MO address.  Thanks, friend.

  • Impressive Post!! I am influenced by your blog. This is giving us great knowledge about how the social media works & what affects it & network. I like your insightful blog. Thanks for sharing this.

  • You rocked this one, Stan. I think that we often tell ourselves that it’s okay to engage with our peers because those are the folks most likely to comment on our blog posts our share our content. However, those same folks aren’t the ones who are going to pay the bills. I think that in focusing on your prospects you may still bring in peers, but it’s important to keep your eye on the ball….and it can be a tough thing to do. Thanks for calling people’s attention to this! 

  • Love the smell of reality check in the morning!  Thanks for some great, specific ideas.

  • Brilliant post. Thank-you, sir.

  • Stanford,
    A great post. Helps us to remember the customer, even at the risk of our own sense of self worth or enjoyment. Clearly more fun to hob-nob with peers because of the instant gratification and understanding. And you tend to spend more time doing what is fun and easy than doing what is hard, uncomfortable and time-consuming. But necessary. And thanks to Mark for inviting your ongoing participation here.

  • This is a terrific post, Stanford, and such an important point. I’ve recently realized this and have changed my blog and strategy. Although, I think the biggest problems remains how/where to really find potential clients and connect with them. I, too have identified LinkedIn as the best bet. Even so, the groups are so crowded and spammy. I think actually finding and connecting with real, potential clients is the hardest part of this equation.

    The one thing, though, that connecting with peers does do is that it helps you to amplify your voice and distributed your content. So, on the content marketing side, as well as the referral side, it has benefits.

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  • I constantly see this. Some folks are so busy trying to hang with the cool kids that they completely ignore or alienate their potential customers. 

  • Thanks for the great post, Stanford. For people doing the marketing in social media besides running the business can be a daunting task. My lawyer said he is horrified!  Essentially your best advice is to find and go where your customers are in social networks. Great tip regarding use of Listorious to help people find you as well. Cheers!

  • This IS the biggest myth in social media!  Although you do want to spend a little time with your peers.  It’s much more profitable to hang out with your potential customers.

  • Glad you liked the post.  I love Listorious.  It’s a great way to find exactly where your prospects are hiding out and who influences them.

  • I agree that peers are helpful for amplifying your voice. Just don’t depend on them 100%.  The time invested in finding your prospects and writing content they can use will pay off in the end.

  • Thanks Alice.  It’s been hard to focus my time outside of my circle of peers but its been well worth it.  

  • Stanford Smith

    You’re welcome Laura.  I remember when I first tried to sell something on Pushing Social.  I had spent months building a network of people who loved my posts and commented like mad…but didn’t have use for my services!  That’s when it hit home that I needed to change my focus.  Hard lesson but super helpful.

  • That’s a great example!  Thanks Rob.

  • You rock Celene.  Glad you enjoyed the post.

  • That’s what I’m here for 😉

  • I have a list specifically for people I’ve connected with at conferences (prospects) and clients. I make it a point to go out of my way to connect with them (listen at the point of need). How can I help? What can I do? Not pushy…just helpful. 

    When you connect in that fashion, people might not always become a client, but they’re happy to refer you because they know that you’re always willing and able to help. 

  • Stan.

    This is much a  needed wakeup call and one that I’m experiencing first hand at the moment. Some days I feel like the posterchild for popular and broke. There’s no question in my mind after reading this that i’m going to be shifting where I spend my time dramatically. It’s something I’ve been maing a conscious effort do quite a bit of over the last few weeks and this post is a real eye opener. Great stuff. 

  • This is a great post. Thanks for the reminder!!

  • Anonymous

    As a social media consultant, I soon realized that I couldn’t find customers by using social media–because my potential clients were the ones not using social media! Kind of a “duh” moment.  At the same time I find I need to hang out on social media so that people will believe I actually know what I’m talking about.  I need to remember that it’s less important what the popular kids think about me and more important to help my clients. I’d still love a higher Klout score, though!

  • Don’t you hate when you have this “Oh Sh*t” moments!  Good news is that you’ve adjusted your course.  I’m sure many still haven’t figured this out yet.

  • Hang in there Srini – you’ve got the stuff bro.

  • “… not one new person with cash and a purpose has been introduced to our blog. Oops. Not one person with signing authority has started to follow our Twitter account. Double oops.”

    You say so much in between the lines. It is a dark truth to be sure. And this had me LOL – for real. So much for the positivity movement and the reality distortion field…

    Stan

    Recently on my blog: Even Harvard Business School Professors Get It Wrong http://wp.me/pbg0R-qf

  • Stanford, you have inspired me. Thank you!

    I’ve noticed something else on Twitter. My Klout score seems to be inversely related to my actual influence in my target audience. I’ve noticed that when I’m too busy to Tweet because I’m speaking at conferences, meeting with clients, and executing on client marketing programs, my Klout score takes a nosedive, just when my real influence with my target market is improving. Here’s a blog post you inspired with more detail on what I mean. http://ow.ly/6IQhr

    And Mark, thanks for the permission to post this link!

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  • jazz sandhu

    This is exactly why i have my personal twitter account (peers – social media influencers and friends) and my work account (clients and targets). From day one this was clear. The minute i started following a few btob tech journalists on twitter, i realised that those who mixed work related tweets with the banalities of their first meal of the day… switched me off. Know your target and interests and know your social media ability ie: can you open more than one account and contribute regularly enough to add value? Can you manage several blogs, pages? If not concentrate on one and do it well.

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