by Jimmy Marks
I saw a discussion group on LinkedIn - "Is there such a thing as a Social Media Expert?"
It's an interesting question. With social media still such a young enterprise and with so many questions still in the minds of users and content creators, you have to wonder...is there really such a thing as a social media expert?
What's sad is that in the short time "Social Media" has existed, we've already developed a stereotype of the "social media expert". It's usually a man, usually in a very expensive suit. His speech is very terse and he's VERY SERIOUS about how social media can help your credit union.
Granted, he doesn't know what a credit union is, who you serve, how you're chartered, how you're capitalized, what your loan portfolio looks like, what your CAMEL rating is, how many employees you have, how much money you have...
He doesn't know anything about you or what you're doing. And he'll never care. Because by the time his check clears, he's moved on. It's like "The Music Man", only he's not coming back to win your heart and the heart of everyone in River City.
Why care matters
Am I a social media expert? That depends, I guess. I know how to set up and use the networks that most of you are using or considering using (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, FourSquare, etc.). But I think that's about one-tenth of the equation. My biggest social success has come from one thing and one thing only, and that's caring.
I was hired a few years ago by DigitalMailer to start a company blog for their website. In time, I slipped into the position of Creative Media Director. When I had to get the blog noticed and read by the right people, I simply emailed a long list of financial industry bloggers that I thought would be good contacts. I said, very simply, that I wanted them to read our blog and to feel free to comment on our posts.
In time, those "thought leaders" became personal friends of mine. In time, I became a person they thought of when they thought of eStrategy. Now, with hundreds of contacts and relationships formed, I can say I'm helping to inform more people about what our company does than I would have if I'd just started without their help.
It didn't start with Twitter, it didn't start with Facebook. It started with me asking them for their guidance and their friendship. I cared about their opinion enough to seek it out. They cared enough about my actions to continue communicating with me. They're great people and, pretty soon, a few of them are going to change the way things are done in this industry.
My point: audience is everything. And anyone who tells you otherwise is a liar. A big liar.
The biggest lie you've been told about being social
If I had to guess, I'd guess there's been at least one person who's gone out of his or her way to tell you all about how you're "doing it wrong." And sure, maybe you're not as accustomed to social networking as you are to other forms of marketing (by the way, yes, social media is a marketing enterprise. Marketing should be involved.).
The worst thing you can do for your social endeavors? Convincing yourself it's not worth the effort it takes to make it good.
I can tell you that it takes FOREVER to build a following. I can tell you that not everyone's going to like you and not every kid in the playground will be your friend. I can tell you that a sales strategy is MUCH different than a strategy to gain followers.
I can get you started. But the level of care you bring to the table is what will make or break you.
The "Truth" in Truth or Dare.
Not to be one of those people that speaks in analogies, but here's a good one: getting started in social media is like making a cake. You need to know the ingredients, you need a little help with the mixing and the baking temperature, but the success of the "cake" is all in how much effort you put into it.
You can get a store-bought cake and try to pass it off as home made, but over time someone's going to see through that. The same is true if you hire a "social media expert" to run your various social media accounts. Eventually, everyone's going to get tired of it.
And yes, some people might not like your cake. Some people might love it and want another slice, and another, and another. Focus on that one person that likes it rather than the one that doesn't. A "social media expert" is most likely going to tell you that your efforts suck. Well, if you got into social media to impress social media experts, you might as well just get out of it, because you're not working to impress the people that matter.
Some folks are going to tell you that baking a cake can stop up a leaky pipe in your basement. Those people are insane. The same with social media - if your infrastructure and your business model completely sucks, no amount of twittering or Foursquare promotions are going to save you. A cake doesn't solve a leaky pipe. Social media will never solve everything wrong with your business.
The "Dare" in Truth or Dare.
With all that in mind, I'd like to talk to you about social media. I can show you the ropes, talk about ideas and strategies that I know to be successful, help you nail down the message and, if you're not ready, be honest with you about the things you need to get right before you get into social media.
We've used social media to help us sell, to get the attention of new partners and clients and, most importantly (to me, anyway) to make us the envy of some of our stiffest competition.
Can you do the same? That's not up to me. And if you come to one of my learning sessions, I don't guarantee you'll be a success. But I guarantee you'll understand more about what to do than you ever could alone. I guarantee you, you'll know what you want out of social media.
With that said, here's a link to our sign-up page for a social media sit down. Get in touch with me and I'll be happy to slate some time for us to talk about what you're up to, what you want to do and what you're able to do.
As a parting shot, I dare you to do one of four things with your social media endeavor of choice today:
1) FOR FACEBOOK: Say something that's true of your credit union that the average user might not agree with - If you believe something, stick by that belief and throw it out there. What's one thing that you need/want to impress on your members? Don't be wussy and say something like "We believe that credit unions are great!". Say something bold and see what people shoot back with. Poke a bruise. Make a wave.
2) FOR TWITTER: Block or unfollow anyone who's following you that you can be sure is outside of your service area or is not a current member or potential member - How gutsy would THAT be? If you go through your followers list, you're likely to see a number of people who are not actually tweeting or are spam-tweeters. BLOCK THEM. If you see someone whose info lists them as a "social media expert" and they don't list a location within a few miles of your credit union, BLOCK THEM. If a major business is following you and it's not for any reason other than you mentioned them once, BLOCK THEM. Make your credit union account an account that just helps members. Set up a separate account for networking and use that to study what other CUs are doing. I can tell you for sure that more people contact @jimmymarks to talk about things and get a sales conversation started than those that contact @digitalmailer, and that's okay, because at least they associate me with the company. They're getting through somehow. And I've never been contacted by anyone who considers themselves a "guru" at social media. Because those guys typically have no money for what I'm selling.
3) FOR LINKEDIN: Hire someone off of the recommendations they list on their profile - If good help is REALLY all that hard to find, at least start with people that have a little word-of-mouth behind them. You know there's someone you're dying to hire at your credit union. Make their LinkedIn account your crucial factor - slice anyone that would have been considered for the job that DOESN'T have a LinkedIn page. Who's that leave? Food for thought.
4) FOR FOURSQUARE: Make a mad, mad, mad, mad world out of it - Give away something REALLY AWESOME and see who shows up at the branch. Let's say you're giving away a month's worth of gas. Let's say you're giving away an iPad. How about a wad of cash you would've wasted on a phonebook ad? Make it a crucial giveaway. Make a big stink of doing that. Then try the same with a Facebook check-in. Don't get shy.
Go to DigitalMailer.com/socialmedia.html to learn more about DigitalMailer and social media - while you're there, sign up to be notified when our learning sessions begin and when our guidebooks become available.