I got an email yesterday from a guy who seemed very excited about my company. He was a big fan, and wanted to ask me a few questions. As I read through the questions, I realized this was just a clever sales pitch. His email slowly and skillfully morphed from a fan letter to a pitch for his social media and marketing skills. A few minutes later on Facebook, another Shark Tank entrepreneur complained of receiving the exact same email. Then another. And so on.
Since appearing on Shark Tank I’ve been assailed with every sort of sales pitch you can imagine. But the bulk of them center around this new service that seems to have sprung up sometime in the last 10 years… social media management. These people want money to take the social media burden off of your shoulders. They create schedules and plans and charts. They employ robots to take over your voice on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc. They chart conversions and ROI and all sorts of complicated things that you, as a busy business owner, just couldn’t possibly have time for, right?!?!
I call bullshit. One of the worst tricks a small business owner can fall for is that they don’t have the time or wherewithal to represent themselves and their company on social media. And one of the quickest ways to cheapen and dilute a new and growing brand is to replace its heart (you) with a robot holding a schedule and a chart.
Social networking should exist as a natural extension of your business/product/brand. It should never be lumped in the category of advertising or PR. For both of those things, I highly recommend reaching out to outside agencies. But for social networking, your young business/product/brand is best served by letting your natural voice and natural schedule do the talking.
An example – this email I got yesterday mentioned my blog, and reminded me that I should really be blogging at least twice per week to maximize the time people spend on my sites. The solution, I assume, was hiring someone to create a stream of “relevant” content to post on a more regular basis. But in my mind, that goes counter to everything I should be trying to do. I post my blog on the I Want To Draw a Cat For You website because I feel the person drawing the cat is as important as the drawing itself. And I present this blog as a completely sincere and transparent look at the entire process. The minute I cheapen that by letting someone else blog in my voice, this whole piece becomes nothing more than an insincere marketing tool.
Social media professionals would have you believe that distinction is meaningless. Content is content. But the truth is content without heart and sincerity is not really content. It’s garbage. The internet is littered with it. And consumers… I mean people… see right through that. We all do. Don’t we? It’s all around us. We put up with it to a degree, but I’m not going to pay someone to add to that white noise on my behalf.
The same goes for how we approach Twitter and Facebook. Only have time to Tweet once every couple of weeks? Wonderful! That’s probably how often your customers and fans want to hear from you, anyway. We’ve all been guilty of Tweeting when we don’t really have anything to say. And when we do it, we look as stupid as the guy at the party who’s shouting when everyone else is using their indoor voice. Does your product/brand/service lend itself to more frequent Tweets and posts? Hooray! So long as the noise you spout comes from a sincere place, you’ll stand above the garbage.
Social media professionals want you to believe that you don’t know what you’re doing when it comes to the social tools at your disposal. I would posit that if you can handle yourself at a cocktail party, then you DO know what you’re doing. As with most enterprises, it boils down to the advice your parents gave you when you were 5. Be yourself.
Forget the tricks, forget the schedules, forget the charts. Just speak from a place that is open, honest, and sincere – and then relish in the deep connections you’ll make with your customers.