Be Careful with Advice to Go Social

Today I was browsing the usual suspects in the Internet marketing world and came across this article from Forbes.

CEOs Afraid Of Going Social Are Doing Shareholders A Massive Disservice by Josh James of Domo

Big company CEOs are virtually invisible on social media sites. They’re not on Facebook, not on Twitter, not on Google Plus, not on Pinterest—they’re barely even on LinkedIn.

These findings are just crazy to me on so many levels. More than half the U.S. population has eagerly embraced sites like Facebook and more than a third are using Twitter, yet only 7.6% of Fortune 500 CEOs have bothered to jump on Facebook, and just 4% have opened Twitter accounts. All in, 70% of big company CEOs have no presence on social networks. I know this thanks to a survey my company, called Domo, just released.

Josh James is a hugely successful CEO. He started Omniture. His latest venture, Domo, is already successful and growing. When he talks people listen and listen closely.

I agree with what Josh is saying. He wants CEOs to get involved with social. He wants them to get closer with their customers. Josh also encourages CEOS to lead by example and get their employees involved with social. This advice makes sense. Josh believes the world is becoming more social. The world is certainly smaller because of the Internet and people are more social with more people than ever before. I think we’ve always been social, but have never had the opportunity to scale that social nature to the levels of today.

I just want to warn you that you can’t simply jump into social and get going. Josh says as much when he says that social is hard work. It’s easy to say that it’s hard work – it is – but it’s also important to know what to focus on when going social.

It’s About Referrals and Audience

Business has always been about referrals. You work on getting your first few customers and start working on getting referrals from there. Referrals come from current customers telling their friends, family and peers about your company. That’s how the world works. We trust people that are experts and friends to give us recommendations about the products and services that make our lives better.

Going social is about increasing referrals for your business. It’s about building an audience of people that are not just followers, but customers that will refer your business to others.

Don’t Become Tied to One Social Network

A warning I tell business owners is to be careful with becoming dependent on one or even a few social networks. It can be easy to get attached to Twitter or Facebook. There is danger in giving so much to something you don’t even own and really have little control over.

Social networks have come and gone over the years and the concept of a social network hasn’t even been around for even a decade in the current sense. It’s risky to think that you can put all your eggs into one of the popular social baskets.

If you’re thinking of going social it’s better to focus on your own platform first. You can use your own website with something like a blog to create a content strategy that allows your company to go social. Josh does this on his own blog. The way he grows his social presence is by giving up some content to other website owners in return to access to their customers (see: Forbes article linked above).

This content strategy can work for your business as well. Focus on building your own channel. Use other websites to attract and build your own audience. This can be through guest posts or by being active on Twitter and Facebook and other social networks.

Focus On Building a List (Don’t Forget Email)

Businesses are built on referrals and lists. Don’t forget to build your lists. Followers on Twitter are part of a list. Likes on Facebook are part of a list. But don’t forget about email lists.

An email list is something you own. You can’t be sure what Facebook and Twitter will do in the future, but you can have more control over how you market to your own subscribers and customers.

When going social focus on building lists. This will allow you to figure out what your followers want and need. You can provide them with those products and services and make profit.

And if you do a good enough job they’ll refer you to friends, family and peers.

Your business grows.

That’s what going social is all about.

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