Social Marketing - Word of Mouth on Steroids

I could talk to people all day about Twitter - and I do.

As part of my web marketing coaching, people ask me about how to extend their reach and influence to a larger audience. To me, the natural answer to these questions includes Twitter.

Using Twitter effectively is like working a giant room. You make friends. You do favors.

You reach out to those who need help. You proactively perform random acts of kindness with no expectation that person will ever be able to return the favor (although you firmly believe these selfless acts will not go unrewarded).

You share ideas freely, you share resources freely, and you share information freely. But above all, you listen more than you talk.

All of that builds something called "social capital," a term I've been thinking of since I started reading Tara Hunt's excellent book, "The Whuffie Factor."

Tara (who, by the way goes by the user name @missrogue on Twitter) explains that on the web, social capital is built by doing three things: being nice, being networked, and being notable.

Politicians - and here I'm referring to the good ones who act honorably and really consider what they do a calling - know all about building social capital. Great politicians by definition are great networkers. They build social capital back home with their constituents, and they build social capital in the halls of power by building it with their collegues.

It is the only way to get re-elected and to be effective once in the office.

Building social capital is something entirely different from broadcasting your sales message far and wide hoping some of the "spaggheti" will stick to the wall. Social networking relies on others to spread your word for you.

I call these people "evangelists."

Here's what I mean about how social capital results in getting your message across to others:

I've noticed that on Twitter, there are four ways I get messages from others.
  1. First, I am following someone and happen to read their "tweet" as it scrolls down my screen. It happens, but it is hard for people to reach me this way. When it does happen, it is a combination of having an eye catching headline AND me seeing it amidst all the other noise.

  2. The second way is if someone finds the message so compelling they are willing to "retweet" it. Retweets naturally catch my eye more than random messages.

    This is the evangelism factor I mentioned earlier. It is also the "Be networked" factor that Tara Hunt talks about.

  3. The third way is that I have set my Tweetdeck page to have a column especially for my "A List" contacts. These are the people who have impressed me by consistently tweeting quality information and ideas. As a result, I have put them in a column apart from the noise so that I can be sure to hear what they have to say.

    This is Tara's "Be noteworthy" factor with a little bit of the "Be nice" thrown in for good measure.

  4. The fourth way, is that their tweet comes up on one of my keyword searches. Again, I use Tweetdeck to scan the "Twitterverse" for any tweets containing certain keywords I'm interested in.

    When I see one, I not only click the link to the message, I also click the link to the person sending it to see if it might be someone I would like to follow. This is another example of "Being notable."

Lately I've been trying to get away from using the term, "social media marketing" (even though I used it in the title of this article so readers would know what it is about)and replacing it with "social networking." As a broadcast medium to blast out your commercial messages, Twitter is little better than sending spam emails.

But when Twitter is viewed as a community, getting your commercial message becomes part of creating trust, relationships, friendships and connections. Twitter enables anyone to form relationships with people who would be "above our pay grades" in the offline world.

No one minds that you have something to sell in a community. In fact it is expected. But just as in any other community, people would rather do business with someone they know, like and trust.

So spend your efforts building that social capital of being known, liked and trusted, and you will be rewarded with new business.

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COPYRIGHT © 2009, Charles Brown
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