The Importance of Being Human - How to Achieve Real Success With Social Media Marketing

One of the great case studies or success stories on social media is Dell Outlet.

Dell attributes over $3 million in sales to one Twitter account, @delloutlet, over a two-year period of time. Their cost? The salary of one very capable employee, Stefanie Nelson, aka @stefanieatdell, who manages the @delloutlet Twitter account.

If you spend a little time reading her Twitter stream, you will notice how often she talks (er, tweets) directly with individuals. Sure she sends out product announcements a lot, but she never forgets it is individuals who follow her and read her tweets.

Back in November 2009, John Moore interviewed her and she shared this insight from her experience:
When we first started posting on Twitter as @DellOutlet in 2007, we intended to only post offers. We didn’t really understand the potential until customers started replying and asking questions. When we responded, the Twitter audience seemed very surprised and got really excited. It was clear that they really wanted to engage with us, and we were encouraged by the reaction, so we expanded our Dell Outlet social media objectives to include “improving customer experience”. We’ve been using Twitter to answer questions ever since.

Contrast that to most of the clumsy attempts to use social media marketing. I've seen business after business just use Twitter and Facebook to machine-gun out their product announcements and sales pitches to the masses.

Stefanie (by the way, I would love to interview you sometime if you are available) is friendly, helpful and informative.

It is obvious that she has a variety of keyword searches set up on software programs like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite so she can become aware of any mention of certain keywords and respond immediately. I was noticing one of her tweets in which she responded to a product complaint by someone and asked if the person had contacted @dellcares, Dell's Twitter account dedicated to customer service.

A similar experience occurred to me about two years ago. I had mentioned wanting to attend an event scheduled at the City of Grapevine, Texas, a nearby community known for hosting all kinds of really fun events.

I said that I wanted to attend the event but was worried about rain. Within minutes I got a tweet from someone at their Chamber of Commerce or Business Development office assuring me that they had worked out a deal with Mother Nature not to rain on that day.

It was cute and timely and told me that actual human beings were monitoring any keywords having to do with their events. More importantly, the person responded to me as a single individual, not part of a mass audience.

Any business getting involved in social media marketing needs to understand this. Social media is a way to connect to one person at a time with a personal touch. But because they are active on social media, these are highly-connected individuals, so these one-on-one contacts can ripple out to many other individuals.

This is the concept of 1000 True Fans. If you are not familiar with the concept of 1000 True Fans, it simply means that more is gained by focusing on a core group of targeted people and building relationships with them, than by mass marketing.

The problem with mass marketing is this:
There is always a tendency to buy into the "spaghetti principle" that says if you throw enough spaghetti against the wall, some of it will stick.

While this is sometimes true, it is becoming prohibitively expensive and less efficient to reach these masses by traditional media. Marketers have to pay more and more to throw all that spaghetti, and they are seeing that less and less of it is sticking. This is an ROI heading in the wrong direction.

So what happens when these same marketers decide to venture into the world of social media and try the same techniques? They use Twitter and Facebook as vehicles to continue throwing spaghetti. And that really doesn't work on social media.

It's kind of like being the guy who shows up at a party with a stack of business cards and backs people into corners to tell them about his hot new product or service. Sooner or later, that guy will be asked to leave. In social media we can "ask someone to leave" when we block or unfollow people who act this way, so throwing spaghetti is a short-term proposition at best.

Social media is all about building "social capital," which means adding real value and building real relationships with individuals, not masses. This is the importance of being human on social media. I often make the statement that the best book on social networking was written in 1936, when Dale Carnagie wrote "How to Win Friends and Influence People."

Social Capital is about making friends and being a friend. It is about listening more than talking. It is about talking about things that interest the other person rather than things we want to sell to them. It is about allowing the best of our human natures to come forward, while our sales and marketing tendencies step back.

I used to tell my sons about Mary Kay Ash, the founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics. She was known for the way she treated people and built trusting relationships with them. But her secret was that whenever she met someone, she visualized a sign on them that said, "Make Me Feel Important." Not a bad ritual to adopt with social media.

Back to Stefanie at @delloutlet. When someone tweets her about a problem, or when she spots a tweet with one of her targeted keywords, she responds as a person to another person. This doesn't mean she doesn't send out product information, or tell about the latest specials or coupons. But she never seems to get around to throwing spaghetti against the wall. She never seems to forget that she is a human being talking to other human beings, one at a time.

If you would like to read more about how "being human" is the real key to success with social media marketing, check out my latest ebook, "101 Ways to Promote Your Brand With Social Media Marketing." If you like the ebook, please consider forwarding it to others who might benefit from the information.

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