First off, let me tell you that I am a huge fan of what David Meerman Scott calls real-time media; the bright, shiny object that business folks are latching onto in droves. From big corporations like Ford down to “mom and pop” small business owners, the siren song of more business is surely alluring. In fact, I’m pretty much living on Twitter these days.
There are a lot of self-proclaimed gurus out there who are selling you on the notion that social networking is the cure for all of your business woes. More clients, more connections, a huge cocktail party filled with interesting people who will tout your services as the the Second Coming (or the first one, depending on your beliefs).
But it isn’t. Not even close.
You Get Social To Be … Social
That’s right, you heard it here first. When you go to a party, you do so to meet new people and have fascinating conversations about things of mutual interest. You don’t walk in with a stack of business cards and fling them around the room in the hopes that someone just happens to be looking to prevent the deportation of a loved one and is seeking a lawyer. That’s gauche, and is sure to get you ostracized pretty fast. Plus, you’re not getting invited back to the party anytime soon (even if you did bring an awesome bottle of wine and a homemade chocolate cake).
In spite of that, lots of lawyers go into social media with that stack of cards. Day in and day out, all they do is cram their business cards down our throats. They relentlessly send out messages imploring us to call their office for a free consultation. They send automatic direct messages to their followers telling people to visit their sites or blogs. They push out their blog updates.
It’s a one-way street for these people, and nothing more. Just another bullhorn they wield in the endless quest to get someone … anyone at all … to pay attention to them.
In response, these lawyers are met with silence. They gain no followers, so nobody hears them anymore. Like a tree falling in the forest, they make no sound at all. But that’s OK because they’re really not saying anything of value anyway.
Something Happened On The Way To The Chips And Dip
You’re standing around at this party, minding your own business. Slightly out of place, you head for the chips and dip more as a means of looking busy. Maybe you’re checking your cell phone and wondering why you’re here in the first place.
Suddenly you catch a snippet of conversation. Two people are talking about some book you really enjoyed; you don’t know either of them, but feel compelled to join in. Within minutes you’re all immersed in a discussion, jumping from topic to topic and just enjoying yourselves. New friends, new connections. Pure enjoyment.
You see, we human beings are social creatures. The well-worn theory of homophily, tested out time and time again, says that we tend to associate with those who are most like ourselves. We automatically like people who come from our hometown, who went to the same college as we did, or who have some of the same friends. We’re more comfortable with those people, who carry the mark of familiarity by virtue of their sameness.
The same holds true when it comes to social networking. We’re going to gravitate towards people who are just like us, who share our values and who reflect back upon us. Those are the people we’ll meet, converse with, and ultimately bond with. It’s human nature, after all.
From Books To Business
Over time, something interesting happens. The people you’ve met and bonded with become acquaintances, friends and trusted sources of knowledge. You come to rely on them for information, as sounding boards, and as referral sources. They view you much in the same way.
Why? Because they got to know you (and you them). They trust you. And they like you. So when it’s time to talk business, they turn to you rather than to some random stranger.
What began as a causal conversation turned into something more than that. It turned into business.
And that, my friends, is what social media is all about. Human connection without the hard sell and pretense of marketing. Because in the end it’s all about being connected with one another, and the reality of homophily.
Like the old saying goes, “It’s not what you know – it’s who you know.”