Saturday, March 29, 2008

Social Networking

When is a friend a friend and when is it a manipulative way to make a business deal? Paul and I aren't hip to "social networking", the latest way for marketing over the Internet. In fact, we don't really understand "networking" as business strategy at all. Although, I, at least, have been told time and again I really should.

Making "friends" with the ulterior motive of making money from other people is confusing to me. There's nothing wrong with creating bonds of mutual support. If it wasn't for a couple of my friends pulling a few strings I wouldn't have gotten my foot in the door of a couple of places my perfume is now selling today.

But here's a list of steps a so-called "professional blogger" posted on his blog site to show people how he purposely uses social networks to promote his own business. Notice the calculated steps he takes to ingratiate himself and get the person he's targeting to let him in:
  1. Pick several social media users who might be interested in your content. Make sure that they have some influence or clout in the community.
  2. Confirm that your content is relevant to their publicly declared or observable interests by studying their usage of the social site.
  3. Make first contact with the user by sending a ‘hello’ or ‘thank you’ email/message while introducing yourself.
  4. Gradually develop a relationship by talking about common interests or the social community.
  5. Do some small favors for the user, but do not ask for reciprocation of any sort. Avoid pitching the user at this point.
  6. After determining that your content is a perfect fit with the user and perfectly understanding the interests of the user, make your first pitch.
  7. If successful, continue to pitch the user but do it infrequently and only for excellent content. If unsuccessful, pull back a little and re-pitch after some time has passed.
  8. Deepen your relationship with the user till the point where he or she will automatically monitor and share your content with the community or when its legitimately possible to co-opt the user by offering compensation.

And there you have it, a complete guide on how to leverage the influence and popularity of social media users, in order to benefit your own website or business.

I'd hate to think someone deliberately courted me like that. It's almost Machiavellian and kind of creepy.

And yet it's not like I haven't benefited by social networks on the Internet. I joined some Yahoo groups to see if I could find people who could teach me things that might help me get my perfume business off the ground. And it was great! I've learned a lot of things and have even found as time went on that I could contribute enough in return for it to feel like a reciprocal relationship. I pick and choose what email posts I want to respond to. I don't have to add checking some site on the Internet as part of my daily routine. And occasionally opportunities for my business have actually come my way. Clients, referrals, sales of my perfume. And there was nothing Machiavellian about it. I actually like these people! (At least what I know about them.)

Recently I got a newsletter from someone promoting the idea of posting comments on other people's blogs in order to bring business coming to your own. The advice was to find a blog on a similar topic of interest, read the first page, say something nice like "Great post! I feel the same way. In fact, you can find x, y, z resource on my website at http://www. . . "

A benign way to make living? Maybe. But the very same day I received this newsletter someone did the exact same thing with me. She read my first page, wrote a "nice post" comment, then proceeded to say that she would never do what I was recommending because she was doing something she learned in this great book by the person she was paid to sell. How do I know she was getting paid? Paul got a very similar email and then looked up her Google ID, susanchap21. He found 143 entries saying similar things and found one entry in which she actually said that the best thing she ever did was get paid for "surfing the net"!

So much for breaking the ice and making friends. Isn't that what "social networks" were originally supposed to be about?


kris said...

Social Networks are the new word of mouth advertising. They are free so I sign up for just about every new one that comes along, if only to claim my "name" before anyone else does. I only surf 1 or 2 regularly.

They are a great way of quickly finding people with similiar interests and getting news about what you do out to them. I have also found long lost friends on them.

Social Networks are tools. A hammer can be used to build a house or hit someone in the head. Anything can be abused, especially on the web. Now go out there and use your powers for good and go build some houses!

Sheryl Karas said...

Great comment, Kris. Thanks for the wake-up!