Don’t Be the Restaurant No One Wants to Eat At Because It Is Empty
June 6, 2011

You are walking around an unfamiliar neighborhood with a couple of friends. You are on your way to a party or perhaps just a movie. But you have a bit of time and decide to stop to eat dinner first. You can’t be too choosy, but it appears you have two options. From the outside both look clean and well maintained.  The lights are working. From the menus posted in the windows, both seem to offer some appetizing choices. And neither you nor your friends are opposed to either due to personal tastes. But, there seems to be something off about one of them. You can’t quite put your finger on it at first, but then you realize what it is. One of them appears, for all practical purposes, to be empty, save the one out-of-place guy in the corner you see while peering through the window, while the other is overflowing with patrons waiting to be seated. Which do you choose?

Unless you are really short on time, you choose the one overflowing with people. Why? Social proof. You assume that the place with more people is probably better, while the place with no people is in some way deficient, even if the deficiency is not easily discerned from outward appearances. You assume if so many people like something, there must be something about it to like. You assume that if so few people like something, there must be a reason why.

Social proof is one of the six principles of influence professor of psychology and marketing, Robert Cialdini, wrote about in his popular book Influence, and he covers it there much more extensively than I can here. But, given the attention I have seen it getting recently in social media circles, felt it might be worth a brief discussion.

In an article I wrote up on Constant Contact’s recent “Get Down to Business” seminar, I wrote of how one of the points I took away, or at least felt was worth reiterating after it was reiterated to me, was the following:

“People trust third party recommendations more than they trust you! There is a lot to be said for the idea of social proof. But, put simply, when you say good things about you, you come off as a salesman who will say what he has to make a sale. When others say good things about you, such as those you have been building rapport with through you social media tools over a period of time, they come off as satisfied customers, and are seen as more trustworthy, or at least less biased.”

But, how do you get such displays of social proof on your social media page? Well, to begin, have you asked for a recommendation from one of your connections on LinkedIn? If so, assuming the person you asked provided it, then you already have attained some level of social proof through social media. But, the social proof you can get through social media does not end there. No, on LinkedIn you can get similar recommendations for your company pages. And, technically speaking, just having a large number of Facebook friends/fans, Twitter followers, or LinkedIn connections can serve as social proof as well. High levels of activity on a Facebook page or blog is even better. And, fully fledged recommendations or thank you by satisfied customers on your Facebook page are even more beneficial. Going back to the restaurant analogy, if both restaurants were equally well populated, having such a recommendation from a friend (or from Yelp) might make you choose one over the other, or maybe even go to the less populated one in the original example if the recommendation was strong enough or from the right person.

Yet, now you ask how do you get such recommendations on various social media sites beyond LinkedIn which already has recommendations as a built in feature you’re required to use if you want to get you profile to 100%?

Simple, you ask. When you have a satisfied customer or client who sends you a private email or tells you in person how much they appreciate what you have done for them, you thank them, but ask if they could post it on Facebook or tweet it on Twitter or write a review on Yelp. None of these take much time or effort on their parts, but can be greatly beneficial to you. And, if you have a very satisfied customer, you might even ask if they’d be willing to give a video testimonial for YouTube and your website.

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Social Media for the Intermediate User
March 22, 2011

Not too long ago I attended a social media seminar hosted by Constant Contact and presented by their regional director for Illinois, Steve Robinson at an Ing Direct Cafe in Downtown Chicago. Despite spending a little time brushing up on some basics, this was not Social Media 101, but an interactive discussion for intermediate users on how to use social media the right way.

At the event we talked about how many social media sites can be, and are being used as places of commerce, and as tools to market ones products and services. According to Constant Contact’s statistics, 51% of small businesses use Facebook, 29% use blogs, 27% use LinkedIn, 26% use Twitter, and 16% use YouTube. But, as any social media consultant will tell you, it is not enough to just use them. No, what is important is that you use them well.

You cannot have a static social media page. In fact, you really shouldn’t even have a static website any more. No, you need to have a social media page where you actively connect with, converse with, and disseminate valuable information and content to others while building and strengthening relationships with them. Through these pages you can reach out to fans, customers, and prospects, and build your network by sharing relevant, valuable content, and reaching out to and engaging more people. By doing this you can increase repeat business, as well as online referrals in the form of others sharing your content making online endorsements.

Unfortunately many people will never really get involved. Why? They psych themselves out knowing they’ll never have millions or even thousands of followers. They are unmotivated or uninterested in writing thought leadership articles. They think they will never have the dedicated staff to do it right. Or they feel they don’t have the time to stay current.

But what these people forget is that it is not about the quantity of your followers, but the quality. And, for those who feel unmotivated to write thought leadership articles or feel they lack the staff, ability, or time to do social media well, they may wish to consider hiring a consultant or content manager.

That said, if you do get involved, you may wonder how you decide which tools to use. Well, fist ask yourself where your customers, partners, suppliers, and competitors are. If you do not know, in most cases you can simply ask them. Also, use different media’s together.

Now, once you are setting up your pages, be sure to look professional, to take advantage of all the features each site has to offer (or at least the free ones), and to make sure that you properly brand your pages. Also, post some starter content to drive people to your pages or at least to make the pages look active. This can consist of company information, tips, practical advice, opinions, links to archived newsletters, polls, event announcements, blogs reviews of your products or services, articles, discussions, etc. Then, once your pages are up and your starter content is in place, announce your presence with an email with a strong call to action, ideally using an email marketing service such as Constant Contact. And, once you get going, be sure to be an expert, trade useful information, offer valuable insights, and engage your audience.