It’s Not About Me, It’s Really About You

And when I say “you”, I really mean anyone out there using the Internet to find some piece of information that they find valuable. I’ve been fortunate enough to have had conversations with a couple respected social media experts over the past few weeks, and while we were specifically talking about different web applications and their value as a marketing communication vehicle, both eluded to one key point:

Real success in social media is about valuable contribution.

It’s true that almost any social media tool can provide the individual with opportunities for their own personal/professional growth, outside of the “social” aspect of it. Whether providing a way to be more organizationally efficient, learn and research specific topics of interest, or be able to communicate in a more timely manner, these are all potential benefits of social media that can be realized, assuming you want to take the time and effort to learn and explore.

But initial questions I often receive from clients, friends and folks interested in social media include:

  • What’s the benefit of using [insert social media website name] for me, or for my business?” and:
  • How will investing the time in [insert social media website name] improve my bottom line or generate more traffic and sales?

The initial questions are often related to the impact on me and my business, and not on the community I am looking to be a part of. In my opinion, this is really the wrong way to begin the process, and here is why.

Consider what you value online. In most cases, people value sources of content that offer value back to the user, whether that be for education, information or entertainment. You read a blog because the writer discusses things that you relate to or find valuable for work, life etc. You read product reviews to help yourself make more informed buying decisions. You use a search engine to find a piece of information that you didn’t have before you started searching. In the majority of these cases, how often was that initial destination or that initial contribution directly related to a sale or a sales pitch? In many cases, it was written purely to help you. And by you, I mean anyone out there, using the Internet to find something of value.

What’s the point of marketing? Most academic resources will state that marketing is about providing something of value to a “market”. Is the Internet a shopping destination or a pool of shared information? While I suppose that that answer is really up to each individual, I am fairly certain that the social media “market” is not about ROI, conversion metrics or product positioning.

The impact of a social media website is that people now have an opportunity to directly connect with others who share their same interests, professions, and/or ambitions. But what often goes amiss in this conversation is the fact that you really must contribute in order to succeed, and contribution goes beyond piecemeal conversations or submissions. Contribution means connecting directly with the people and groups important to you and sharing and providing information that they will find valuable, relative to your own expertise and interests. The people that share and share well are the people that are successful – and by successful, I mean drive traffic and visitors to the content that they touch, while contributing to the community.

Of course the majority of us are in business to make money and there is no reason to think that using a social media tool for your own personal interests is a bad thing. Also, it doesn’t hurt simply having your brand visible and in many cases, powerful brands can still have a positive (and negative) impact within a community. But the real power in social media for the individual is in the opportunity to communicate back to an audience, and share and contribute expertise in the communities that you find valuable and of interest, for whatever reason that may be.


2 Responses to “It’s Not About Me, It’s Really About You”

  1. Chris Brogan... on September 4th, 2007 7:02 am

    You’ve hit a lot of points in this article, and I’m really impressed with your perspective. You’ve hit it fairly well, but let me just draw some highlighter across this post:

    Social networks and social media are messy insofar as they are not as precise as straight SEO. However, the return is that reaching someone who already wants to know about your product or service guarantees a stronger response than straightforward poking at more “unready” markets. Meaning: social media types, when engaged about something, are the kind to move it forward.

    Finding something of value to a community is a great way to show the community that they have your respect and attention. Makes perfect sense to me. Great post, Derek.

  2. Derek Edmond on September 4th, 2007 8:23 am

    Thanks Chris – I appreciate your insight and feedback. You are exactly right about the fact that getting social media types engaged can lead to a much better success rate (or failure rate if it is negative).