How Businesses Can “Share” and Become “Social” in Social Media

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A few days ago I wrote a guest blog post entitled “Social Media Was Not Created for Business…So Stop Selling to Us!” With all of the talk about how companies need to get more “social,” all I see are a barrage of new “Follow Us on Twitter” or “Join Our Facebook Fan Page” advertisements.

As someone who uses Social Media for 1) keeping in contact with old friends and colleagues, 2) professional networking and meeting new people, and 3) finding valuable information and learning, I really have no reason to be joining Facebook Fan Pages of businesses unless they satisfy one of my requirements. Remember: social media was created for average people like you and me, not businesses.

Another aspect about Social Media is, at the end of the day, it’s all about sharing. Those who share relevant information on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook will naturally stay on top of people’s minds, and they will also win a lot of new “friends,” “followers,” or “connections.” So, as a business, what will you share? Are you just going to blast us with your press releases on your Twitter feed or Facebook Fan Page? This is no different than average users spamming others with MLM schemes.

I find that there are two big trends appearing in how businesses approach the “sharing” part of social media:

1) Give Out Freebies or Discounts

This is a no-brainer. If you’re spending money on advertising, why not divert some of it to utilizing Social Media, which is free, and giving out products or services of equal value. Einstein Brothers recently did this with their famous bagels and got 15,000 new Facebook Fans in 3 days.

2) Provide Valuable Information

This is always a tough one for companies. You want to engage in Social Media, yet you may not want to do a giveaway. What to do? Provide valuable information that your targeted customers may be interested in. But what information? Toys ‘R’ Us is a good example: a Black Friday Preview on their Facebook Fan Page which limits visibility of certain tabs which contains discount information to fans of the page. What if you’re a B2B company? I love what both Business Week and American Express have done: collaborate with others (Business Week collaborates with Bloomberg, American Express collaborates with leading bloggers) and start social networking sites for their targeted user (Business Exchange in the case of Business Week) or provide useful information to their targeted customer (American Express OPEN Forum in the case of American Express).

There are more examples out there I am sure, but these are the two no-brainers that seem to be employed. And either one is fine. But this alone and itself will get you nowhere. It is the conversations and engaging with the people that you give out the discounts or valuable information to that is of value. One user at a time, making a friendship with them will win you true “fans,” and as Social Media begins to permeate our society, true fans will become your company’s biggest asset.

Agree? Disagree? Let the opinions fly!

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