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How To Follow Through on Your "How Can I Help You?"

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At Blogworld 2009, Social Media Marketing was still a concept in development. A few weeks later, Mashable declared that there were 15,740 “Social Media Experts” on Twitter – a number indicating that many people were claiming to be experts, and that few were. At Blogworld 2009 itself – the motto seemed to be “How can I help you?” The motto was touted by all of the big names as a means, I guess, of getting would-be social media enthusiasts into giving mode rather than receiving mode. The problem was – the phrase was too vague. “How can I help you?” became “let me show you how to retweet,” “here’s how you post a message on your friend’s wall,” and “follow me and I’ll follow you.” It’s no exaggeration – after Blogworld 2009, Twitter account’s bios all over the place started reading “how can I help you?” and no real concrete help was being given. So I propose an alternative: “What can I do for you?”

“What can I do for you” commits you to action. The word “do” implies that you’re willing to work with the person – not just tell them that about tools and very general concepts. It implies that you’re willing to sit with the person face-to-face, show them how to set up a Hootsuite account, and then show them what the best possible way to garner a following for their niche industry is. And then – show them how you maintain a schedule for that routine. It implies you’re willing to put some skin in the game.

Here are some things you can do to break the ice for yourself and really truly do something for someone:

Find a business and give them a free business analysis

If you’re like me – you see the world with a Layar showing opportunity here and opportunity there. Why not take that to the next level? Is there a sandwich shop in town that uses Twitter but really can’t run a promotion? Give them an idea. Reach out and ask them if they considered offering their mayor on Foursquare a promotion? You know – something small that helps them. Don’t do it obnoxiously as an expert – do it as a friend helping a friend.

I remember, Matt Pinfield wrote something like “send in your requests” on Twitter – I went to his stream and realized he’d never @replied to anyone almost ever. So instead of writing him a tweet saying “I’m a tweeting expert and you’re doing it wrong” – I simply said what I felt – which was that I wanted to tweet @him, but it seems he doesn’t get back to anyone. The response was amazing – “well that’s going to change!”

Adopt a new service

It’s easy to be an expert awesomesauce human-follower when you’re the one-hundred-thousandth user of a service. But Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace were startups, too. Every startup needs to hit some sort of stride to stay afloat, and if a startup is worth anything – why not be a part of its beginnings? Scout out new awesome tools, new games, new ways of communicating. It won’t only do you good to be ahead of the curve. It will help startups and companies. They need you. They need you to tell them what you need from them. They need you to tell your friends that this great tool/service/site exists. Otherwise no company, no matter how great – can survive.

Be Useful – not “Inspiring”

I know a guy who’s name, for anonymity’s sake, will be Joe. Joe seems like a nice enough guy. He also has a big following on Twitter. But something I realized about Joe is that he’s not doing anything for anyone. What he’s doing is tweeting what he calls #Joeisms – tweets of inspiration he thought of while taking a shower. I spoke with Joe on the on the phone (see “Take it Offline”.) He’s full of himself. Now you might think that’s obvious, but when I saw his tweets at first I thought he was an amazingly smart and full-of-life-experience kind of guy. After speaking with him and listening to run-on sentences frequently dotted with “Me’s,” my switch was turned off. Don’t be that guy.

Take it offline

The Internet rocks my socks. And if you’re on the Blogworld blog reading this – it rocks yours too. But it’s no secret that the Internet makes things less personal. You can say lots without consequence, you can put on a persona, and you can fool everybody. Get offline. Go out for coffee with a potential client. Get to know the neighborhood of a local business you’re consulting for to understand what people in the area are talking about. Our jobs, no matter how geeky, are never always online. Even the most isolated programmer working on something all on his own has to pick up the phone to someone once in a while. So certainly you, as a blogger, marketer, or as a person have lots that you’re missing out on if you’re not getting up out of your chair and going outside. Meet face-to-face.

I really don’t think it takes a rocket scientist to understand the four principals above. But I do hope that for some it opened their eyes to what it means to be productive. In my experience, the most productive people I know use Twitter to tweet out their own blog posts and ones they find interesting, as well as interact with other friends. But for the most part – they’re not on Twitter. They’re … working!

Clearly I’ve left stuff out. There are so many other ways to actually help people. I’d love to hear what other ideas you have!

Itamar Kestenbaum is a blogger and Community Manager. He is currently Community Manager for Moishe’s Moving & Storage in NYC as well as Blogworld Expo. You can follow Itamar on Twitter@tweetamar or read his blog: ItamarKestenbaum.com.

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