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Introducing Civilians to Social Media


If you listened to Jim Turner’s telethon for Haiti over the past couple of days, a certain topic came up often – whether or not social media people are all preaching to the choir.

I thought about this a lot last night. I mean, we all read the same people’s blogs and follow the same people on Twitter. We go the same conferences to hear the same speakers talk about the same things. Social media people already know about social media. Instead of talking to the same folks all the time, we need to figure out a way to get everyone involved.

Last Friday, I had a lunch meeting with one of the Cub Scout dads and his partner. They were tasked with building a website for a cancer community and their biggest challenge was in bringing in people to join the discussions and do more than look around and leave. They relied on a very small bit of search engine traffic and a Google Adwords campaign to bring in readers, and, hopefully, participating members of the community. As you can imagine, it wasn’t working.

I wondered if hiring a community manager would be more cost efficient than an advertising campaign. Hiring someone who knows the subject manager and can engage a community would be a lot more effective in this instance, than putting out money for  to place a generic ad for Google searchers.

Stuff that I take for granted as common knowledge, isn’t common outside of social media circles.

As I thought about this more, I wondered how we can introduce civilians to social media so more people could join the conversation. My thoughts are below, and I’d to read your suggestions as well:

  • Talk: If you follow me on Twitter or read my blogs, you’ll know I see everyone as a potential client. That doesn’t mean I spend all day giving elevator pitches, (mostly because I don’t believe anyone likes being cornered in an elevator). However, if people ask what I do, I tell them. If it comes up in a conversation, I’ll add my two cents. My neighbor and his partner contacted me because they knew I could help. If I was shy about it, they’d either struggle along or find someone else.
  • Listen: I pay attention. In the supermarket checkout line, while getting my hair done, when I’m at the park taking the dog for a walk, I pay attention to the conversations people are having. One time, I heard a bunch of co-workers talking while enjoying lunch. They didn’t have a clue where to take a marketing campaign. I had a few ideas, but didn’t want to bust in on their meeting. As I left, I handed one person my card and said I had a couple of ideas for a social media campaign. They called me the next day. The never considered taking it beyond aggressive advertising campaigns and though they didn’t take me on as a regular client, they did consult and pick my brains for a bit. Now they have a much heavier online presence.
  • Infiltrate: Many businesses don’t want to invest in sending their teams to social media conferences because they don’t have the budget to spend outside their own industries. They’re rather send their accountants to accounting conferences and lawyers to legal conferences. These are the exact same places we need to infiltrate. Most businesses can benefit from social media. The same speakers who sign up for speaking engagements at BlogWorld or South by Southwest, should also think outside the box and attend nicher conferences. My dentist is considering a social media campaign for his new business. If a dentist is looking into social media, it’s a given that firefighters, retailers, teachers and others can benefit as well. Conferences aren’t only for meeting your buddies, they’re also for teaching and learning. We have a lot to share.
  • Teach: How many social media gurus are qualified to teach at colleges, business events and at continuing education venues? I’m in talks to teach blogging and social media for a series of free courses at the local library.

Now don’t get me wrong. I learn from so many of you, but you have so much to offer to the rest of the world. How can you reach beyond the blogosphere to the people who truly need to learn? What do you have to offer?

Deb Ng is a professional blogger, social media consultant and founder of the Freelance Writing Jobs blog network. Follow her on Twitter @debng.

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