“Success is a process, not an event”

by Susanna Gebauer (@dreckbaerfrau)

I read this remark in G+ yesterday (Shared by Brian Gosur), and it nails down one of the biggest misunderstandings of social media I have to deal with in conversations with clients or potential clients. Many people still believe they can simply snap their fingers in social media and see results. Or in other words, they expect that the decision to participate in social media today will as a matter of fact lead to positive impact tomorrow (at the latest).

I can easily answer the question “can you send some tweets to this?” with a “yes”, but the answer to “will these tweets sell my product?” is on a totally different page in my book.  One strange thing here is that wisdom that is widely accepted in the “real world” is often completely ignored when we talk about social media. You need to build a relationship before you can sell.

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Build a relationship

One of the most important rules we know from many other forms of marketing (and sales) applies even stronger for social media marketing: People have to listen to you and trust you first.Many people still believe they can simply snap their fingers in social media and see results. That will not work because success is a process.

In the “normal” world, everybody understands that “selling” is much more than getting the message to your target person. It starts with getting in contact, but it includes building a relationship, building your reputation and understanding people’s needs as much as understanding your own need to sell something.

Why do so many people expect this to be different in social media? The form of communication may be different and the number of people you can (in theory) reach may be bigger. But you still need to create a relationship between yourself and your audience.

Without a relationship with your audience, no one will listen to you. You could as well send tweets and status updates into thin air.

To build relationships with people you need social skills, to build relationships with an audience in social media – you might need social skills, but above all, you need a strategy.

Social Business is more than a business whose employees are active in Social Media

While social media often seems easily accessible because it takes place on the web, a “social business” is not something that is easily achieved. Think about it – having a TV at home and watching an advertisement in the commercial breaks did not make you an advertising pro in the old days.

A friend recently told me about a client who decided from one day to another; his employees should tweet – but totally forgot (or missed) that his employees had no clue how Twitter works in the first place, and no one knew how this activity should or would impact the company.

It seems so easy to make your employees your brand ambassadors and your clients your best marketers. For some brands this even might be true: If the employees are already online and actively spreading the word about your business, it might just take a bit of steering and some minor impulse to get this activity in your preferred direction. But for most businesses (and brands) it means starting from scratch and to define a strategy to build up a reputation, a following.

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Most very successful campaigns in social media are carefully planned and even if they only run a few days you can be fairly sure, they have taken weeks or even months to plan and get everything in place before the actual campaign starts.

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The Path to success is not the same for every business

Social media works a little different for every topic and area of business. It largely depends on the people who work in this area and how they use social media. It also depends on the social networks that are used.

That means that for every business the way to reach their goals with social media might be totally different to other businesses. You cannot simply copy what other people successfully do – this might give you an idea where to start, but your strategy and your social media process have to be carefully watched, success measured and the strategy adjusted. You have to learn from mistakes and try different angles. You need to be creative. You need to make mistakes to learn from them. You need to adapt constantly.

It takes Time

Just because there are more than a billion people on Facebook doesn’t mean you will reach them in a day (or two).

Building a reputation, a brand and a social media standing takes more than one post, which reaches a large audience. At times social media can be frustrating, you have to deal with setbacks, periods of stagnancy, changes in policy or features in the networks.

There will be days when your audience stays silent, unwilling to respond and there will be days when your audience does not like what you post. Take the experience, learn from it – and keep going. Social media success only very seldom comes overnight. In social media marketing – success really is a process – never an event.