If social networking is your thing, you’re not alone. The Pew Research Center recently found that a huge 75% of all American adults have at least one social media account. About half of these people use social media daily or nearly every day.
The most popular networks are Facebook and Twitter, with the mean number of friends on Facebook being 155 and the mean number of followers on Twitter being 477. (The median friend count is 130, and the median follower count is 295 for those who use both sites). If you’re on Facebook, you’re part of the biggest online community in the world. If you’re on Twitter, you may be a part of the biggest conversation on Earth.
The main reason for all this popularity is that social networking provides easy access to a sense of community and connection to people who share our interests. It’s great for sharing pictures of your kids, but it can also be used for more serious business-related activities. Facebook was created as a tool for connecting students at Harvard with their classmates “a place where they can connect with one another without having to remember names or email addresses.” Later, it was used by the developer Mark Zuckerberg to help him connect with his own college roommates. It has since evolved into a platform for connecting millions of people to brands and businesses.
There are hundreds of articles online explaining how to get the most out of social networking. And, in fact, some social networking sites even have whole teams of people dedicated to providing tips and training about how to use their products. In this article, though, I want to offer a slightly different perspective. While these platforms can be used for marketing purposes, it’s easy to get distracted from the true value of social media: the connections you can make with other people or businesses in your industry.
Connections, Interactions, Relationships
It’s important to remember that social media provides more than just a place to connect with others. It’s also an environment for exchanging ideas and information. Far from being a passive activity, it can be a very interactive one. I’ve found that the best way to get people on your social network to respond is by asking insightful questions that produce interesting answers.
Here are some examples of questions you can ask on your social network:
“What books have been particularly helpful in your own business?” (This can lead to discussion about the best books on the topic. It also allows you to offer links to these books at a later date.)
“If you could have a coffee with any of your past clients, what would you ask them?” (This can lead to a discussion of best practices and lessons learned. It can help spark new ideas.)
“What’s your favorite new technology?” (This invites people to be creative. It encourages them to think beyond what is immediately available and imagine what the future might bring.)
“What has helped you become more successful at work?” (This helps people share their wisdom and experience, which is something they find rewarding, while also providing opportunities for collaboration on future projects.)
Asking good questions like these gets people thinking. It opens up a discussion, generating new ideas and connections. And these interactions encourage people to share their knowledge and give your business valuable exposure to their friends and contacts.
Example with Starbucks: Coca-Cola recently hired an entire division of field marketers to do nothing but develop and distribute content around the idea that happiness is contagious. This campaign impressed me, but it’s also helped Starbucks in two important ways: First, it has helped give the brand a more human side. The idea that happiness can be shared has made people think of Starbucks in a different way as not only a place to get coffee but as a place to go and feel good about oneself.