The essence of social media marketing – to be social!

July 28, 2009 — 9 Comments

We should be social in the online social comfortzones of our customers

I’ve just recently been invited to join to to a group on Linkedin called Internet World – future of social media. Although I’ve registetered myself to many marketing groups on Linkedin, this was the first time I was invited. The organizer of the group, Endaf Kerfoot, got my name from one of his partners / colleagues from the Netherlands, apparently from my presentation on the IAM / MarCom event last June about Web3.0. Me being a-guy-who-likes-to-help-others of course joined and have chosen to really help Endaf to setup up social media marketing for the Future of Social Media brand.

Internet users are spoiled – we have to go into the social comfortzones
This blog will be the first in a serie to help Endaf to create some attention for the “Future of social media” brand, and is there a better way than to start at the basics? I think many marketeers do not see that the essence of social media marketing is to be social. Although it’s seems obvious, it’s actually not easy, because we people have issues to see things when they’re not obvious. @Kevinrommen on Twitter – someone I’ve met recently on Twitter and in real life – used the analogy that business should see their websites as an accountmanager.

I agree with that! People need to understand that it’s still all about people, especially on the social media. And with the web many things have become easier for us, so we’re getting spoiled all over the place (just think how difficult is was 10 years ago to get news or a holiday booked?). This makes it actually harder for a marketeer to get the customer to his accountmanager, so it’s time to go to your customer into his online comfortzones like Facebook, blogs, Twitter, Linkedin.

We need to be social in the social comfotzones
Before we go lookup our customers in their online social comfortzones, we you stand still for a moment and try to understand what we should be trying to do in those social comfortzones. I’m convinced that the most important word of social media marketing is ‘social’. If we’re not social there there is no place for us in the social comfortzones. So what is social all about? The definition of ‘social’ :

  • A noun in The Free dictionary:
    • a party of people assembled to promote sociability and communal activity
  • An adjective in the Cambridge dictionary:
    • relating to activities in which you meet and spend time with other people and which happen during the time when you are not working

The word ‘social’ is similar online as well as offline, but do we ‘act’ social online like we do offline? We should, because according to the words of Steven Covey we keep our same pardigm. But we actually don’t, many of us don’t really behave social when we’re online, so why is that? According to Stephen Covey it’s because we do not know the environment well enough to understand how we can apply our paradigm in the right way. For all the readers, assess yourself on how social you are offline, because if you’re not – then I’d suggest you don’t even try to act social online. Personally I know that I score quite high on the ‘social’ scale, if someone else thinks differently, DO LET ME KNOW!

How do I act social?

I guess Marc Zuckerberg - CEO of Facebook - knows how to be social at a party

I guess Marc Zuckerberg - CEO of Facebook - knows how to be social at a party

What kind of behaviour fits ‘social’. Let’s see, if I go to a party then I’m doing something social right? Well, it matches with the definitions given above. So what do I do when I’m going to a party? Let’s analyze this from a case that is similar to online: I’ve just moved to a new city and some guys at work tell me to come to this party to have fun. This is what I think I would do:

  • I like to have fun – that’s a goal right?
  • How do I get my fun at a party? Let’s take the booz for granted 😉
    • I would like to have a great time with some people. So how do I do that?
  • First I have to be there and just be present
    • So I have to get there
    • In the best case I can find someone who knows the scene to tag along witt
      • Or else I’m just on my own – even more exciting and challenging 😉
  • So I’ve arrived, then what?
    • Of course I’ll head for the bar to make sure that I have something in my hands. Even better, I’ll make sure I’ll have 2 drinks – possibly one to share 🙂
    • And after having observed the crowd for 10-15 minutes – hopelessly waiting for someone to approach – I’ve finished both drinks.
    • So I have to go to the bar again and this time I’ve got enough courage to ask someone who looks interesting if he/she wants a drink. So I
      • Poke / nod or do something else that is socially sensible to someone and introduce myself
      • And I would ask that person something to drink
    • The result can go both ways, either my offer is rejected or accepted. Probably after a few times someone thinks I’m interesting enough to accept my drink.
  • Now comes the hard part – somehow I have to avoid some inconvenient silences and get a chat going on. By that time I just hope I’ve had enough to drink to make a few jokes that will smooth the chat.
    • So I’m trying to connect with people by conversing with them.
    • For me a good part of this is listening. To quote Paul Arden from his book “Whatever you think, think the opposite“:
      • In an interview it’s better to listen carefully to what the interviewers have to say than put on a show of your own brilliance. That way they will be interested in you without you saying a word
    • There’s a big chance the first chats will end within ten minutes, but also a chance that my jokes do find a good spot to land.
  • By then the party is well on the way.
    • If I’ve had luck, I’ve found some people to hangout and dance with.
    • If I didn’t have luck, well I’d probably had enough drinks to convince myself that there’s nothing wrong with dancing by myself 😉
  • Eventually there’s an end to the party. Knowing myself I had the pleasure of practicing my dancing skills by myself. So I’m left with a dilemma:
    • Was the party worth my time? Wouldn’t I have been better off going online chatting with my friends back home? Or wouldn’t I have more satisfaction from my favorite TV shows?
    • Or do I think that I want to have a social life and I’ll try again next week? Or even tomorrow?

A simple test to see how social we are online

How social are we online?

How social are we online?

If you kind of agree with the things I do to be social, then do this test with me:

  • If you join a Linkedin group, do you spend at least half of the time checking out other people’s discussions / news?
  • Or do you directly head to create your own discussion and to promote your own blog / news article?
  • How often do you give a good reply on blogs / news items that were relevant for your interests? Is it more than 5 out of 10 times?

I bet many of you will find yourself answering:

  • You spend less than 20% of the time checking out others.
  • Most of the times that you come to a group, you think about:
    • getting your question to be answered (give me!)
    • to get people read your message / blog / news (personal branding)
  • It’s probably less than 2 out of 10 times.

Now let me show you how I will interpret you if I would see you do this at a party

  • You come to the party and start talk / dance / drink or what ever to pull attention to you, you don’t spend a lot of time to observe the crowd.
  • You walk up to people and:
    • Ask them if they want to give / buy you a drink
    • Talk a lot about yourself and don’t really listen to their story
  • And when you do listen to someone, because he / she has an interesting story, you just leave without giving any reaction.

So do you think you’re social enough online? Who ever thinks their equally or even more social online than in the real world, then please please please give a comment. I’d love to learn how you have found the way to change this asocial habit when you’re online.

But if you’ve come to the conclusion that this asocial behavior fits your behavior online, then probably you’re like 90% of the people online. This kind of behavior is actually very common when we don’t have face-to-face contact with other people, just think of how often you or your friends change behavior once you step in the car (swearing, picking our noses, checking out other people).

Why do I choose to be more social online?
If I do not pay attention I’m the asocial guy doing all of the above. But lately I have come to understand that social media does represent the offline world. Although we do not see people face to face, we’re still talking about people who try to form communities. Understanding this I’ve changed my ways and spend more time giving other people attention online than asking them to help me. And you know what? I do get positive reactions and requests from people to connect with them. Is it worth my time? I do believe that helping others is never a waste of time. But by giving first and not asking something directly, I’m investing in an image of the guy that often gives decent answers on the web. The goal would be the reaction of people thinking ‘That’s Ha Vo again, where did I see him before?’ – being found before I was searched for.

9 responses to The essence of social media marketing – to be social!


    The simple test is a real eye-opener. I should behave better. Thanks for this opener. It saves me a lot of time. 😉 Now I do not have start a discussion but just come with some comments.


      Hi Reemer, I’m glad it helped you 🙂 I hope more people will experience the same, we can all be more social online (and also offline)

      Bye, Ha


    Great advice! I need to spend less “alone” time on FaceBook playing Fish Wrangler and more time commenting on people’s posts and stories. But FW is sooooo addictive…


    Good point Ha. Yes I tend to be different on-line as well, why? Real interaction, even influence comes from listening, understanding (connecting with)others. Guess that indeed this is the same on-line as off-line.Thanks.


    Good one, recognizable and so true: “can you buy me a drink?”


    I am not doing so bad, but I can still do better. You’re tips are eye-openers. I’ll keep them in my mind.

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