While contemplating the progress of social media, I thought of a parallel to the 1989 classic movie, Field of Dreams starring Kevin Costner. While not a raving baseball fan, I really love the sentiment of this movie. A small-town farmer hears voices urging him to build a baseball diamond in the middle of his cornfield. Despite taunting from his neighbors and doubt from his family, he listens to the voice telling him: “If you build it, they will come.” Magically, famous players from the past appear to practice in the field and eventually crowds come from miles to watch Shoeless Joe Jackson and his teammates play a final game. Happy ending. Credits roll.
I was talking with a client about her professional services firm’s social media strategy. Her business, like many, had invested a good amount of resources into building a social media platform through Facebook, Twitter and a business blog. The results were impressive in terms of social media reach. After only a year, the efforts had attracted thousands of Facebook “likes,” Twitter followers and blog subscribers, all signs that her company’s brand was resonating with her target audience.
Like the farmer in Field of Dreams, she had dutifully answered the universal call to build a social media platform and her audience had arrived. But unlike the movie, it hadn’t yet come to conclusion for this business. She was trying to understand why her growing audience wasn’t generating leads.
She isn’t alone. What most companies create via their social media channels is a passive audience. Of course we get excited when our followers, friends and subscribers steadily increase. But liken this to the farmer merely filling his parking lot with fans. Only some are buying tickets to the big game, far fewer are engaging in long term behavior like investing in season tickets and branded merchandise. A passive audience does little for our bottom line.
Building an audience is definitely an essential element of a successful social media planner. But audience alone builds awareness, and not necessarily brand advocacy, which is how we see a return on investment.
There also is a tendency to drive behavior through influence. Influence is important, but sometimes it is generated artificially and doesn’t originate authentically from true brand advocacy. Some companies hire industry bloggers or celebrities to endorse their brand and increase numbers. As this infographic from Zuberance.com shows, influence may drive short-term behavior, but it won’t build the passion you are looking for behind your brand.
I encouraged this client to seek advocates as a key part of her audience. Advocates, such as industry influencers and like-minded colleagues, are more likely to drive actionable business. Why? Their personal audiences trust their recommendations and drive purchase decisions.
So what does my client do with her large, but passive audience? First, we celebrate her early effort at building an audience in the first place. Then, we fine-tune the strategy to identify true advocates among her social media base and loyal customers. Engaging with these individuals and organizations will place her in the conversation, sharing her thoughts and insights will further build interest and advocacy.
Professional services firms use social media differently than our consumer brand colleagues. We at Full Tilt are in the process of developing a proprietary service that specifically addresses the needs of professional services. Stay tuned on those details.
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