In today's ironic category, Nae Priest sent me an article from the AHDI Plexus publication (which I no longer get because I'm not a member). Diving into the Social Networking World strikes my funny irony bone because it's written by Lea Sims, director of communications and marketing for AHDI.
If there's something AHDI hasn't really mastered, it's social networking for business purposes and online marketing.
I'm going to ignore the social networking for personal reasons that the article covers. In my opinion, a discussion of social networking for personal use has no place in a business journal.
What's left is a useless discussion of social networking for business. And my educated guess is that it's useless because the communications and marketing director at AHDI doesn't have a really firm grasp on how to really harness the power of social networking to promote a business.
Years ago, when I was a member of AAMT, Mike DeTuri told me they have a communication problem. I replied that I didn't feel it was so much a communication problem – people just didn't listen to what they were saying. I'll never forget his snappy response: “Isn't that a communication problem?”
Let's take a look first at their use of the very popular Twitter social networking site. The AHDI Twitter account is at least complete with picture and background. In contrast, the MTIA Twitter account looks like the red-headed stepchild of the communications and marketing department, with the default background and no profile picture. At least the profile is otherwise complete! But here's why the Twitter accounts are so indicative of how AHDI communicates… they aren't using Twitter to communicate with people and build relationships – which is the very hallmark of social networking online – they are using it to talk at people. AHDI follows exactly 2 other Twitterers, and one of those is MTIA. They have 128 followers.
Twitter Followers: Having Twitter followers is essential. I looked at the Twitter account of a friend who is an author and I told her she didn't have enough followers. She said she was being selective about who she followed. I understand that – to a point. However, if you have no or few Twitter followers, you are talking to yourself – you might as well not be on Twitter at all. If you don't have followers, you are being cybersnubbed. You might not mind from a personal perspective – but you should mind from a business perspective. No business ought to be talking to nobody.
Twitter Following: If a Twitter account holder doesn't follow any/many people, they are the ones doing the cybersnubbing. They are not building relationships – they are indicating they only wish to engage in one-way communications. In other words, they want to talk at you, not with you.
Experienced people who use Twitter to promote their business know that building relationships is important. You have to actually engage other people. Otherwise, it isn't social networking. The rule of thumb is 80/20 – 80% of the time you should be engaging others and not promoting whatever it is you're there to promote and 20% of the time you can spend on self promotion. AHDI's use of Twitter is not interactive. They don't follow enough people to be listening and engaging.
And that's just Twitter. Their use of LinkedIn is so minimal, they might as well not be using it at all.
When I was at the TEPR meeting in January, I was talking to a friend who had a booth there. He was telling me about the cost of attending and how little real business he was getting from exhibiting there. I told him he could find more qualified leads at LinkedIn for free than he was getting at the conference, but he's not using LinkedIn effectively. Well, neither is the communications director at AHDI. Lea Sims has 1 – yes, that's a big, whopping ONE – connection at LinkedIn. And yet, LinkedIn is one of the oldest and largest business-oriented networking sites. By not actively engaging in this community, AHDI is missing out on a huge opportunity to network and educate.
AHDI seems to do somewhat better when it comes to Facebook; but again, it appears they are talking at people, not engaging and networking.
Social networking for business can be extremely effective, but it is networking. It requires time, effort and two-way communication. The benefits can be enormous. The number of people networking and communicating online is exploding and most social networking sites provide a free platform to tap into those markets. There are business segments that understand this, study how to tap into it – and work a plan. Others simply flop around, getting bits and parts right but they have no cohesive plan or they aren't willing/able to commit the resources to doing it right.
I acknowledge that doing it well is time consuming. However, if you aren't willing to take the time and you don't actually use social networking effectively for your business – don't put yourself out in the community as an authority and don't write articles and give webinars as though you know what you're talking about.