There are many discussions about how to leverage social media to grow your business. Some days it seems to almost blow in the wind based on the latest hot blog post of the day.

In the early days it was all about the tools.  People thought as long as you knew the tools you could grow a following.  Once you had a following you could solve world hunger and make millions at the same time!

Then it became all about content.  Content was King or  Queen.  What is it today? The Jack? It depends on how you're playing the game and what game you're playing to begin with.

As folks jump on social platforms by the millions the noise is getting louder.  The content is growing in masses. The crap is getting thicker.  Thank goodness people are getting smarter.

What use to work six months ago doesn't work today.  People are starting to question why they are doing what they do in social media.  For good reason they're questioning what a conversation really is.  What is a real friend?

Business leaders are watching those who failed in social media and thinking they will also fail.  The issue is many who did not succeed are the ones who failed to see social media for what it is. Too many to count focused on the tools,  themselves and promotion versus what they could do for someone else.  Or how they could inspire and connect with audiences versus blasting noise at them.

I recently listened to a webinar from Brian Solis as well as his keynote that kicked off the Facebook Success Summit. His words have been music to my ears.  Most important he discusses that the social currency of today is action.  He also states that it is not the content that is king anymore, it's the context which happens before and after the conversation.  It is the context that wraps the conversation.  I simply love this!

So how do we get people to action? How do we achieve real results in social media? To me it's quite simple.  It's about 2 primary things.  The first is people and the second is an integrated plan.  An integrated marketing plan that incorporates both online and offline strategies and tactics that are focused on supporting business goals and objectives.

Social media is 100% about people.  We're not going to figure out people in a day via a tool.  There will never be a perfect plan for social media.  There will never be a perfect methodology for social media.  Accept it or not, there will never be a perfect tool.

People change. People evolve.  People are dynamic.

Fact is we have officially entered the inspiration age.  People want to be inspired.  They want to connect with real people. They want to buy from you.  However, they want to feel good about buying from you.  They want to feel good about taking an action that benefits you and them.

For those of you who are familiar with my work and the tagline of our agency you know it is Inspire – Connect – Achieve.

I have received a lot of questions lately about this.  People are asking me to go deeper. They want to know how to inspire and connect.  Many want to know because they are not achieving results.  You know what I am going to say next… they are not achieving results because they are not inspiring nor connecting with their audience.

This will be the first in a series of posts to cover this process.  It will be a working set of thoughts and messages as I myself am still digging deeper into the topics.  I find it fascinating  as in reality social media functions like a living, breathing organism.  It is constantly changing. Constantly evolving.   Come along with me on these discussions. Let's talk about it. Let's get to what is real. What is at the root of what we're doing and how we can help business leaders see some green in their social media investment bottom line?

What does it mean to inspire?

Let's take a look at the definition of the term inspire.

v. in·spired, in·spir·ing, in·spires

1. To affect, guide, or arouse by divine influence.

2. To fill with enlivening or exalting emotion:

3. a. To stimulate to action; motivate: a sales force that was inspired by the prospect of a bonus.
b. To affect or touch: The falling leaves inspired her with sadness.

4. To draw forth; elicit or arouse: a teacher who inspired admiration and respect.

5. To be the cause or source of; bring about: an invention that inspired many imitations.

6. To draw in (air) by inhaling.
a. To breathe on.
b. To breathe life into.

So the words that pop out to me are affect, guide, influence, enlivening, emotion, stimulate, action, motivate and touch.  “To draw in” is also interesting as is “breathe life into”.  I guess the entire definition “inspires” me, no pun intended.

At the core of these words is influence.  It's just as Brian Solis discusses.  It's not about the noise. It's not about content only.  It's the context that wraps the conversation. It's connecting as human beings to drive conversation. Real conversation. Not noise. Conversation that inspires and enables you to connect with a person.  Not just a target market, but the people in the market.

It is time we acknowledge the art of social media.  The art of human interaction.  The art of connecting with a heart, not just the checkbook.

Are you thinking of the words that form the definition of inspiration as you execute your social media? What objective are you attempting to achieve?  If you have no plan you probably have a difficult time answering this as I think many with a plan struggle with this as well. Often time because their plans are only focused on the tools. On the followers. On the what and when instead of the how and who.

We all know it's easier to blast out retweets all day.  It's easy to blast coupons.  Noise comes easy.  Listening takes time.  Caring takes investment.  Inspiring takes all of the above.  However, my belief is that inspiration is the key to the connection which is the key to action.  Inspire to connect authentically first.  Achieve your results second.

So I challenge you to think about these words.  Really think about them.  What are you doing to inspire your audience?  What are you doing to draw them in?

What are you breathing in? What are you helping them breathe in? Give them air. Give them life.

Be the sweet orange in a world of bitter apples.

Your Turn

What does your social media plan look and smell like? Are you a noise blaster? Are you connecting authentically with a goal to inspire and connect? Are you the bitter apple or the sweet orange?