social media blurToday I was interviewed by a journalist from a large national media publication for an upcoming story on social media.  During the interview one of the questions he asked me was if I thought that it eventually becomes one big blur as more and more brands hop onto social media.

As I answered his question it really hit me that yes, it is easy to become part of the blur of any media. Social media is in some ways already becoming like traditional media.  Just as TV, Radio and Billboard ads become a big blur, so do tweets, Facebook FanPages and the million other ways you can connect via social media.

So, how do you separate yourself from the blur? How do you become more than a Facebook FanPage? How do you get your audience to visit your FanPage after the first initial visit? How do you inspire your audience to take action? How do you obtain a positive ROI? These are the questions you should be asking yourself.

Relationships = Focus

The only way you are going to come into focus out of the blur is if your audience has a reason and feels inspired to focus on you. It's your audience that will decide if you are worth the “like”, worth the second visit to your Facebook page after the initial “like”.  It is also your audience that that will determine your return on investment.  If they never take action then it could wind up to be all for nothin'! And if the only people you can get to take action is your warm market of family and friends then good luck getting a positive ROI on that one.

The key difference in social media from traditional media is the ability to connect 1:1. The ability to communicate at the human level. The ability to create and nurture real relationships.  The ability to build communities that communicate, connect and help one another grow and sustain in both life and business.  It's the relationships that are the foundation for success in social media.

Don't Forget the Point of Social Media – To Connect

Too many businesses forget or just ignore the greatest benefit of social media, which is the ability to connect 1:1.  The ability to build authentic relationships that are based on more than a billboard advertisement. Some business leaders think they are doing good if they add the Twitter or Facebook logo with words that say “Fan Us on Facebook” to their traditional mediums.   No joke, I met with a local news publication who literally thought this was progress toward social media.  The issue is when you visit the Facebook page, it's apparent there is little to no engagement.  When not done right, Facebook pages become billboards.

It is the 1:1 dialog that will inspire your audience to do more than click the like button and never come back.  It's how you inspire your audience on a visit to your blog or Facebook page that will also inspire them to click share to tell their friends about your awesome content, or subscribe to your newsletter.  Sorry folks, it's going to take more than an added boring Facebook logo with the words “like us” to inspire them to click the buy now button.

What Happens After the “Like”?

Engagement is the social currency of social media.  If your clients are not engaging with your brand by more than a “like” then your social currency is probably not making you rich.  If you are lacking engagement one good place to start is your own actions.  How are you engaging with your community? What do you do for and with your audience after they click the “like” button? What are you doing to inspire them to connect and engage with your brand for more than a one time free coupon?

This is where I see many businesses fail.  They think they are achieving success when they have a Facebook Fan Page with 150 “likers”.  Unfortunately, the truth is most of them are usually what I call the “courtesy likes”.  They are the people who “liked” your page because they know and “like” you.  The chances of them taking action that will impact your bottom line is quite small.

Have a Conversation

A fist step in keeping your audience engaged in social media can be as simple as a conversation.  The last thing you should do is leave a community of Facebook fans to fend for them themselves.  Remember, they “liked” the page hopefully because you invited them or they were organically inclined to so by good content, product or a service.  Be their leader, engage with them.  Talk to them!

I am amazed how many social network participants are not engaging with their audience. They aren't replying to comments on blogs or Facebook. They ignore Twitter mentions and conversations.  They're missing out on the DNA of social media!

A simple conversation is one of the most simple way to make your investment in social media do something for your business other than offer a billboard for you to blast noise!

10 Tips to Be More than the Blur of Social Media

1. Acknowledge social media doesn't have to be the same as traditional media. Although it is similar in some ways, don't treat it as such. Social media can offer a 1:1 relationship that starts with a conversation.  Don't miss out on the greatest benefit.

2. Do your research to understand the DNA of social media. Understand the how, why and what your business should do in social media to bring value to both your audience and your business.

3. Focus on your audience and their needs. Sorry folks, it can't be just all about you. Show some social love. Scratch some social backs. Do more than a retweet, more than a like.  Engage with them on their turf where appropriate. Talk to them. Listen for clues that will help you better connect and understand them with a focus on better serving them, not better serving your objectives. How can you inspire them? Who can you connect them with that will help grow their business. How can you help them have a better day, a better year?

4. Create an emotional connection to you and your brand. Truly connect to your audience using emotional brand marketing.  Tap into what makes them tick.  What pulls their heart strings or makes them laugh until their belly hurts? Make sure this is done in an authentic and relevant way.

5. Be authentic. The last thing you should do is be something you are not in social media. Should your mirage fall apart, it could spread faster than wildfire on the social waves.  There is only one you, be that person. Your audience will appreciate it and connect with you more intimately.  Relationships built on trust will help you endure social technology changes and keep the attention of your audience.

6.  Keep focus on your audience or they won't keep focus on you. Don't forget about them after the “like”.  Keep the conversation going. Don't just post on your Facebook page or send a Tweet when you want to sell them something or offer a coupon. Engage them in a meaningful way, consistently.

7.  Differentiate and rise above status quo. Don't follow your competitors or the neighborhood restaurant in social media.  Be yourself. Be your own brand.  If you are short on ideas, get your team together and brainstorm on ways you can do something different, something fun and compelling.

8.  Doing social media shouldn't be the objective. Don't settle for a “Facebook page” as success in social media.  Setting up your social network profiles is a good first step but you shouldn't cross off your social media checkbox of completion just because you are now on Facebook and Twitter.  Integrating your social efforts into the DNA of your business is what will bring you a positive return on investment.

9.  Don't be lazy. The words I dislike hearing more than any from business leaders are “well we don't have time to respond to comments.” That's like saying “we don't have time for our audience and customers”.  If you don't have time to engage with your audience then you shouldn't be in business. Make the time.

10. Accept that social media is where the conversation is and will be. The question is not “how will I have time for social media?” Instead think in terms of “what will I not do so that I can communicate with my customers the way they want to communicate with me?” Ignoring that you need to have a conversation via social media is like forgetting to say hello when the phone rings.

So what will you do in 2011? Will you give your audience a reason to focus on you? Or are you plans to simply “do social media” and become the blur that fuzzes their brain with tweets, twits and likes?

Engage people. Focus on your audience and give them a reason to focus on you!

See this article syndicated on Social Media Today!