I firmly believe that too many people are missing the point of social networking. Lead generation is not what social networking is about, it’s a byproduct. If you volunteer at a soup kitchen, you wear your Realtor name badge, you mash the potatoes, you hold the door open, you help the disabled find their seat, you talk to fellow volunteers, you mingle with the needy, you wipe down tables, you clean dishes, you stack chairs and turn off lights. Can you generate business from your time at a soup kitchen? Sure. Should you serve at a soup kitchen with the intent of generating leads? (…this is a rhetorical question…)
Getting online to use social networking is so much more than lead generation.
Through social networking, we vetted dozens of applicants for the Community Manager role here at AG, we have access to the press in several major metro areas (and are contacted by the press in this reciprocal relationship), we connected with several people we refer business to or partner with ranging from graphic designers, web developers, and copywriters, we’ve formed several organizations locally and nationally to further non profits, technology and real estate improvement, we’ve gotten to know people we now call some of our closest friends, we’ve maintained a direct line with C-suite leadership in major corporations in a very personal way, we found our dog groomer via social networking, we’ve tried buffalo burgers and learned recipes and actually improved our diet, we’ve learned a lot about political campaigns and raised our general awareness, we’ve learned new technology and marketing tips as well as shared our own, we used social networking to organize a blood drive and a candle light vigil when the plane crashed into the Austin IRS building, we’ve helped unemployed friends get jobs, we’ve brought an orphanage in Kenya online and raised their donations by 300%, we have coped and help others cope with the loss of a child and a near loss of spouse and parent, we’ve laughed about kitties and bonded with new friends over stupid humor, we’ve advocated for the homeless, done blanket drives… shall I continue?
Note that nowhere above did I say “generate leads.”
Don’t get me wrong, the leads are there and although the sources of leads between Benn and myself vary, Twitter alone accounts for 90% of leads that have come my way between 2008 to 2010. My bio says what I do and what my intention is and I talk about what happens behind the scenes in what I do, but my social stream does not. Similarly, one of my friends is a copywriter and she tweets funny things but doesn’t say “hire me, hire me, hire me.”
If you can’t look beyond yourself and you can’t get past your self interests, social networking is not for you. If you’re a high volume producer and your plate is so full that you can’t devote time to the social networking community or a soup kitchen, social networking is not for you. If you can’t go to the store and simply shop, smile and converse with the bagger without stopping everyone in every aisle to hand them your card, social networking is not for you.
If the list above of how we use social networking sounds stupid, social networking is not for you. The POINT of social networking is to be social and to be part of a community. If that’s not natural to you, you’re an abrasive personality and everyone’s a lead, then please, I beg you, stick to what you are already succeeding with and ignore the conference junkies. Do what works for you and skip the rest. It’s not complicated.