So I had mentioned to a friend of mine a few months back that I was going to start doing Reputation Management / Online Presence Management for people other than myself. I’ve pretty much peaked, heading through year #2 of being a top-10 Google result for “Bill” as well as a top-10 Google result for “Cammack”. There’s nowhere else to go. I’m bored. *yawn*
So yesterday, I’m chatting with this same friend, who’s starting a new business soon. He wants to be involved with Social Media, except he sees how much time, energy and research I put into it and he’d rather spend his time making money than doing research he’s not going to get paid for and that I already did.
As we’re chatting, I can tell that he doesn’t really “get it”, and eventually, he directly says something to the effect of “I can’t see what my benefit is in getting involved in these sites and this social stuff”. This makes sense to me, because unless you’re LIVING Social Media, you’re not going to be privy to the effects… You’ll only be able to see the “cause”….
What I mean by that in my case is that if you pay attention to my internet presence, what you will see is a lot of socializing. Socializing through IRL meetups, tweetups, pictures, videos, links posted to websites, comments made on people’s blogs, my own blog posts… *presence*. What you’re seeing is how I reach out to other people and relate to them. This.. is the “cause”.
One of the MANY, MANY “effects” is the new access and relationships I have to them and that they have to me which makes us more likely to do business with each other or pass business to each other that we’re not going to do. These relationships might not appear to the casual onlooker to be anything but people hanging out & having good times together. What happens, though, is that people get comfortable with your character as a person as well as your work ethic / dedication to your projects, and that’s worth way more than emailing a resume to some company you’d like to do work for.
I’ve been freelance for years, and I don’t work for random people. I don’t check Craig’s List and wherever else might have listings for random people that need video editing work done. I get all my work through word of mouth. People call *ME* and ask if I’m available to work on their projects, not the other way around. This is because when I get on a project, I’m ON.THE.CASE. In my entire career, I’ve “missed air” ONCE, which was something like at 4am, doing an overnight shift for Bloomberg Information Televison, and my 2-minute news package went on in the next cycle (I think 20 minutes later? 30?), instead of at the exact time it was scheduled. That was my fault, and I don’t remember why it happened, but the point is that other than that, I have like a 99.996% success rate for completing projects on deadline.
Because of that, and other things, like my overall fun and easygoing demeanor, people tend to hear of me from other people I’ve done good work for and contact me with projects. THAT is Social Media in action. My way of being is an advertisement for myself as a person and my work is an advertisement for my skill at what I do.
Similarly, Social Media opens doors for you when otherwise, you’d have to stand in line with the rest of the nameless, faceless, personality-less resumes that are laying on the potential client’s desk. Or, maybe the nameless, faceless, personality-less emails that the client receives, explaining EVERYTHING about the proficiencies of your group and NOTHING about who you are and what you’re about as people.
So, essentially, Social Media is rolling the dice, in a way… You’re putting more information out there and offering people chances to “judge” you. People overuse that term and cry about it too much, “WAAAAAAAAH… YOU’RE JUDGING MEEE! WAAAAAAAAHHHH!!! :O”, but that’s exactly what it is. People will use what you present to them to decide whether they like you or not… Whether they love you or not… Whether they want to do business with you or not… Whether they respect you or not… Whether you know what you’re talking about or not… Whether you’re current & relevant or not… Whether you can bring any ROI to their company or not… Whether they want to sit down for some brews with you or not…..
If you think you have things to bring to the table that people would enjoy and it would enhance your relationship to them or even CREATE one if you don’t have a relationship to them right now, by all means, Social Media is for you. If you don’t feel that way about yourself or you just don’t LIKE socializing or you aren’t any good at it, you might want to leave SM alone entirely or hire someone else to handle that business for you.
Another question was how could he be EFFICIENT in making Social Media connections? Well.. That requires research on WHERE people in your field or industry congregate on the internet. Is it on Facebook? Ning sites? Specific blogs? Twitter? FriendFeed? Forums? Newsgroups? Is there a Newsletter you should subscribe to? Bulletin Boards? IRC chat rooms? Meebo? Tinychat? Oovoo? Tokbox? Is there a show you should watch on YouTube or Blip.TV?…..
If you know where to look, go for it. If you don’t, then you might be better off creating a presence in as many arenas as possible and letting the chips fall. Or, you may be better off leaving Social Media out altogether, as the ends don’t justify the means, according to your company’s bottom line.
The way I see it.. As long as you’re a decent person and you’re decently good at what you do for business, socializing and networking is completely in your best interest. Especially in these times where companies are laying off entire departments, NOW is your opportunity to cultivate new clients that are looking for what it is that you do but don’t want to hire a staffer. NOW is the time to let people know what you’re bringing to the table. If you have to show them a YouTube video to do that.. fine. If you have to write a blog post or comment on someone else’s.. fine. If you have to participate in discussions or live streams or IRL conferences to get people to know who you are and what you do.. fine. The opportunity’s here right now, and there’s no telling how long the window will remain open…
I’m in an unique position because I make friends quickly & often. I’m what people call a “connector”. Every time I go somewhere, I’m introduced to new people and I try to make sure that people that I already know are cool get introduced to other people I know are cool. The system works via checks & balances. I have 286 mutual Facebook Friends with someone I know. This means that I have 286 opportunities to receive a negative review of her, and I haven’t received *ONE*. 😀
Online Presence Management puts you in position to win or lose based on your personal merits. That’s a game that I very much enjoy playing. Are there lots of pitfalls? Certainly. If you can’t see how increasing your socialization and/or networking can help your business, you might want to chat with a consultant. If they’re legit and they can’t see it either, they’ll tell you so and you can save your money for traditional advertising or stamps to mail those resumes around. 🙂 If they can see something you can’t, that might be a good opportunity for you… again, assuming they’re legit.
Social Media can take up a lot of your time, but can also produce great benefits, if utilized properly. Currency (Speed) is important. Relevance is important. Intimate Knowledge of your product or service is important. Passion is important. Accessibility is important. Redundancy is important (using the same avatar across social networks, for instance). Recognition as a thought leader or someone who tests out the new technologies is important. It all comes down to making sure that the time you spend on SM (or the money you spend, hiring someone to do it for you) works for your bottom line and is an overall benefit to you or your company.