Carla Kalogeridis
End the Disappointment by Redirecting Your Social Media Expectations

By Carla Kalogeridis

I just read an interesting blog post by Michael E. Kitces (part of an e-newsletter sent out by AM&P member Scott Oser Associates) that makes the point that social media is about prospecting, not selling. And yet, how many associations hope their Facebook page or tweets reach prospects who read the post and convert to a new member or conference exhibitor or advertiser, for example?

It’s ok to admit it…most of us have been guilty of those kinds of posts from time to time.

Kitces, who writes about financial planning strategies, actively uses social media to build his reputation and network. His point in this post is that social media is just like traditional networking in that it helps you make connections and build relationships with people who may eventually do business with you — it is not designed to actually close the deal on a new advertiser or member or conference attendee, to use examples from the association world. The advantage of social media over traditional face-to-face networking, of course, is the opportunity to scale.

Here are a few takeaways for associations from his September 28, 2015 post:

  • “Social media is no more likely to get an instant client than it would be to show up at a networking meeting, and expect someone to sign your new account paperwork on the spot.”

Associations: Don’t expect a tweet about your upcoming editorial content to result in a new advertiser tweeting back with an insertion order. And now that you recognize that’s not the point of social media — to make the sale for you — don’t write your tweets with that kind of ask. It’s a turn-off.

  • “The reality is that social media really does function more like a networking meeting or referral marketing — where the goal is not to “close” clients on the spot, but to begin to cultivate a relationship with them, so that eventually they will know, like, and trust you, and then you can have the opportunity to do business with them. In other words, social media is not about “doing business” and selling, it’s about prospecting and finding those people you might someday do business with.”

Associations: Put every post or tweet against this test by asking: “Is this post trying to sell something or is it going to build a trusting relationship with the reader by providing them something of value?”

  • “Going to a networking meeting and interacting with others is an opportunity to be known, having a follow-up lunch meeting with them is an opportunity to become liked, and doing social activities with them over time is the relationship-building path to becoming trusted…

“By contrast — or actually, not that contrasting — the path to success via social media and blogging follows the exact same route. The only difference is that getting ‘known’ isn’t about going to a networking meeting or being introduced by a referral partner — it’s content that demonstrates your expertise being Shared on Facebook, retweeted on Twitter, or discovered via a Google search. Becoming ‘liked’ is about getting that stranger to connect to you via social media (or even email), which gives them an opportunity to observe how you act, what you talk about, and what you share, to determine if you’re someone they would like. And as they become a regular follower of the content you share and create on your website to demonstrate your expertise, eventually you can become trusted.”

Associations: This is why we should be much more strategic with the content we publish to members and potential members through our social channels.

  • “From the perspective of social media, then, it’s crucial to recognize that the whole point of the process is not to ‘sell’ the client on doing business with you. It’s to get to be known, liked, and trusted enough that you can then have the opportunity to ask for their business. In other words, social media is not about selling to strangers. It’s about tools and a process for turning strangers into prospects. And then you go through a sales process to turn the prospect into a client.”

Associations: When we try to use social media as a sales mechanism, that’s when we become disenchanted with the results. It rarely works.

Kitces goes on to say, “This distinction is crucial, because it helps to clarify what is and is not appropriate in the social media context, and what the ultimate goal is (or at least, should be). Using social media to sell is not the goal; just as in the context of a networking meeting, if the first thing you do when you try to walk into a room of people you don’t know is to sell to them, before establishing a relationship with them, it won’t work. It won’t work in person, and it won’t work digitally, either.”

The bottom line, he says, is that social media is really about creating opportunities for people to “virtually” meet you (your association or association publication) so that they can get to know you and form a relationship that may eventually lead to a membership or advertising program or conference registration, etc.

When you get that firmly in mind, all of a sudden, what to write and send out through your association’s social channels becomes much more clear.

Carla Kalogeridis is editorial director of Association Media & Publishing.