5 reasons off-topic social media posts keep your business on track

Photo from msn.com

Every restaurant and bar has regulars. There’s Norm, Cliff and Dr. Frasier Crane where everybody knows your name. Homer is a regular at Moe’s Tavern. The 90210 crowd practically paid rent at the Peach Pit.

All of these regulars have two things in common — 1) The passion for their hang out of choice and 2) They rarely, if ever, talked about work or school while hanging out.

If we went to Cheers, Moe’s or The Peach Pit to meet up with someone, it would mean we were on a TV show, which would rock! But that fact aside, if we went to those three or any other real-life hang out, we would never walk right in and start talking business, throw business cards at the people we’re drinking with or invite our dinner guests to a Webinar. Face-to-face, it would never happen. But online, we lose our table manners big time.

It’s because we’re children of channels. As in, we’ve always used them to communicate our key messages and drive awareness. Screw tact. With channels, we just blurt it out and hope some people hear what we have to say. And those days aren’t gone, but we’re on the tail end. It’s time for less “hey, look at me” and more companies that are willing to build relationships online the same way they have been building them for years offline.

And the best part is, talking passions instead of pitching will do more for your business long-term. Here’s five reasons why:

  1. Trust. People do business with people they like, know and trust. And you know who people don’t trust? People that talk business all the time. Heck, I can’t even think of anyone I know who does that. People also don’t trust key messages and RSS feeds. People do trust people with whom they have something in common. Sports, arts, food, whatever. Focus on the other stuff some of the time to build better relationships.
  2. Network. It’s great to be a specialist in a certain topic or industry. But to build the most beneficial, prosperous relationships, you need to step out of your comfort zone from time to time. Off-topic passion areas are a great way to do that. For instance, if you work in PR, own your industry. But find other hobbies, communities or interests you can engage in. Who knows? Maybe you’ll have an opportunity to pair your industry and passion from a business perspective and meet more people in the process.
  3. Affinity. This is a term that can be described in a lot of different ways. But for me, affinity is the recall that marketers and advertisers always shoot for when using traditional tactics. But it’s that type of recall from social media engagement and relationships. Case in point: @thenakedrehead’s guest post at Nate Riggs‘ place yesterday, which inspired me to write this post. TNR told a story of how she was tweeting about wanting snacks  and @SwanCleaners tweeted back asking if there was one snack that rules over all. They tweeted back and forth a bit and TNR posted this recount of the conversation: “No, the conversation absolutely did not mention a thing about dry cleaning. But guess who I followed immediately? And guess who I’ll take my dry cleaning to from now on?”

    Image from nateriggs.com

  4. Sharing. You could be online with Twitter, Facebook, your blog, and “insert social network here” 24 hours a day and you still won’t find as many smart, new people as if you work through your current social connections. Plus, you’d be really tired if you never slept.  But remember, people don’t share key messages or brand announcements that often. And if they do, it’s only because they’ve gotten to know you through some other off-topic conversation and see you as a person, not an automated feed. People do share interesting, funny, relevant content. Especially when it’s from people they know or someone who they’ve heard a friend talk about or recommend.
  5. Promotion. You’ve heard the saying it’s better to give than to get, right? Well, it’s better for your social media presence and your business as well. Just promoting yourself through social media doesn’t do a whole lot. You might as well go stand outside the building you work in with a megaphone and just start yelling out what it is you’re working on in hopes that it will catch on. Might be a better use of your time. The ability to find valuable content and interesting people online (related to your business or not) is a skill. It shows off your thought leadership and your network. And best of all, it positions you and your business as a connector, which is what social media is all about — connecting and community.

Seems like common sense, doesn’t it. But for some reason when we sit down behind a computer, especially during work hours or on behalf of a brand, we let our common sense  be overcome by visions of impressions, followers and whatever other metrics our bosses might ask to see to validate the work we’re doing.

But here’s the thing. If you use social media as a broadcast channel and stay on topic, only talking in key messages and press release quotes (You know those quotes in a release no one understands that are written in a way that no one you have ever met talks?) you can rack up the exposure numbers big time. Maybe even pay for some of those numbers to make sure you make a good impression.

And when it’s all over, you’ll have a campaign that yielded amazingly large numbers, and maybe some colorful graphs and charts that highlight how many people you “reached.” You can print them off, put them in a folder and take them to your local bar or restaurant. You’ll want some reading material, because it’s likely that nobody there is going to know your name…or your screen name for that matter.

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