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A Unified Theory of Social Media

I was originally going to call this “Some Thoughts on Social Media,” but that’s a comparatively weak title. Unfortunately, I don’t really have a unified theory of Social Media, and what I do have may only generously be categorized as “thoughts,” but that’s certainly never stopped me before.

I just attended a great seminar hosted by Emily Carpenter and Mike Krause called “Social Media Means Business.” There were three excellent speakers (and me), and their information and the discussions we had in the schmoozing part of the seminar led me to think more organically on how Twitter, Facebook, blogging, etc. all go together to make you money. Which is pretty much the point, isn’t it?

The basic goal, of course, is that you want to become Known as an Expert, so that people will feel comfortable giving you money because you know things, or can do things, or can find people who know or can do things. The important phrase in that sentence is “feel comfortable giving you money.” Nobody hires somebody sight unseen unless it’s an emergency.

If I have a foot of water in my basement, I’m going to grab the Yellow Pages and call the plumber with the biggest ad. But if I’m adding an extension on my house, I’ll start asking around about a good, reliable plumber. I’ll start noticing ads about plumbers. I’ll start noticing billboards about plumbers. My friends will tell me about plumbers they like (and dislike). Eventually, I’ll pick one that I feel comfortable giving my money to. And the reason that I feel comfortable giving my money to that plumber is because a lot of people I trust said she’s okay.

Or say I’m interested in car insurance. I see a billboard with a lizard on it, that pretty much means nothing to me. But I see that billboard every day. Then I see other billboards like it. Then I hear a series of 10-second commercials on the radio. Then I see a bunch of 30-second commercials on television. I see lizards, I see cavemen, I see stacks of old bills with googly-eyes on them. Eventually, I get comfortable with the notion of giving Geico my money. It’s all about that comfort level.

Twitter is that billboard. Nobody buys anything based on a single billboard. But when they see that billboard time after time, when they see billboards just like it over and over again, it becomes like a little rubber hammer tap-tap-tapping on the back of your head until you Get It. There’s no big sledgehammer/anvil-drop moment; just that tap-tap-tap until you feel comfortable.

If Twitter is a billboard, then Facebook and LinkedIn are your 60-second commercials. Here you can develop your content more, and present it better. Again, you want to make sure there are enough of them to get people comfortable with you, but not so many that they get turned off.

Not to get crazy with the patafor, but that makes your blog the half-hour infomercial. This is where you shift down a gear and get serious. This is where people really get comfortable enough with you to give you money. In a blog post (and, in fact, in the whole blog over time) you can develop your ideas more clearly and establish your bona fides more precisely. This is where you get the best exposure for your ideas; where you can put the time into developing them and explaining them and getting your content just right.

But without those billboards (Twitter) and those commercials (Facebook, LinkedIn), nobody’s going to come see your infomercial (blog). Nobody’s going to get comfortable enough hearing your name to give you money. It’s the combination of all those social media (and many others), all working together, that creates in other people the knowledge that you’re an Expert on a specific topic. And that’s how they get comfortable with you, and that’s when they’re willing to give you money to be their Expert.

You have to realize that this is a long, slow slog to your goal. There’s no magic bullet here; it takes time, and it takes effort, and it takes dedication. But it works. You can become the Person People Want to Hire, but you have to work at it.

So, maybe I do have a Semi-Unified Theory of Social Media after all. No one Social Medium is going to get you anywhere. If you’re twittering without a business/monetary goal, then feel free to go back to typing with one hand, because I’m not talking to you. But if you’re looking to leverage Social Media into some form of business model (part-time or full-time), you need to be involved with multiple Social Media at once, and you need to have a clear picture of your roadmap, and how each Medium fits into that roadmap, because they work together to create that unified whole that results in cash in your pocket.

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One Response to “A Unified Theory of Social Media”

  1. Great Time Talking Social Media! on June 10th, 2009 12:56 pm

    [...] talk helped me further clarify and solidify my Unified Theory of Social Media. These are smart people, and they kept me on my toes. I came away invigorated and excited all over [...]

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