The recent years have seen a lot of entrepreneurs
moving to online platforms to grow their business. Specifically, by using
social media websites to establish a profile and brand for their company
online. The importance of using social networking sites has become apparent to
business owners, but unfortunately a lot of bad advice is out there on how to
grow a custom social network.
I’ve spent five years studying and participating in
social networking websites, and can tell you that most of the “new”
advice out there on social media marketing is wrong! In fact,
“experts” are having you chase around things that can have little
growth affect on your business. So what’s the key to social media success? To use
social networking websites to build and foster a community!
One of the most important justifications I’ve ever
seen behind this was with Barack Obama’s 2008 political campaign. The election
was the first to massively use social networking sites to connect with people.
No matter what your political views are, his case is a case worth studying when
trying to figure out how to launch your social networking campaign.
His campaign leaders recognized the importance of
social networking (which later polls would show was one of the key reasons he
won) early on in the election. They went out and actually hired one of
Facebook’s co-founders, Chris Hughes, to run the online portion of their
campaign. Now remember, we are dealing with a people who had millions of
advertising dollars at hand, and almost unlimited resources and technology to
reach out to people. Hughes, however, knew what Facebook (and all social
networking sites) was designed for and launched a different campaign idea.
His main focus was to build a strong social community
around Obama. He set up the main website for Obama as its own custom social
network, allowing people to register and design profiles based around the
candidate, and to invite their friends to participate. Hughes knew the
importance of viral marketing, and the importance of giving people the
controlled power to promote their thoughts and ideas (centered on the
candidate’s ideas). Hughes made sure that all of Obama’s Facebook, Twitter, pod
casts, and other social media forums reflected the same goal, to build an
online community for the offline election.
Now, Hughes did use paid advertising on Facebook, but
only after the initial community had been set up. The secret to Barack Obama’s
online success was through building an online community around his ideas and campaigns.
Hughes knew that social networking websites were designed for people to
interact in online communities, and structured Obama’s presence accordingly.
When you build a community around your business, you’re giving people the power
to do all the work for you, like in Obama’s case.
As Obama’s campaign ended, Chris Hughes came forward
with the numbers he generated for the campaign. The users on his website had
created more than 2 million profiles, partook in the planning of over 200,000
offline events, formed 35,000 separate groups, posted nearly 400,000 blogs, and
raised $30 million on 70,000 personal fund raising pages.
Instead of trying to sell to the community that is
already online looking for your product or service, you need to become a part
of that community, as the expert (or a expert) in your niche. Once you have
established a community around your business, you will be able to grow (and
sell) your business in ways that people only imagined before.