So this last week I took a two hour block of time and read #Twitterworks by Phil Gerbyshak, Joe Sorge and Scott Baitinger. This will not be a book report on the book instead I encourage you to buy and read the book for yourself. The book has a lot of great advice and is worth the read no matter how much you think you know about using twitter for business. In my two hours I dog-eared a dozen pages to go back and reread and take notes on. However there is one theme that comes through in the book that can’t be shaken and it is the most important thing I think we sometimes forget about in social media.
That theme is human contact. I can not tell you how important that is for your followers and friends. Joe in the book talks about always putting the customer in the store first, Scott talks about hosting tweet-ups and Phil… well Phil is one of the kings of human contact. Ask him about birthdays sometime! However the lesson is clear the human contact trumps the digital every time.
I remember the time I was at AJ Bombers when Joe came up and stopped by to say hi to me. I actually responded by telling him my twitter name and his response was “I know who you are Tim”. Wow, really? Wow! Don’t get me wrong it wasn’t like starry eyed meeting a rock star or anything. OK maybe it was a little but what it really was putting a face and a voice to the message coming across social streams. It means a lot to people to have human contact. There is an entire section of the book dedicated to people who have been fans of AJ Bombers with a photo and little bit about them. That’s not fake that’s real human contact to know your fans and acknowledge them as such. I love tweeting with @AJbombers before I make a visit. Not just to warn them I’m coming but because I always get a hello and a handshake when I walk in and that means more to me than any RT I may get. It is also the reason why a group of us started the Bring AJ Bombers to Appleton facebook page to bring this human connectivity in a small business to the Fox Valley. It is the that extra piece of human contact that means so much to your followers and customers and it shouldn’t be overlooked. As a business it is great that you’ve started Tweeting, Facebooking or Pinning but now it is time to get out there and start meeting your fans.
Now that larger brands have caught on to this whole social media thing there are a lot of people asking what can small businesses do to compete against their arsenal of marketing teams and interns. My answer to that is small businesses can still be human. As a small business owner in niche geographical market you have the opportunity to connect with your customers via social media then get to know them personally by meeting them personally. A national brand will struggle to connect with their fans on the level that small business owners can in their geographical area.
One great thing we have here in the Fox Valley is our Blueberry Hill Morning breakfast every other Friday and our New North Social Media Breakfast that happens once a month. It is important that we get together to get to know one another as real people not just as usernames and Facebook accounts. The Fox Valley has a lot of events and the idea behind those events is to get out and meet the people in the area to hear what they are doing firsthand. We’ve even taken field trips as a group to Milwaukee to meet up with out favorite southern Wisconsin tweeps. It is the community building the old fashion way, in person. While I love looking down at my phone checking for updates and status, when I am at these events I sometimes forget that even have a cell phone. I actually have to go home after an event and see what I missed.
Listen, I love the inside conversations I have online and our inside jokes with close friends are the best. Though the inside jokes created in person have that extra sense of personalization that can’t be beat. I know that we all can’t always meet but here is where we need to take a lesson from our own Tommy Clifford who has made an artform out of the personal connections. Tommy does this by Skyping, finding time to connect when traveling and even via snail mail if needed. Yes, Tommy’s contact has included some of the coolest stories of birthday presents and a MeetMeMe card collecting event for a great friend, Isabel. The human connection is too important to miss out on or to let distance stand in our way.
I know our natural geeky introvert style doesn’t lend itself to getting out and talking to people but honestly you talk to these people everyday so what’s the difference if it is in real life. Get out there and start meeting. Just ask Jim Raffel and Shelby Sapusek how much fun you can have by just meeting tweeps for quick night cap while staying nearby for a business trip. That my friends is whole other story.
So let me know what you think and if you want to talk in person call me or Skype or call me. I’m always willing to be contacting in person.