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The Real Purpose of Social Media

Published: 09/05/2011 by Dawn Billings

The Real Purpose of Social Media

by Dawn Billings, CEO and Founder of Find Success, Heart to Heart Media, The Heart Link Network, women networking at its best, and TROVA Business Networking, TROVA Business Directory, TROVA Women Business Directory.

Is it me, or does social media create it own sort of madness? I must confess, I am confused. Everyone tells me how important social media is, and that I should, (no must) understand it and set my social media goals, but I simply still don’t quite get it. I, of course have my profile on LinkedIn, everyone knows you should, but why? Everyone also tells me I must Twitter, and that I must blog. And we must not forget about Facebook.

I confess I do love to blog, but blogging would make sense, I am a writer and love to write and especially when I get to share my opinion, not that I consider myself opinionated, it is just that everyone else does. I prefer to define it as Passionate. Therefore blogging makes sense to me. But Twitter? Some great Twitter’s love it. I understand that Demi Moore and Ashton Krucher as fabulous when it comes to Twittering. I do enjoy keeping up on the people I love on Facebook, but oh my goodness, the email notifications can be completely overwhelming. So I went searching to find answers about how to best use social media in case there were more people like me, as I am sure there are, and found some great insights from Penelope Trunk.

Penelope Trunk, is a favorite blogger of mine on BNET,(CBS’s interactive network). She insists that, “You cannot have social media goals. It’s like having copy machine goals. The copy machine is a business tool, and if you need it, it’s there to help you meet one of your business goals. Treat social media the same way. The best way to understand which tools will help meet which goals is to cut through the crap that the buzz is built on. Figure out who is really using social media to meet their goals, and how they are doing it.”

LinkedIn is for not so much for building your network, as displaying it. Networking should be at the forefront of every entrepreneur’s mind. Research from the Darden School of Business shows that startups are most likely to succeed when the founder is great at networking. But LinkedIn isn’t going to help you on that front.

Networks are built on relationships, which grow from conversation and connection. Penelope does not believe LinkedIn is great for conversations. So you need to go somewhere else to build your network, and then when it’s big, display it on LinkedIn so you’ll look great. I highly recommend that if you are a women you consider attending The Heart Link Network to connect and have lovely conversations. There are over 170 networking locations in the US. Canada, and Australia. The networking functions are intimate, warm, FUN, and powerfully effective.

Twitter is an index of people with whom you might want to talk. According to Penelope, Twitter is a great index — you can search by topic to find out who is interested in what, and then talk to them about mutually interesting topics. It used to be that you’d have to suffer through endlessly boring events at conferences striking up conversation to find the people to talk to later. Twitter makes that conference drudgery superfluous; you can talk to anyone you want, by topic or specialty, super fast.

The problem with using Twitter for conversation is that you’re going to need way more than 140 characters to make a genuine connection. So Twitter is great for finding people who have similar ideas, and for keeping track of them in a high-level way.

But you still need to go elsewhere — offline or online — to solidify the relationship to the point where you would actually care about each other in the way a solid network connection does, but Twitter is a good start.

Blogs are not simply personal journals. Your blog is a record of what you’re thinking, and that record will represent you online, as a high-ranking search result when someone googles you or your company. So if you are using a blog as a diary, stop.

Use a blog as an intellectual exercise to force you into thinking in a disciplined way about things that interest you (or your company). The blogosphere is a cocktail party for the intelligentsia. Make sure you are a part of that so that you can help shape ideas as they grow. There’s no better tool for PR than wielding influence as a blogger.

CEOs from companies like Zappos and Fog Creek Software are well known for leveraging their personal blogs to create the core messages of the company brand.

Facebook help you spread information fast. My oldest son started dating, but no one considered it “official” until he changed his status on Facebook. That makes me laugh. I know people who are addicted to Facebook. I know people who post what they eat, or what they are thinking about eating. Others share inspiration and information.

So what is the real purpose of social media? This is what I was excited about learning. Social media is about being nice. The people who are best at social media are the most generous as well. I love that. I live that in my everyday life. When you use social media, give way more than you get. I believe that what you give comes back multiplied so it is one of the most selfish things you can do.

Penelope Trunk tells us “Remember that giving something that requires someone to do something for you (Download my book! Test out my free software!) is not really giving.” Ask people how you can help them. Read enough about someone to understand what they need and then surprise them.

Social media is about being interesting as a gift to the world, without expecting anything in return. You could think of social media as its own economy: Interestingness is the currency; kindness is the way that currency is transported. Okay, now I get it. Social Media is just another way to touch lives in ways that can change the direction of hearts and create a better world. I’m IN!

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Sherry Roden from Stillwater, OK - 12/18/2011 18:14:16

Great post Dawn! I teach small businesses how to use Facebook for marketing. I love the ability to continue relationships made in person online. It also allows us to meet people we may have never met in our normal day to day schedule. Social media has added another layer to our ability to connect and build relationships personally & professionally. I agree that it is hard to measure. Measuring the effectiveness is much like trying to measure word of mouth marketing. I've heard lots of success stories. Focus on helping others and you'll be thrilled with your results.