How many times have you heard a business owner say, “You know, social media sounds like a great way to advertise, but I tried Twitter and got nothing out of it?” Statements like that have many levels of faulty thinking, but the main one reminds me of a quote from Tim Ferriss’ “The 4-Hour Work Week:”

“Blaming idiots for interruptions is like blaming clowns for scaring little children. It’s in their nature. It’s what they do.”

Let me be clear – I am NOT saying business owners who express frustration with social media are idiots, scare children, or in any way, shape, or form resemble clowns (Side Note: clowns are beyond creepy and I cannot think of many things worse to compare someone to).

What the quote says to me is that certain things are made for certain purposes, and no matter how hard we try to use them in other ways, the very nature of the thing in question will always trump our efforts. Clowns are meant to terrify children (and adults). You can give them balloons to twist and horns to honk, but they will not become funny or less frightening to children. Period.

In much the same way, the various social media channels are made for certain purposes. Take Twitter for example. It was created as a way for people to communicate in brief spurts with one another. Think of a group of friends standing in a circle talking to each other. Is there any possible scenario where someone unknown to those friends bursts into the circle, suddenly blurts out “Buy this watch for $50,” and is looked at as anything but crazy and likely thrown out of the circle? But is that not what businesses in effect often do by trying to dabble in social media? Don’t they skip building relationships and go straight to “here’s my ad – buy this?”

Instead, they should take the customer persona concept and apply it to the business. What is your target business’ persona? Is it fun and humorous or serious and fact-laden? Does it have broad appeal or is it niche-focused? Whatever the case may be, think of the business or your consumer as a real person. Twitter users have no desire to talk to or hear from anything but other users on Twitter, so it is necessary to essentially turn a business/consumer into a person.

Next, the business must establish that persona. This can possibly be done by the owner or existing staff if they have a lot of free time, but more than likely help is needed to do it effectively. It takes a concerted effort and a lot of time to have enough tweets out there to be noticed, much less be established. Add to that all the testing and monitoring to ensure effectiveness, and it is quickly evident how much help is needed.

While the persona is being established, the search begins for a circle of friends. These are people to follow who share the interests of the target audience for the product or service. It is not enough to just follow people and retweet interesting things. An algorithm can do that. People do not talk to algorithms (well, clowns might, but normal people do not). The business, again, needs to be a person, and people have thoughts and share them with their circle of friends. Just because the medium is electronic doesn’t mean it has to be impersonal. Engage!

Finally, as the circle of friends and engagement with them is increased, advertisements can be effectively worked into conversations. Go back to the group of friends standing in a circle. One of those friends is a new guy, but he’s been there for a few weeks and people know a little about him. They really don’t even think of him as the new guy anymore. If one day, while the circle is discussing a common interest, he says “you know, my shop carries a product that will fix that problem for you,” would the reaction be at all like the prior example? Of course not. This is just a friend offering a solution, not a business selling them something.

So, do you want your business or your client thrown out of a circle of friends like some terrifying, creepy, covered in makeup… (sorry – I got carried away) clown, or do you want them to be a welcome addition to a circle of friends? The answer is obvious. Nobody wants to be a clown. Instead, be a person and advertise on social media the right way.

  • Identify your business’ persona
  • Establish that persona on and through social media
  • Find your “circle of friends” and engage them
  • THEN advertise to them offer solutions to their problems