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Is Social Media More Powerful Than Face to Face Networking

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By Hector Cisneros

Most people are aware that social media shares, comments, and ratings have the biggest impact on the reputation of products and services provided by businesses today. Yet there are many who believe that social media will never replace face to face networking. I believe that most of us would agree that word of mouth is the most valuable form of advertising, right? Well, what if you could maximize your social media word of mouth by systematically using the tools that social media provides. What do you think would happen to your sales, reputation and the growth of your business? In this episode of Working the Web to Win we will explore how to use social media tools and techniques to maximize your positive word of mouth and grow your business. We will answer the questions of why this is important, how you go about building trust and credibility and how to use social equity to get more sales. We will also try and answer the question of which is the most powerful form of word of mouth marketing. So, get ready and fire up your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn engines as we explore the many ways to maximize word of mouth in social media.

In the Beginning - Back in 2007, when social media was just starting to take off, I had an online conversation with an associate who was very excited about social media. His position was that social media would soon replace face to face networking and all word of mouth would move to the web. My position was very different. I felt that social media only enhanced networking and word of mouth marketing. It was my opinion that it would never fully replace face to face word of mouth efforts because humans are highly dependent on nonverbal communications. Online communication severely limits your nonverbal message, and because of this, it is not as effective. Back then social media did not fully support video streaming and chat, so most of your message could be lost or misconstrued. On the other hand, online communications (i.e. social media) allows you to connect to a lot more people at the same time. It allows you to push out a message to many people in an instant. Some say that the ability to connect and send a message to large numbers of people makes up for the lack of nonverbal communications.
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Why Use Social Media - We all know that word of mouth is the most powerful form of advertising, right? Or is it? If face to face word of mouth is so powerful, why use social media at all? Why would a business choose to use social media word of mouth instead of going to network meetings? Well, there are many good reasons. First, going to networking meetings is time-consuming. You have significant windshield time and time spent in the meetings. Second, there is a real cost involved in being a member of any network. This includes meeting and meal fees, gas and auto maintenance and more. Third, you a have a relative limit to how many people you can meet and engage during face to face networking.

Don’t get me wrong; I am a proponent of face to face networking for word of mouth marketing. But social networking does have several benefits that elude a face to face venue. First, there is zero windshield time. There is significant screen time, but that time can be mostly productive if you manage your time properly. Second, there is little cost to social networking. You must learn how to use video streaming software and chat apps, but even these applications in most cases are free. And third, your audience potential is huge! Not only can the audience be huge, but your reach can also be all the way around the world. Your webinar could be streamed live to thousands of people. More importantly, this content marketing provides you with leverage. Even if thousands of people don’t see your streamed event live, these events are usually recorded and can be used repeatedly which is a huge time and money saver. Last, but not least, social media allows you to provide more regular touches, than face to face meetings. Most Face to Face networks only meet either weekly or monthly. Your social media network can deliver touches on a daily and even hourly basis.

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The Evolution Continues - Over the year’s social media has evolved to include video messages which allow nonverbal communication to take place. Having said that, I still believe that live face to face meetings will always be more powerful that online communications. This will be especially true when referring to small groups of people. Once trust and credibility are established, online communications can be as effective as face to face, but that trust must be built first.

Sharing is Growing - One of the things that social media has always provided is the ability of followers and friends to share their opinions and comments about your products and services. If your customers are singing your praises, you’re doing many things right. But how do you systematically get friends, followers, and customers to share their positive opinions about your business? Just as important, how do you keep a disgruntled customer from blasting you with negative comments, shares and one-star ratings? You do it by having a “Givers Gain” attitude towards your friend’s, customers and prospects. You also must systematically engage them with regular positive strokes that help them remember to share their positive comments about your business

Here are the Prerequisites - Before we get into the tools, remember these prerequisites. First off, no one ever joined a social network to be sold to. Don’t post ads in the timeline; it tends to piss people off. Second, remember the importance of providing high quality, relevance, timeliness and useful content. Remember, your success is dependent on your ability to build trust and credibility. In social media, it is your primary mission. Sales are secondary. Although you can sell using social media, it is primarily a branding mechanism. Most of your sales will come from either from referrals or from boosting posts and ads in the timeline and sidebars.

Let's look at how you use social media tools to perpetuate this positive engagement. You can post your comments in many ways to the timeline. You can share pictures, videos, podcasts, articles and a multitude of other types of content to the timeline and you can advertise, both in the timeline and on the sidebars. And you can use the built-in marketing platforms most social media networks have in place to reach billions of people.

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Organics Need Size - For organic marketing to work, you must have a large following. Without a large following, your organic message won’t reach enough people. Having 232 Facebook followers, 327 Twitters friends and 405 LinkedIn connections won’t cut it. You need to grow your audience into big numbers if you want to see dramatic results from your marketing efforts. What do I mean by large numbers? How about 5000 followers as a start. You can build your numbers in two ways, organic daily inviting or use pay per click (asking people to like your page). Today I am telling customers to use both. In Facebook, paid inviting is the fastest. Therefore, it’s important to learn how to use the built-in marketing platforms that most social networks offer. Don’t have time to learn them, outsource the management task. In most cases, it will cost you between 15 and 35 percent of your total media buy. We charge 20 percent as our management fee, and in every case so far, we have saved our clients’ money and gotten them more traffic compared to what they were doing before.

Growth is the Name of the Game - I have written many articles about how to grow your social following. Your daily mission is to invite new prospects, referral partners and influencers to follow you. To entice them, your social site must provide value-added content, that they feel is helpful to them. Writing useful, quality, timely and relevant articles on a blog site is the perfect fodder for your social sites. The same is true of videos and podcast. White papers, checklist, and other list documents can also be used as value added enticements. Check out: The Secrets to Building an Audience for Your Business and other articles listed at the end of this one for more helpful information.

It is my recommendation that your social sites (all of them) receive no less than one curated post a day and if possible one authoritative post a week. This means you must search for non-authoritative articles, videos, pictures and podcasts from other quality content producers that you will then curate and share. Your ability to share high quality, timely and relevant content is your best way to provide value added material to your social media presence. It is also this ability that will keep followers loyal. It will also (along with daily inviting) help you grow your audience.

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Now not all followers or fans are equal - People who know you, like you and trust you are more willing to help you than those who are new or just curious. Ask these people for your help. Ask them to share your message and to invite others to check you out. On top of that, it’s important that you invite and connect with influencers. These are people who have a large following in your industry and are willing to share your message with their audience. You must earn and cultivate these relationships if you want them to help you grow.

More Ways to Grow - These aren’t the only ways you can use social posts to build trust, credibility and grow your business. You can connect with fans, friends, followers, clients and prospects by providing them with engaging posts. These can include; “Thank you posts,” “Congratulation posts,” “Consoling posts,” “Happy birthday posts” and “Help or Training Posts” just to name a few. In fact, direct engagement is a great way to deal with disgruntled customers. By directly asking them “how you can help them” and then “asking them to take the issue off the timeline,” you will be able to turn an unhappy customer into a raving fan. Too often I see business people dig in their heels because they feel they are “right.” But the truth of the matter is that in almost every case, it's better to make the customer happy. Give the disgruntled customer the chance to say how you helped them by helping them. If you make them a loser, it will ensure that they will go after you in a very public and vitriolic way on every social media channel they have access to.

Now let’s talk about testimonials and ratings. If you’re not currently implementing a program that ensures your customers share positive ratings and testimonials with you, you’re making a big mistake. We help our customers develop methods and procedures that garner more consistent five-star ratings, positive rankings, and testimonials than the competitors do. We teach all of our campaign clients how to do this as part of our ongoing weekly communications brief where most other companies charge a fee to developing these testimonials. On top of that, we recycle all positive ratings, rankings, and testimonials across all their social channels.

Social Media Keeps Evolving - Social media's ability to evolve is amazing, but also frustrating at the same time. The rapid changes bring new features and benefits. But they also rearrange the functions making it hard for users to use their platforms. Early on in this article, I mentioned that social media word of mouth was handicapped because we humans rely on nonverbal communication for much of the meaning of our messages. Well, within the last few years’ social media sites have been moving more towards a video format. Most major social sites allow video posting and sharing. Many are now adopting live streaming videos and several use video chat as their primary means of communication. In fact, smartphones and many software vendors like Google (with Hangouts), Microsoft (with Skype) and Facebook have made face to face video messaging an easy to use means of word of mouth communication. Add to this the fact that anyone can buy video communications software packages like Go to Meeting, WebEx and many others and you start to see a shift from Face to Face meetings to social media networking.

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Don’t Forget to Recycle - Also, remember you can record video events and then use them over and over again! Not only can they be used in the news feed and timeline, but they can also be recycled on other social nets. These videos can be used as part of a paid marketing campaign as well. You can always boost any post in Facebook, use videos as part of your pay per click campaign in Adwords or sponsor them on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram, just to name a few.

In time, it is my belief that video chat will become as common as making a regular phone call is today. It will become the defacto way to communicate. At that time, social media word or mouth will supplant the power of face to face word of mouth.

So, what does this all mean? It means that if your company is going to take advantage of this opportunity, it’s going to have to master the use of video streaming and video chat technology. Your ability to recycle your content will give you real leverage that is almost impossible to reproduce in a Face to Face networking event (unless you stream it live on a social media network).

It is my hope that you decide to grow your social network and to use it as a means of word of mouth marketing. It is important that you take the time to learn as much as you can and understand that social media is always evolving. If you feel that it is too much trouble or time-consuming to engage in, then outsource this effort. We would be happy to bid on your needs. It can pay big dividends to your company, and the cost is far less than TV, Radio or Print.
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I have taken the liberty of listing several articles we have written that I believe will help you maximize your return on your social media word of mouth marketing efforts. Here is my short list of articles. There are more on our blog, just type social media marketing in the search box to find them. I thank you for taking the time to read this article, and it is my hope that you succeed in your social media word or mouth efforts.

That’s my opinion; I look forward to reading yours.

Social Media Word of Mouth Marketing Reading List

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In this article, we have provided insight as to what social media tools you can use and how to use them to maximize your social media word of mouth marketing. We also address the question of which is the more powerful form of word of mouth, face to face or social media. We have also listed ten articles that we feel will help the reader move towards social media word of mouth mastery.

If you feel your business could use some help with its marketing, contact us at 904-410-2091. You can also fill out the form in the sidebar of this blog; we will provide a free marketing analysis to help you get better results. If you found this article useful, please share it with friends, family, and co-workers. You can find other articles on our blog by typing in “marketing, advertising, branding or audience” in the search box at the top of this blog. Also, check out the “Blog Talk Radio, Internet, podcast, that goes with this article ” and the Show Note Page, it has, even more, links for you to check out.  If you have a useful comment or opinion related to this article, leave it in the comment section of this blog.  Also, don’t forget to plus us, on Google+ and share us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Hector Cisneros is COO and Director of Social Media Marketing at Working the Web to Win, an award-winning Internet marketing company based in Jacksonville, Florida.  He is also co-host of the weekly Internet radio show, "Working the Web to Win" on, which airs every Tuesday at 4 p.m. Eastern. Hector is a syndicated writer and published author of “60 Seconds to Success.” 

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