Ready, Set, Grow with Smart Business CEOs

On Tuesday, I had the opportunity to speak before 60 business owners at Ready, Set, Grow, an event series hosted by Smart Business Ideas magazine. It was a tough crowd, filled with business owners that wanted to know why they should waste their time with social media.

You have to feel for them.  Social media — and in particular blogging — went from buzz to mandatory in a period of six to nine months. Social media marketing flies in the face of almost every conventional marketing theory these folks were taught. Consider these questions:

  • You can’t control the message?
  • Allow negative comments? 
  • Telling them about my company’s products is not the greatest use of a blog?
  • What’s the difference between this and some egotistical kid blogging about his college days?

But as you know, these are just the rules of engagement. What corporations want are the benefits, the return on investment. So our discussion began with the measurable successes to date.

The reality is that companies are benefiting all the time from social media, from changed brand perceptions (Microsoft) to increased brick&mortar store traffic (Goodwill of Greater Washington).  Consider the almost two-year old book, Robert Scoble and Shel Israel’s inspiring Naked Conversations and the many great examples of corporate blogging successes.

Many great successes are still undiscovered. In a chat with BBF Toby Bloomberg, we both were amazed at how many unknown corporate success stories there are in social media. Really, it’s amazing. There are so many companies doing, and not talking about it in the larger blogosphere.  Consider Boeing.

How Do You Do That Social Media Thing?

Once the executives saw the results others are experiencing the dialogue quickly became how to engage intelligently. That in its own right is very tough conversation. It’s impossible to do it in a sitting.

Now Is Gone is literally the written process Livingston Communications goes through when it engages in a social media campaign.  One hundred pages cannot be boiled down to one hour. 

Instead we focused on the biggest hurdle:  Getting out of the mindset that companies can dictate the message.  Instead we focused on creating value for community and the customer.  Getting there took a half hour.

Once value became the centerpoint, we focused on sharing expertise. Give it away so that people will care about you and your company. We used examples of pseudo blogs featuring attendees businesses.

The CEOs, marketers and small business owners realized that the discussion was not about blogging, but about relating to others. You could see the lights going on, “We can do relationships.” The unspoken Golden rule was implicit in the dialogue. People were excited to talk about the problems they help customers resolve.  Who cares about those damn sales incentives anyway?!?!?!

We ended too soon.  It’s always too soon when you have a great conversation.