(Editor’s note: Peter Shankman is the founder of HARO. He submitted this story to VentureBeat.)
When I speak at conferences catering to small businesses, I usually show up an hour before the conference starts. I check in, but don’t pick up my own badge. Instead, I scan the badges already spread out, and grab someone else’s – usually someone who runs a small business.
That’s pretty easy as most attendees at these sorts of things own small businesses and are looking for the magic bullet that will convince them that social media actually works for them – that it will actually make them money and help them sell product.
The best part is that I get to hear unfiltered information about what scares these people – what these entrepreneurs think about social media and (more often than not) why it’s useless and not worth the time.
Hearing that is important because I can tailor my speech to those specific people who don’t believe that they’re going to get anything out of what I’m saying.
In short, no CEO thinks that “cool” trumps “revenue” and neither should you. Most of these social media gurus need to go away.
Remember HARO? It was a social media company I started that generated over a million dollars a year in actual revenue, and when I sold it, I sold it on the merits of what it did – the money I made, not the tweets.
The biggest problem with Social Media is that too many people talk about it and not enough people actually use it to generate revenue. Marketing in the form of social media, and actually driving sales and generating revenue, makes you skilled in social media – not the word ‘guru’ or having a lot of Twitter followers. Believe in what works, and nothing else.
Here’re some examples of – in many different industries – of what will work for you:
For restaurants: Get to know tools like Foursquare and Facebook Places. Teach each server about them, and make sure they keep their device on the table and talk about “checking in.”
Have those servers ask their customers if they use those location based games, and if they don’t, have them trained to explain it. Consistently reward for checking in. (That goes for anyone, by the way; don’t just reward power users.) The goal is to get customers to come back, bring friends, and spend more money – it’s not about ‘being social,’ it’s about being rich.
For accountants/financial planners: If you’re an accountant or financial planner who has the most basic knowledge of social media and how it relates to your industry, then you’re not boring.
Post one or two stories per day about your industry, add a line of commentary, and you’ll get retweets. Those will get retweeted, and you’re suddenly no longer an accountant – you’re a trend-setter and a curator.
Eventually, the media starts following you, you get quoted in the paper, on TV, on the radio and online, and suddenly new people start calling you out of the blue to become new clients.
It’s not coercion – you’re simply employing common sense – something the charlatans won’t tell you actually works because it takes away from their revenue. Prove you’re an authority, and people will put their trust (and their money) in you and your business.
For Realtors: If you’re a realtor, social media is screaming for you to pay attention. What are you selling? Provide a location, an image and the chance to ‘like’ it on Facebook. You should have a digital camera with video with you at all times, so when a new property comes on the market, you can get video of the best parts of it – cool, original video.
Current family got a swingset in the back? Shoot video of the house from it –anyone with kids will appreciate it. Selling to families with school-age kids? Take the flipcam, duct-tape it to the grill of your car, and show in realtime how close the best school in the district is to the house.
It’s honest, it’s direct, and it’s realistic – the antithesis of what most people consider a Realtor to be. You’ll sell properties – and make commissions.