When I was in my early twenties I had a revelation while playing paintball with my buddies. There we were, a group of inexperienced, loosely organized players, having had little practice, up against a highly skilled, well-oiled machine of a team. Yet, I managed to capture the opposing team’s flag, winning the game for my team. What an amazing thrill it was and such a sense of accomplishment.
Sitting there in the sunshine on the grass after the game, somewhat spent, I thought to myself, “How is it that our team managed to win the game.” What I realized was that, unlike my opponents, my team, a closely-knit group of friends, used to getting slaughtered, were more efficient at collaborating and communicating with each other. Although highly skilled, and superior in their ability, they seemed to play beside each other rather than with each other. They lacked that collaborative spirit and the ability to interact and communicate efficiently with each other, as a team. For them, it was more about each man acting as an independent unit, whereas for my buddies and me, it was about talking about the next move, communicating and connecting with each other.
Like winning a paintball game, success in business relies on collaboration and effective communication, be it with your client, your customer, you colleague, or your employees. And the method we use can have a profound impact on the nature of the communication and whom it reaches.
Over the past two decades I have witnessed the emergence of a whole host of new methods of communication: fax machines, mobile telephones, text messaging and, of course, the web and social media. Each offers or has offered a new and exciting way for people to connect with each other in a way that was not possible before. Each new innovation resisted or shunned, in its own way, by the generation that preceded it.
I vividly remember hearing a businessman friend of the family spitting bile about fax machines, and complaining that no one needs a fax. In his mind, you could just as easily put a document in the post. He wasn’t succumbing to the lure of a new electronic device for communicating that was now faster, bigger, and almost irresistible. I sometimes wonder if our fax-loathing friend thinks that fax machines are now almost a thing of the past.
And today a similar situation exists with social media, whose impact expands far beyond the reaches of the almost antiquated fax machine. Today’s generation of social media participants and evangelists can’t even conceive of what we all did before. At the same time though, there is a generation who can’t believe there are so many people who are willing “to waste their time with it.”
But social media is different. Fax machines, mobile phones and text messages did not come with an implied promise to revolutionize your business. The web and social media do. So ignoring the web and social media is not an option – the lure of a revolutionized business is even stronger with a communication tool that is now, faster, bigger and more far-reaching. But did this situation turn social media into a time waster?
Picture the scene: back in the mid-eighties, a businessman grudgingly buys the cheapest fax machine he possibly can. He then starts going through the phone book and tries to fax his brochure to everyone. A month later he has a massive phone bill and a broken fax machine. So why do people treat social media in the same crazy manner? Why do they race to follow/fan/connect with total strangers regardless of their interest? Why do they broadcast automated meaningless adverts?
When social media is done properly as a part of inbound marketing, a process for getting your clients to seek you out, rather than you having to hunt them down. All you have to do with social media is attract your potential clients as you do in real life situations when trying to make friends. Be friendly, thoughtful and interesting. People will be attracted to you in the same way they are in real life.
If you want to realize social media’s promise to revolution your business, it’s like winning a paintball game on your first try – communicate, but do it a collaborative and interactive way!
The Language Lab Guest Blogger: Jason Rudland is an inbound marketer and owner of Get Me In Google! a full-service inbound marketing agency, specializing in attracting website visitors and generating high quality leads.