September 07, 2010
For many fellow authors, social media is a way to sell books, a marketing platform. Same goes for many companies: It's just another sales channel. This is a shallow way to think of this opportunity.
Over the last few months, via a Facebook page, I've been sharing ideas from my next book (Today We Are Rich). In several instances, I asked my followers to pipe in on a topic or share a story. A remarkable number have eagerly participated and added tremendous info-value to my book. I've received stories, links to articles and statistics through my following. For writers, Help A Reporter Out has also offered similar services - although not to friends and colleagues.
Companies can/must do the same thing. Build up a followership by being helpful and interactive. Ask questions that honor the follower. Do something useful with the information. Keep on giving and make sure your questions are few and far between - otherwise, you might become a question-spammer that just wants to create network activity (likes, comments, mentions, etc.)
You'll also find your following happy to recommend local services, product reviews etc., in you day to day operations. In most cases, they'll be better than anything you can find on Craiglist, 800-Dentist or the Yellow Pages (remember them?). For some people, your social media network will replace Google as a way you source services, products and high level information. That's what Mark Z's vision of Facebook is: A Search Killer. Ask your friends, and they'll give you better answers than you'll find on the Wild Wide Web.
One last idea: Make sure you contribute information to the network too. When one of your friends or followers asks for help, jump in with useful insight. It's like Amazon, Yelp or any other collaborative platform - we have to feed the system to be able to get nourishment from it over time.