I had coffee recently with a fellow marketer I hadn’t seen in nearly a decade. It was great to catch up with him, and to talk about his career and his ambitions for a business he’s building that could use my help. As is typical with me, the conversation turned to social media – Twitter in particular – and how I’m using it for business.
HIM: “How do you keep up?”
ME: “Well, I want to keep up. These are my friends, my colleagues.”
HIM: “Really? I mean they’re just Twitter people. Random people.”
ME: “No, they’re not random. Not entirely. They’re my community, and I’d call many of them my friends.”
HIM: “Have you met any of them?”
ME: “Some of them, but not all. Still, they are my friends.”
HIM: “Hmmm. How’s that? What do you have to talk about?”
ME: “Well, it’s like with any other friendship. It depends. I talk about my kid to some, music or sports to others, and the business of PR and social media to others. Oh and food. We love to talk about food. Especially bacon.”
HIM: “What? Bacon? How’s this useful?”
ME: “Bacon? Well it’s more about food. A woman in Austin once sent me the recipe for her mother’s chicken fried steak. Can’t wait to make it.”
“But a lot of us really like bacon.”
HIM: (shaking his head) “Why talk about all of this stuff?”
ME: “Because that’s how relationships are built. How you establish trust.”
ME: “Yeah, trust. I’ve had business referrals from Twitter.”
HIM: *leaning forward* “Really? Did it materialize?”
ME: “Of course it did.”
HIM: “Why would they do that? I mean, they don’t know you.”
ME: “Because they’ve gotten to know me. Truly. And I’ve demonstrated that I’m trustworthy.”
The conversation went on for about an hour. And while I’m not certain he left convinced, I’m sure he was intrigued by what he’d learned. The truth is that I have this conversation with most people I encounter who don’t really use Twitter and other social networking tools. And oddly the part they have the hardest time with is what I consider to be the key to good social networking: the authenticity. The conversations about current events, our kids, our frustrations – and bacon – help build real relationships and ultimately trust.
Is some of this about business for me? Absolutely. What does bacon have to do with public relations and social media marketing? Nothing and everything. In business (just like in daily life) it’s important to have a little bit of fun with the people you work with. The connections we make as individuals are the ones that make business relationships truly work. And as far as the food is concerned, people have bonded over it since the beginning of time. And online, we bond over our love for bacon.
Looking at it a different way, I know very few people who like to work with individuals, companies or brands that put up an unapproachable façade. Specifically as it relates to brands: aren’t the most revered ones those that are approachable and open? Think of Southwest, Zappos, Starbucks – all of them approachable in their own way, and actively engaging using a variety of social media strategies. They don’t just broadcast advertising messages. They actively participate in their communities, are helpful, interesting, funny. And their brands have an authentic face.
I’m looking forward to the day when more brands take the “risk” (their words, not mine) and dive into using social media as a true relationship-building tool. A day when the “marketers” who are advising foolish “broadcast-only” social media strategies move on to the next shiny object or are no longer called upon to direct this sort of thing because they are only doing their clients a disservice.
I’m looking forward to the day when more brands are comfortable just talking about…bacon.