Some businesses are feeling a bit left out of all this social media stuff because their customers don’t appear to be out there sparking conversations about them. Or, if they are, those conversations are so few and far between that it doesn’t really seem worth investing time and money in reaching out.

In some cases, this may, in fact, be true but I’m yet to find those cases.

Time for an abstract example!

Investment bankers probably don’t talk to their non-investment banking friends about investment banking all the time.  In fact, the subject is probably of little interest or relevance to the investment banker’s Saturday night pub crew so the conversations tend to be about other subjects.  If you specialise in selling products to investment bankers, going out and interrupting their pub time is probably not the best way to sell to them.  Alright, you might spark up a relationship and have a chat about football but if you try to get all your business that way it’s going to take a lot of time, effort and money.

So what’s going to work better than the above situation?  A party for investment bankers!  While this may sound dreadfully boring to anyone not in the investment banking world, those that are will meet up and talk shop with a bit of off topic thrown in for good measure too.

Well, in reality, it’s not that simple.  Get these guys & girls together and they probably won’t talk to each other without a little help.  You may need to (and this is where the analogy gets worse) have a few topical party games and get some people out there socialising like mad in order to start conversations.

It’s all going well, everyone’s happy, they’re loving you and your products, they’re talking about you and your products…  They’re probably going to buy more of your products too now!  YAY!

Seeing as this is working so well, why not make it a regular event?  Tell them they can bring their investment banking friends and colleagues too.  More people, relevant conversation, bums on seats, pounds in the bank.  JOB DONE!

How on earth does that relate to social media?

I’m hoping the penny dropped at least half way through that long winded analogy so that you didn’t have to read it all.  In case the penny hasn’t dropped, I’m talking about building online communities.  In the old days, we used to build web forums and chat rooms that people would come to and talk about their niche interests.  Clever businesses would set these tools up around their brand or product and engage with these communities by giving them “free” information and a place to chat.  It was quite a successful model then and guess what…  It is STILL a successful model, it’s just that we’ve become so obsessed with all this other tweeting and bleeting, we’ve forgotten about the old fashioned web community model.

These days it’s not just for geeks

The good news is that the tools for building these communities are much better and easier to use now that literally anyone can do it.  Not only that but because everyone’s already doing all the other stuff: Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin etc. it’s much easier for them to share information and tell other people about these communities.

Platforms like Drupal (and there are many other alternatives) allow you to build a one-stop shop where your community can chat, share info and even to some degree promote themselves and gain kudos within said community through activities like blogging and reviewing products or services…
YOUR products and services!

What about Twitter and all that?  Shouldn’t we be using that too?

Of course…  Do that stuff too!  You still need to do the outreach and listen for conversations in the wild but invite those guys in.  Make them a cup of tea.  Make them feel welcome.  Get the chocolate biccies out too and they’ll keep coming back!  You’ll soon notice that the conversations they are now having in the wild are about you and your wonderful hospitality!

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