Testing the New Business Boundaries of Social Media by Gregory Pruitt

I just read on Adweek that fellow Rainmaker Gregory Pruitt died. I am saddened. To commemorate his spirit , I am re-printing one of his blogs from last year.  It addresses the basic concerns of social media as it applies to agency new business. Gregory, we will miss you.

“OK, I’m talking about Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter. I’m not including Flickr which is a picture sharing site, or Myspace which seems to have shrunk–at least for now–to a music sharing site. Who knows, either could be the last one standing. But right now, there clearly is a big three, call it FLiT.

Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter, right?

OK, so when it comes to to these platforms, what are the social conventions? What’s considered polite? What’s aggressive but tolerable? And what crosses the line? When are you being gregarious and where to you cross into boorish?

I think Twitter is all about self-promotion and almost anything goes. That said, it feels like there are a lot more people talking than listening. I have definitely enjoyed building up my followers. And I try to scan the the percolating column of Tweets on my TweetDeck. But it’s a lot; and most of it is shameless self-promotion with more volume than content. It’s a noisy channel where some standout, but many more are drowned out in a sea of others’ self- aggrandizement.

What about Linkedin and Facebook?

Unlike Facebook, Linkedin has always been about business. A place to post a CV and build a professional profile where old colleagues and potential new employers alike can check you out without having to contact you directly.

Accordingly, it should be OK, to reach out through its “back-channel” email function, right? A business channel should allow a certain degree of selling. Yes?

Maybe, maybe not.

Linkedin qualifies connections, and if you haven’t worked with/or for somebody, it doesn’t encourage direct contact. And of course people can choose whose correspondence to accept as well as reject.

Facebook shields users in a similar way. You have to be accepted before there’s a conversation beyond the initial query.

In both cases, there’s a bias towards people you used to know.

So if you’re going to introduce yourself to “someone’s friend”, your motives should at-least appear to be social and not directly work related.

This of course gets to the root of Facebook’s problem with monetization. While everybody wants to use it, nobody wants to be directly marketed to. The little ads on the side are OK. But how effective are they?

Early on, I linked this blog (business-oriented) to my Facebook account. I got some cool responses. (cool like bordering on cold). There was a fair amount of push-back, as though I was talking business at a party where you’re not supposed to talk about business. Say a church social versus a cocktail party.

I’ve since gotten rid of the link and people have warmed up again. On the other hand, I link to Twitter and that’s where most of my visitors have come from.

Net take-away: OK to self-promote on Twitter, go easy on Facebook or you’ll start getting dropped as a friend.

What about Linkedin?

Over the past year we’ve reached out to new business prospects through Linkedin. The results have been mixed. For every “tell me more”, we seem to average two “thanks, but no thanks”. And on a few occasions we’ve even gotten the automated “decline to accept” response.

So it’s OK to connect with old colleagues, but be careful about how you reach out to new prospects. People seem to consider it only a semi-public forum and don’t want to be sold to.

It gets back to the fundamental difference between old media and new media–between old ways of selling and new ways.

The old way is one message for everybody (or at least groups sorted by demographic), and not customized messages for individuals. Even if you make it personal, if your reputation hasn’t preceded you, then there’s a good chance your message will be rejected.

It’s still early days for social media. But the cultural “rules of engagement” are already being defined.

One thing is clear, while all are good places to network, it’s not clear yet which of these new platforms represent a lucrative channel for marketers.

Of course, there’s only one way to find out, and that’s to keep trying new approaches.”

Thank you, Mr. Pruitt.

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