Social media enables conversation. But do you?

using social media as a broadcast medium, talking at peopleOver the last few days I have been putting together a presentation about how to drive engagement through social media.

As I looked for examples, a couple of things struck me.

First, engagement is just a trendy word for conversation, and conversation is a big word for talking. In other words, social media is about talking with people.

Second, I discovered that almost nobody was actually using social media as a means to talk with people.

By far the most common use of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social sites was simply to talk at people. Here is what I’m doing. Here is what I’m thinking. Here is what I have written. Here is some news about our latest product or service.

In other words, most companies are still using social media as a broadcast medium.

However, I did find companies that were taking the trouble to talk with their prospects and customers through social media.

– A local gym that was talking about their events, and answering people’s questions about them.

– A courier company that was collecting and sharing customer stories.

– A CEO who invited his customers to join him for a live Q&A event on Facebook. And yes, it was the CEO who was going to be there, typing in the answers.

– A kids clothing company asking people to send photos of their children in the company’s clothes.

– A hosting company using Twitter to answer simple questions about their service.

And a few more. But not many.

I probably looked at 10 or more company Twitter streams or Facebook walls to find just one good example of true engagement, or conversation.

Does this mean 90% of companies just don’t get the value of social media, or don’t know how to use it, or make it work to their best advantage?

I don’t think so. I think what is happening is that companies understand they can use social media as a broadcast medium with an investment of under an hour a day. They just schedule updates, automate tweets, recycle videos and so on.

But for a company to really and truly engage in live conversation with its prospects and customers takes a lot longer each day, and will cost a great deal more.

Through my own experience with companies and their social media programs, the problem often it’s just about the budget, it’s also about resources. In other words, they don’t have people in-house who can devote hours and hours a day to social media.

Certainly, some companies have made the leap, and have hired people to work on social media full time. But most haven’t.

Therein lies the opportunity for freelancers and consultants.

Freelancers can step in and take over the day-to-day running of a company’s social media programs, and take the time to engage prospects and customers in real conversations.

Social media adoption is at a stage right now where most companies are doing it, but they are not doing it verywell.

And that is why now is such a great time for freelancers to jump in and help them.

About the author: Nick Usborne is an online writer, copywriter, author and coach.

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