Last weekend I did something that some people consider brave.  I went to my 25th college reunion.  I stayed in the dorm in the picture to the left.  (To some, that was even braver.)

Few of my college friends were going.  But I went anyway.  I knew that even if I didn’t visit with friends much of the time, I would still be happy and comfortable on campus.

I also knew that it would be easy to start conversation with classmates I didn’t know because we shared a common experience and were there to celebrate that experience

In short, we came to be social.

Prior to reunion I asked a number of friends about their reunion attendance.  I had deliberated over my own attendance, and decided that reconnecting with friends, making new acquaintances, and being on that gorgeous campus were three great reasons to go.

At the same time, I understood the reactions I got from others.

“Oh…I don’t know.  Maybe the next one.”
“Few of my friends are going, so I’m not going to bother.”
“I’m in touch with everyone I’d want to see there already.”

In other words, these people did not see value in attending.  And that’s okay.  The draw wasn’t there for them.

Or…and this is where it gets a little dicey…there was something about reunion that scared them.  (Maybe it was the dorm mattresses.)

The same kind of agita that plagues alumni about reunions tortures some of my clients when I ask about social media. 

Common reactions include:

“Do I have to?”
“I guess I should because everyone else is doing it, right?”
“I don’t have time.”
“That’s for young people right?”
“I know I should be doing that, but I don’t really want to.”

Let’s put that agita to rest.

Social media are tools in your marketing toolbox.  And like any tools you would use, you should choose the ones that will get the job done.

The first thing to know is that social media is about…being social.  You use it to connect with people and be part of a community.  And much like reunions, it helps if you want to be there.  If you don’t want to be social, don’t do it.

When you are considering which social media tools to use:

  1. Have a purpose.  Social media is an investment of time (and sometimes money).  To assess your return on investment, you need to have a goal.  Here are some common purposes for using social media:
    • Staying top-of-mind with customers
    • Generating word-of-mouth referrals
    • Networking
    • Furthering professional development
    • Communicating with friends and family
    • Having a clue about what your teenager is up to
  2. Choose the tool that supports your purpose.  Your choice will be driven by the audience you want to reach.  Go where they are.  More about the common tools below.
  3. Participate.  Social media’s value is in connecting with people and to do that, you need to participate.  Participation could include posting comments, sharing photos, answering questions, or highlighting a helpful article.
  4. Think before you post.  Participating in social media is like having the stage in a public forum.  What you say and share is visible to your community and often to the public as well.  Make sure it passes the “so what?” test and reflects well on you.  Let your personality shine through, mindfully.And watch the personal information you divulge.  Announcing a week-long family vacation in advance is not a good idea – burglars can case online.

Here are a few social media tools and their strengths:

  • Facebook – Facebook has a scrapbook feel to it.  Users post thoughts and pictures, which friends can ‘like’ (give a thumbs up) or comment on.  It works well for keeping in touch with friends, family and customers, reconnecting with old friends, and generating word of mouth.  It is particularly good for small and local businesses where the interpersonal relationship with customers plays a big role.
  • LinkedIn – LinkedIn has a business focus.  Users post a profile that is like an online résumé with a picture.  It works well for networking, vetting potential employees, furthering professional development, and business-to-business marketing.
  • Twitter – Twitter is a forum where users issue tweets, messages of 140 characters or less.  It works well for staying top-of-mind, getting quick answers to a question, and keeping current (about news, favorite sports teams, politics, anything really).
  • Blog – A blog is an online journal that discusses a particular subject and is usually connected to a website.  Blogs are great for demonstrating professional expertise, driving traffic to a website, and generating dialogue with an audience.  Blogs allow you to host your own community, but you need to build it first.

If you haven’t yet taken the plunge and want to try social media, try one tool at first.  Participating diligently in one medium is better than a scattered presence in several.

And don’t let social media’s newness seduce you into giving up other forms of marketing that still work well.

E-newsletters, for example.

Just as going back to campus guaranteed that I’d find fellow classmates, an e-newsletter is guaranteed to reach your target audience somewhere that they like to be.  Their inbox!

Do you have a social media experience or reunion story to share?  Please comment below!

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