Viral Marketing Specialist David Meerman Scott Discusses Social Media and Networking

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Last week I shared Part 1 of my interview with David Meerman Scott. As a recap, David is the author of the number-one bestseller “The New Rules of Marketing and PR” (Wiley…published in 22 languages) and his hit new book “World Wide Rave” (Wiley). David is an internationally recognized viral marketing strategist and speaker at conferences and corporate events around the world.

Below is Part 2 about the marketing value of social networking, which I hope you will enjoy as much as I did! Next week we will conclude the series with Part 3.

David Meerman Scott: The EMSI Interview
Part 2

MF: David, I know you probably get this question all the time, but how does someone best utilize the social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter? It can be overwhelming for somebody who’s just starting or for a busy executive with little free time. With all of the different formats, group applications and constant notifications, how would you recommend they best utilize it?

DMS: Ok, I’m going to take you through my tortured analogy. I think this is a great way to explain how the tools of social networking — by the way, there’s a difference between social media and social networking. Social media defines any online content that people can participate in. So a newspaper website that allows comments is social media.

Social networks are sites that are specifically created to encourage people to network on those sites. And that includes Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and literally thousands of others. But I think those terms are often used interchangeably and they’re not really the same thing.

MF: I think many will thank you for that clarification!

DMS: The confusion is very common. So anyway, getting back to my tortured analogy. Think of the web as a city and think of each activity that happens on the web as being an analogy with what’s going on in an actual physical city.

So in a city, you’ve got the book store, which is You’ve got Main Street that has stores and shops, which are the consumer-facing websites of the web. You’ve got B2B websites, which are the office buildings. You’ve got the bulletin board when you walk into the supermarket, which is Craigslist. You’ve got the underworld of p*rn and sp*m going on both on the web and in the city, the physical city. You’ve got eBay, which is the garage sale. And so on and so on.

The social media are things like the private clubs; the bowling leagues, the golf clubs, the churches, the bars, and the pubs of the city. These are places where people meet and congregate to share like-minded interests. And just like in a real private club, you join and hang out with people who you like. If you like bowling, you join the bowling league. If you like bowling, you become interested in somebody’s bowling blog. I look at Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and all the others as the cocktail parties that are going on in the city.

So think about a cocktail party. You walk into a cocktail party, you might know a few people there, but a lot of people are strangers to you. And the way that you participate in that cocktail party, the physical cocktail party, is very similar to the way that you would behave on a social networking site like Facebook. So the question then is how do you decide if you should become involved in Facebook, and what you do.

MF: I love your analogy…thinking about it that way makes the web seem like a “real” place. So which cocktail party — social networking site — should someone get involved with??
DMS: I think it comes down to the same deciding factors you make about whether you’re going to get involved in a cocktail party. If somebody invites you to join Facebook, it’s kind of the same as if somebody’s going to invite you to come to their cocktail party. You need to make a decision. I’m really busy but Friday night I’ve got time, but what’s better, watching the Red Sox on TV or going to this cocktail party? And that’s the same point you make about joining Facebook.

For a lot of people who are looking to use the social networking sites for business you have to decide “Am I going to go to this cocktail party because I’m simply going to have fun and meet interesting people?” or “Am I going to go to this cocktail party because I’m going to do a lot of business there and maybe make some money as a result?” Some people do only one and some people do only the other, but a lot of us — me included — go to physical cocktail parties and go into social networking sites because it’s likely we’re going to do both.

We’re going to meet interesting people, have some fun, maybe make some friends, but there’s also a decent chance that we will meet somebody who might ultimately be able to help us in business in some way. If you come in with that healthy attitude, sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace and whatnot can be extremely valuable.

So the decision point becomes what cocktail party you go to. Do you want to go to the one that’s on the other side of the tracks and in a dirty sort of dungeon-like old warehouse where they’re playing house music that starts at 1 o’clock in the morning and everyone’s got black t-shirts and tattoos?

Or do you want to go to the one where everyone’s got coats and ties and speaks with clenched jaws and talks about their summer homes in the Hamptons?

These are both fine — there is nothing wrong with either of those things. The point is you need to get a sense of where the people are at that you would be interested in hanging out with. Where are they? And where are the people that I might want to do business with hanging out?

After all, a real estate agent can absolutely do business in their city by going to cocktail parties and joining the bowling league. Absolutely.

The same thing is true of these social networking sites. And by the way, the tortured analogy goes even further with Twitter, which is when you’re in a cocktail party and the girls go to the bathroom and talk about the guys and the guys stick around and talk about the girls when they’re gone!

So anything you want can fit this analogy. And I think also that what this analogy does is allow people to get a sense of the right behavior if they’ve never experienced a social networking site.

MF: I’m glad you brought that up David. Can you share with us some of the agreed-upon etiquette for the social networking world?

DMS: You know, a lot of times people who are new to social networking sites tend to behave in ways that aren’t really that well accepted when they first jump in. For example, if you have a sales background, your natural tendency in social networking sites is to sell. But can you imagine if you’re a sales guy, you go into a cocktail party, go into the middle of the room, and scream at the top of your lungs, “Buy my product?”

And some people who have an advertising background, their natural tendency is to buy advertising space. So you don’t go into a cocktail party and then paste posters onto the wall of the cocktail party room that talks about your products and services, do? Of course not!

So I think it’s just a matter of being human, wandering in, seeing who you can meet, being friends with people, being helpful, being interesting, offering to provide advice. And sooner or later, you’ll meet people, you’ll make friends, and all kinds of interesting opportunities will come your way exactly the same way as if you’re on the cocktail party circuit.

MF: Now, I want to talk a little bit about Twitter. I have had clients ask me why someone on Twitter — someone who doesn’t really know them — would even care to read tweets about them, their day or their message.

DMS: Typically what happens is there are three main ways people discover somebody else on Twitter and decide if they want to follow them. One way is if you do a Twitter search. If you do a Twitter search ( is the URL) you do a search under company name, your own name, the category of product you sell, your city and you can find people who are talking about things that are interesting to you and you can choose to follow those people.

Another way is if somebody who you follow all of a sudden is pointing to you and maybe pointing to a blog post that you wrote or one of your tweets. Then other people see this and say, “Oh, that sounds like an interesting person. I’ll try to follow them.” The third broad way is that if somebody starts to follow you, you find out who they are and follow them back. So again, in my earlier analogy, why would someone want to talk to you at a cocktail party? Because you’re interesting!

If you’re not interesting, maybe they won’t want to talk to you more than a minute. If you bore them to tears, they’re going to make the excuse that they need another drink and they’ll go away. But if you’re interesting, people will want to engage with you.

MF: Now, all of the responses can’t be positive in the social networking world. What’s the protocol when you get a negative response?

DMS: First of all, it happens a lot less frequently than a lot of people think…it’s actually quite rare. I’ve had something like 5,000 comments on my blog and probably fewer than 20 have been truly negative. Ultimately, you want to engage the person who has been negative and reply politely saying, “Gee, I’m sorry you feel that way” and go on to explain why you said what you said, and that you hope they can see your side of it. Typically, that’s enough.

But if you really get someone who’s just out of control bent on trying to hurt you, then you just disengage. Again, that’s exceedingly rare. I think that’s only happened to me one or two times. People make it out to be much, much more common than it is. Now of course, there are exceptions. If you work in the banking industry or the airline industry, maybe you’ll see it more often than not. But for most of us, it’s very, very rare.

MF: You know, that’s been my experience too. There’s a really small percentage of people who go out of their way to be rude or difficult, but most people are great! And one of the lessons you (hopefully) learn early in your life is to ignore the jerks and spend your time with the positive folks.

~~~~~ End of Part 2 ~~~~~

I certainly found David’s comments illuminating, I hope you did, too!

Click here to view the David Meerman Scott Interview, Part 1, or Part 3.

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