{BrandTalk} Everything I ever needed to know about social media I learned from my grandfather…

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We humans, especially the ones referred to as ‘consultants’ and ‘experts’ have a way of over complicating things. As soon as someone gets paid for advice, they have a way of mucking it up. It is part job security and part justification I guess, but either way it makes it hard sometimes to see the forest thru the trees.

There are currently 9 million books titled ‘how to do social media for your business’. Okay, that might be a ‘slight’ exaggeration but not by much. Seems everyone is trying to explain how to use social media to business owners. They have chapters on ‘increasing your following’ or ‘how to create engagement’. Which are all lovely topics- but it occurred to me, that we all should already KNOW THIS stuff. Business on the internet is no different than business in the old General Store.

My grandfather’s family owned a general store. And I often yearn for the days when general stores were the hub of activity for any small town. They acted as the un-official community center, allowing neighbors to come together serendipitously, interact and gain value from their time spent inside. Sound familiar? Listen up brands- it’s time you grab an apron and start running your own general store.

Meet Old Al…

When Old Al walked in on the third Thursday of the month, General Store owner knew he was going to by a pound of coffee, a box of nails for the new barn he was working on and maybe pick up some sugar for his wife’s bake sale apple pies. General Store owner KNEW this because he paid attention to Old Al’s previous visits and habits. He might not have charted Al’s info using complicated algorithms…but he still knew. Todays brands need to pay attention to their consumer visiting and engagement patterns. Study, analyze and filter every piece of data you can get your hands on. There is gold in them thar stats.

Conversation Anyone?

Remember that bell hanging off the door, to let the Store owner know who came in and who came out? That bell was almost always followed up with some kind of interaction. A welcome hello. A hearty handshake and maybe a question or two about Old Al’s new tractor. Store owner would engage in conversations that had nothing to do with selling any actual product in the store, and would show general interest in what Old Al had been spending his time one while away from the store. He tried his best to relate to Old Al, and in the end Old Al appreciated the effort so much he preferred to visit THIS general store over any other. Remember, social media is not just a ‘listening’ tool- it is a way to start conversations and yes, BE SOCIAL with our consumers. And social leads to relationships and relationships lead to loyalty.

A little bit of everything

The best part of an General Store was the fact you could pick up a sack of flour, a pair of gardening shears and maybe sit down and play a game of chess with a familiar face before grabbing a soda pop for the ride home. These stores gave wide variety in their offerings. Brands remember, the consumer is in your digital space for a reason. Maybe it is customer service,or seeking product information or maybe they came to play a game with a friend. Whatever the reason, be certain you are giving them what they want.

There are plenty more parallels to be drawn between the General Store and a brands social spaces, can you think of any you might like to add?


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