Naomi Dunford wrote such a ridiculously awesome post on Ittybiz yesterday that I felt compelled to bring it to your attention. In it, she described a "dilemma" one of her clients has - how to capitalize on the number of Twitter/Facebook followers she has amassed. In other words, what's the point of all those followers if you can't monetize the audience. There sure are a lot of would-be social media gurus out there who give "conceptual" advice about this ("Be transparent! Help people! Join the conversation!") but little in the way of brass tacks. If you have a boatload of followers, and you are selling something, then sell that thing to those followers. Sounds easy, right? In practice, however, not so straightforward. Naomi bemoans the lack of actionable, tactical resources on how to actually do something with all those followers, and she's not wrong. It strikes me, though, that this is really just a modern manifestation of a far older business problem.
I have 3,000 followers on Twitter. I don't deserve that many, and most of them probably followed me for default, passive reasons rather than an active wish to engage with me specifically. Be that as it may, there they sit: 3,000 followers. What do I do with those followers? In my case, not much. Giving me thousands of Twitter followers would be like giving me 3,000 business cards, which would also be wasted on me.
I'm not much of a social networker, because I'm not much of a networker, period. I'm crap at it. I don't feel bad about this - I have other gifts. But I'm not the guy who works the room at conferences, or the first guy you call to make a connection with someone else. I'm no Keith Ferazzi. I'm OK with that. I know some master networkers, and I am in awe of their ability to keep names/faces/details straight and to make meaningful connections with and between so many people. I'm not that guy. This is why I will always need to either work for or work with that guy (or gal) to fully realize my potential. Many of you, I bet, are in the same boat.
I really think that, once we get past the tools, master networkers are master networkers and brilliant salespeople are brilliant salespeople, online or off. A lot of the people selling social media consulting are good with the tools, but if you are like me what you really need is help with the actual sales and/or networking. The latter skills should be high in your criteria for choosing a partner to work with online. The best thing you can do if you have a big follower list and you are not sure how to monetize it is to find someone to help - not to do so carries a tragic opportunity cost - but don't get caught up in "tool talk" when you vet potential partners. We all know a few of the real Masters Of The Rolodex out there - you know what to look for. Anyone can learn the tools.