Not So Social Marketing

by Ken Mueller on February 29, 2012 · 9 comments

Face to FaceToday’s guest post is from my friend Nean Burkholder. When I saw her discussing this on Twitter I knew it would make for a perfect post here. As much as many of us talk about social media, we need to remember that it does not exist in a vacuum, but is part of the overall branding and communications of your business. We should never forget the “in person” side of our business just because we are on social media.

Everyone who knows me is aware of my social media addiction. Those who know me well know I’m trying to cut back. I’ve seen a huge discrepancy between who people are online and who they are in real life – and while that’s not a universal statement, there is enough of it to frustrate me. I could go into all the social disorders that I struggle with that make this even more difficult for me, but this is neither the time nor the place.

This is, however, the place to discuss the balance between personal and online interaction. In the interest of full disclosure and in order to put the following anecdote into context, here’s a little more about me:
  • If I have the option, I’ll choose online communication over phone conversation every time, both professionally and personally. If I need to talk to someone, I will check my chat lists before picking up the phone to actually call someone. I will choose company A over company B – even if it might cost me a little more – if A allows me to complete all of my customer service transactions through its website or email.
  • If I have the option, I’ll choose to shop online rather than go to a crowded store. I’ll shop from my comfy couch in my pjs and walk a few steps to my door to retrieve it, rather than get dressed, drive however far, wait in line to pay for it, and then have to haul it home on my own.
All of that being said, I was part of a very disturbing (in-person) conversation the other morning among people with whom I am very close. Names are, of course, changed to protect the innocent and the not-so-innocent, but I promise this is a pretty direct transcription of this conversation (to the best of my memory):
Jane: “So, I saw you’re starting your own business! That’s sounds exciting.”
Anne: “Yep.”
Me: “Wait, how’d I miss this all-important news?”
Jane: “Well, don’t you read Facebook?”
Me: “Uh…. not every word.”
Jane: “Well, I can’t believe you missed it! I’ve already ‘liked’ it.”
Me: “Okay, I’ll check it later, but what’s the deal, Anne? I want to hear all about it.”
Anne: “Just check it out on Facebook; it’s all there.”
Me: “You’re really not going to tell me? You’re sitting right here… like… in person.”
Anne’s husband: “Isn’t that what you have your little electronics for? You can just go to Facebook.”

I sat in stunned silence for a moment, which is… unusual for me. The subject of the conversation shifted to other topics, but every once in a while I’d try to ask again. No, I was never actually told what the business was. I did eventually get a name out of her, and then the fact that it’s about “stuff [she] make[s],” but that’s it.

Now, I’ve been trying to figure out exactly what my issues are with this conversation – I mean, aside from it just being a weird commentary on business in the electronic age. I tend to overreact to things and I’ve said already that I prefer online interaction. Clearly, I’m not the only one – this particular business owner obviously feels the same.

However, a business owner who doesn’t want to talk about his/her business makes me wonder if the service or product is faulty. Refusing to talk to me and sending me to Facebook… well, that’s just not entirely professional. You know what? Even though she’s very close to me and I’d like to support her business venture, I still haven’t gone to the page.

As the consumer, the choice should be mine: I like to have the option to do my business online, but I guess I expect business owners to be able to have a conversation with me personally and answer my individual questions as well. I’m more than just a number in your analytics; I’m an actual person, after all. At least, I thought so… After today, I’m not so sure.

Nean Burkholder is a stay-at-home mom and writer. She does own actual clothing and a car, but prefers to do business online to avoid hauling children around on multiple tiny errands. She can be found on most of the major social networking sites under the alias @jacksvalentine, and erratically posts poetry, flash fiction, and essays to her blog at Laughing at the Moon. Oh, and she also happens to the wife of Jeff Burkholder who produces our weekly comic, The Social Life of Frank & Linh.
Amy Peveto
Amy Peveto

I just can't imagine a business owner who isn't chomping at the bit to talk all about their business. Maybe "Anne" isn't comfortable with feeling like a salesperson, or isn't confident that the business will be a she was being hesitant.


Not that I'm excusing her. You should definitely feel comfortable talking about your business over the phone, on social media, *and* in person.


Great post Nean. Personal communication and interaction is very important. I see more and more people and businesses relying on social media as their only form of communication. It's a sad state of affairs when we can't communicate in person with our best friends. I witnessed this at a social gathering with some college friends a couple of weeks ago. One person, who is very chatty on Facebook, sat in a corner and barely spoke to anyone. The following Monday, he was posting all over Facebook about the event. 


This applies to businesses as well. Some companies are using social media as their only form of customer service. Sometimes customers have to speak to someone in person or on the phone. We all have to learn how to integrate social and human interaction. 


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