Billy No-Mates don’t do social media

In something of a break from our financial services tradition one of the Space01 team went to a meeting this week at the request of a charitable organisation. The organisation in question was the safety council of a building industry trade. The reason for the meeting was to discuss how the said organisation could use social media to promote safety in the sector to the trade, DIY enthusiasts, sundry ‘dabblers’, and the public at large.

It wasn’t a long meeting. Whilst the organisation had important and valid messages, most of which could have been spun in an interesting way, they couldn’t understand that you don’t use social channels to push messages at people. You use them to share messages and ideas with your mates.

The fact was they had no community to work with. Simply thinking you’ve got information that’s important (or even essential to some people) doesn’t mean people want to listen to it even if it is important.

Back at the ranch this prompted some interesting conversation about ‘how social is social?’ What is the journey from being strangers, through being an acquaintance, to becoming a friend? Equally importantly how do you get the people you want to become your friends to accept your friendship?

In the case of the organisation above they had just redesigned their website to make the content they felt people ‘needed’ more intuitive. The trouble was that being a ‘safety’ organisation they felt they had to ‘tell’ people stuff, rather than to engage their interest. If you’re Billy No-Mates you may be able to lecture, but you can’t do social media.

This brings us back to the word ‘push’. If you’ve got a circle of mates and somebody you don’t know tries to get inside and tell you all about themselves the word most of us would use to describe them is ‘pushy’.  We couldn’t think of a single environment where ‘pushy’ and ‘social’ go together.

If you do have mates the fact is you need to give them reasons to look forward to sharing time with you. A no-brainer perhaps, but it’s something those of us in marketing charged with generating social content can tend to overlook given the imperative of commercial messages.

If you don’t have mates how do you go about finding them? A girlfriend’s grandmother brought her up on the principle of ‘Darling, the best way to dazzle and attract men is to ask them questions – people love talking about themselves’.

Of course the real authority on the subject is Dale Carnegie, now mostly forgotten, but the man whose self-help book ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’, first published in 1937, sold 15M copies worldwide (and made him extremely wealthy into the bargain).

He believed the best way to engage with people was to arouse in that person an ‘eager want’ using principles that included:

·         Become genuinely interested in other people.

·         Remembering a person’s name is to them the most important sound in any            language.

·         Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.

·         Let the other person do a great deal of the talking.

·         Let the other person feel the idea is his or hers.

·         Talk in terms of the other person’s interest.

·         Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely.

·         Throw down a challenge.


Some ideas are timeless. The new challenge is to simply incorporate them into the digital world.

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