Spring Inspirations 2010: Jason Falls on Businesses and Social Media

It was almost 80 degrees here in Maine yesterday. I attribute this to the Spring Inspirations Series! I started this series last year and we picked it up again last week with Mack Collier on Business Blogging. This week I had the pleasure of interviewing the clever and engaging Mr. Jason Falls. Jason blogs regularly at his businesses website, Social Media Explorer, and speaks frequently at conferences educating marketers and businesses on using social media.

Here at Hall we work with our clients and community on some of the benefits of social media. We take a pretty no-nonsense approach about how social media is a new part of your marketing and communication strategy and not a magic potion. What do you see as the number one reason businesses should participate in social media?

Social media puts the consumer at the center of the marketing equation. By approaching communications with a mind for listening first, engaging your audiences in conversations, or even just watching their conversations, then addressing their needs, not that of your product, service or company, you serve/give rather than take. Think back over the last two decades. Corporate mistrust has elevated to an unconscionable level. Social media — opening channels of communications directly with your customers — keeps you out of the clouds of monolithic, faceless giants taking people’s money for profit. It makes you human. And we as humans like other humans.

I think some of the social media hype from the last few years has scared a few companies away. All pom-poms and no numbers. Do you think the social media hype is dying down? Does that mean social media is dying down?

I don’t think the hype is dying down, I think it’s being held up to better litmus tests. I don’t see companies giving up on social media, I see them demanding better performance and measures from it. What is dying down are the so-called social media gurus who have no experience or background in business or marketing but think they can advise companies because they built a successful blog or can drive a lot of traffic with their Digg account. Those folks preach about engagement, conversation and content but have no clue how to drive bottom line metrics for business. It’s the combination of the two that works. The gurus are dying off because they can’t prove their worth. Social media is still growing and strongly so because it’s how communications is shifting and because there are some smart folks out there showing companies how to participate and drive business.

You recently did a webinar ‘Dispelling the Myth of the Repeat Visitor‘ – can you briefly tell us what your research showed you about your website traffic and who is actually coming to your website?

The research I collaborated on with Chris Baggott of Compendium Blogware, corporate blogging expert Debbie Weil and social media thought leader Jay Baer analyzed the web traffic of corporate blogs. The social media purists have always said blogs are used to drive engagement, conversation and community around your brand. They think some great collection of brand ambassadors happens in the comments sections of blogs and that’s what they’re used for. What we discovered, however, is that 85% of corporate blogs get more than 80 percent of their traffic from first-time visitors (those from search engines and links from other sites). So, 80 percent of your audience isn’t your community, ambassadors or even fans. They don’t even know who you are.

What the research supports is that writing for search engines is a higher priority than writing for this “community” which is really mythical. Your blog is a search engine marketing tool. Use it as such and it can better drive your business.

Last week’s Spring Inspirations post was with Mack Collier on business blogging. How important do you think tying your social media efforts and your blog efforts together is?

I think it’s the hub of what you should be doing in social media. Blogs make you discoverable, establish thought/industry leadership, build trust over time that you can be counted on for insights and information and help you rank higher for keywords if you target them correctly. Blogs bring people into your marketing funnel. If done well, they can also move them through it to convert to a lead or a sale. Other social channels can do some or all of that, but none quite so well.

Do you have any words or advice (that you are obviously only sharing with us) on how to make social media work for your business?

Start by learning all the different things social media can do, then decide what you want it to do for your business. Having clear goals for what you want to get out of it better informs your decisions and your strategies. Without clear goals, you’ll think you’ve failed because you don’t know what you’re measuring the outcomes against.

Since this is about inspiration – who inspires you professionally? Who is just doing some really great work that makes you want to work harder too?

Lots of people inspire me. I love Chris Brogan’s humility in his work. I love Valeria Maltoni’s intellect. I love Brian Clark’s purposed prose. I love Malcolm Gladwell’s investigation of behavior. I love Shawn Morton (Nationwide Insurance) and his practical solution approach to social media.

And then, of course, I’m a guy. I have a muse that inspires me as well. 😉

Jason was very kind to take some time out of his hectic schedule to do this interview. If you want to learn more about Jason and what he is up to check out his website, Social Media Explorer.

Want to know more about Social Media for Business and Jason Falls

Check out: Social Media Explorer
Register for: Social Media Success Summit where Jason will be presenting
Watch: The archived webinar Dispelling the Myth of the Repeat Visitor
Read: Any of our blog posts on Social Media for Business
Sign up: For my webinar on Tuesday – Does Your Business Need Social Media?

See how Hall can help increase your demand.