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Strangers with Business Cards March 24, 2009

Posted by Brian Link in Uncategorized.

So yesterday, I asked a good friend of mine, Jeff Brown of the DigitalDept (@digitaldept), for a stack of his business cards to help hand out to the various small businesses I run across in Columbus.  He’s fantastic with anything and everything to do with digital media for marketing by the way (everything including logo designs and digital branding, posters, mailers, newsletters, twitter backgrounds, high quality inexpensive business cards, you name it).

Then today, I was doing some searching for Twitter tools that help you figure out who you’re following that’s not following you, and got lost in a zillion search results about this topic and bloggers talking about strategies about who you should follow back and all kinds of discussions about your Twitter counts.  You’ve all seen it.  It’s like a big contest for people, isn’t it?  It really makes me wonder why.  I mean I understand the purile popularity contest that social media ignites in people, but for those that are treating it seriously and trying to leverage social media to grow their business and do something strategic with their marketing… why would you care?

So I ask this question: would you (and do you) trust every stranger you meet to hand out your business cards for you?  I hope your answer is no.  Your brand is something you need to value.  And while you *do* want as much exposure as you can get and are right in trying to find the right way to use social media to extend your capabilities and reach, you need to be cautious here.  There are only a few trusted friends and business partners that I would ask to hand out my business cards for me.  

So what am I getting at?  Well, why do you think most people try to accumulate followers on Twitter?  I think that *they* think that they’re increasing their ability to spread the word about whatever they’re tweeting – spreading news about their company, bragging about blog entries, sharing information they find. But random followers, meaning people you’ve not done business with or don’t know much about beyond their profile data are really just strangers, aren’t they?  And I purport that asking these strangers to retweet your messages about your company is exactly the same as asking strangers to hand out business cards.  

Now this is social media and it’s a whole new world, I realize.  And getting more exposure whether it’s through trusted partners or random @strangeguyyoujustmet can actually put your brand in front of more eyeballs in some cases.  But I’m suggesting you think about your strategy and whether this feels like giving a stack of business cards to strangers or not.  Maybe it doesn’t bother you 🙂

What do you think?


1. Dave - March 24, 2009

But I wonder how many people view a retweet as coming from a credible source? (If they don’t know that source.) It’s like if Otis the town drunk handed me a business card he found on the sidewalk, I wouldn’t look at it, much less hold Otis’s bad smell against the name on the card. So if @someguyIdontknow is someone people listen to in the first place, they’ll follow his RT reference (maybe.) If he’s a name collector, I would hope people discount him and not the original source.

.. but that’s just me.

2. Guy - March 24, 2009

I look at making a referral as an act that trades upon my good name and reputation—whether I’m trading digitally or in person. So, by extension I want qualified, smart people handing out my “card” or Re-Tweeting my messages. Over the years I’ve been recommended for jobs and meetings by people who get what I do and people who don’t. If you don’t understand the value I bring to the table, odds are you won’t refer me to a situation that’s a good fit or send my message to qualified ears. Same thinking applies to Re-Tweets and followers, I think.

3. Todd Greene - March 25, 2009

Interesting topic – something I have been thinking about too while considering all of the ways to analyze our personal social grids. As always, when considering this topic, I think it is very important to consider what the product is you are trying to sell, and what the goal of establishing the relationship is. In the cases BE Interactive Consulting and DigitalDept – in essence you are really trying to sell yourself (derived from the services you provide). However, that would not be the case for everyone who is handing out business cards or advertising online through social media … many times it is more about driving traffic – the more volume the better… and the Quality of the relationship is not as important. Anyone agree / disagree? Great topic Brian.

5. Mary Wehrle (Merrycricket) - March 29, 2009

I use twitter to get information, build relationships and as a vehicle to meeting people face to face. I try to tuck my ego in the drawer when it comes to the number of followers I have and focus on the quality of the conversation. If people think I have something informative to say, they may be inclined to follow me. I prefer to use twitter to build relationships and then use those relationships as a way for people to get to know me, which then would lead to someone like you to maybe recommend me to someone who needs my services. I do make recommendations on twitter to those I follow if they are in need of a particular service and I know someone who might be able to help them. It takes time but works better than just blasting people with “click on my junk” type messages that only serve to alienate your potential customers.

6. Julie Bohn - April 11, 2009

Great post (and comments). I would like to refer my college students to this post! I am one of those people who even believe that all Facebook posts should be screened for the “what will a future employer think in 20 years” with a very locked down profile…

9. Irving - December 27, 2009

I agree with Mary. Quantity above quality! Might take more time, but you’ll end up with a better result.

10. Irving again - December 27, 2009

I meant quality above quantity..

11. hermes kelly bag - July 6, 2010

Julie – that’s very flattering, thank you. At which college are you an instructor? I’d be happy to come in and speak – I don’t do enough of that these days. I agree with you completely. Not enough people consider the absolute public face they’re generating with all of their social media activity. There are simple ways to protect yourself (censorship being one!) I feel like social media is evolving very rapidly – and in the same way I hate that high school graduates don’t know how to balance a checkbook or use proper etiquette in writing and life… we’re going to have a huge population of young people that haven’t learned proper “netiquette” and how to behave online. Flip it around, and students can and should be learning (somewhere!) how to use their online presence to their advantage – building a brand, establishing long term relationships and gearing up for a very successful career. The advantages the Internet provides are astronomically numerous. I know a few proactive students who are far and away ahead of their peers because they’ve learned how to embrace the Internet early on in life. Email me at brian@brianlink.me or find me on twitter @blinkdaddy if I can do anything else for your students.

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