How to Explain Social Media to a Sixth Grader

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In my early days of designing websites, I once instructed a client to “open your browser” and review the mockup I’d created—to which she replied: “What’s a browser?”

Today, clients may know what a browser is, but now they type the URL in Google’s search box rather than the address bar, and wonder why it’s not taking them where they want to go …

Selling products and services that involve technology presents particular challenges, so the ability to explain the complex with simplicity is an important skill to acquire. Last week, I told you How to Explain SEO to a Sixth Grader. This week, we’ll attempt to do the same with social media.

Crossing the Chasm

The problem with the products we sell is the vast chasm between what concerns you and me, and what concerns your prospect. We care about the website we want to design; your prospect cares about what puts or keeps money in his pocket.

Crossing the chasm between the two means replacing “features and benefits” with “usage and action.” How does your customer’s customer use the platform and what action do they take as a result?

Analogies are an effective way to get your point across. Last week, I used the concept of expertise and authority to explain how SEO works. Can you draw a similar analogy with social media?

Whatever web searchers care about will eventually become part of Google’s algorithm. Or, put simpler, search engines are beginning to think more and more like human beings. So, guess what? Humans seek out reviews as part of their buying decisions; Google makes it a criterion for local search.

People turn to social media connections for buying recommendations, so Google now takes “social signals” into account. (I suppose if the majority of people consulted a psychic before making a purchase, Google would figure out how to factor that into their algorithm as well.) So how do you explain this to a less-than-tech-savvy client?

Plan What You’ll Say or Plan to Fail

I’m a big fan of creating scripts to plan out what you’ll say in common scenarios. You may not use the script word-for-word, but the act of creating one forces you to think about what you’ll say ahead of time, rather than on-the-fly. So if I were selling social to a client today, I’d use a combination of actual experience (that is, a story) and analogy:

Here’s an example of how social media can give you an edge over the competition and help you win more business. Recently, I was on the hunt for a photographer for my son’s graduation. I found two local studios with similar packages and pricing that didn’t seem too “high end.”

After looking over both websites, I didn’t get a sense of who’d be the best choice—until I noticed one of them had a Facebook page. There, I read comments from numerous people who said they did good work for a reasonable price, and that you didn’t even need an appointment. The other photographer had no Facebook page at all. Who do you suppose I contacted?

Social media is digital word-of-mouth. If Susan tells Janet about how great that photographer was, Janet’s the only person who hears her glowing review. But when Susan leaves a comment on the photographer’s Facebook page, that review becomes an advertisement for anyone who visits the Facebook page to see and read.

Image every time a customer had something good to say about you, they took out a billboard along Highway 95 for all to see.

Here’s where it gets interesting: Google and the other search engines pay attention to what consumers care about. So when web searchers began using social media in their pre-purchase research—guess what? Google started ranking businesses with social media activity above those who have none. As Google travels that digital highway and sees all those billboards about you, they’re more likely to “recommend” your business over your competition.

Does that make sense?

Now, you try.

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John TabitaJohn Tabita
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Former owner and partner of web firm Jenesis Technologies, John is currently Director of Digital Strategy at Haines Local Search, a company providing local search marketing solutions to SMBs, including print and Internet Yellow Pages, web design, and local SEO. When not working or spending time with his family, John offers great sales and marketing advice on his blog, Small Business Marketing Sucks. When not working or spending time with his family, John offers great sales and marketing advice on his blog, Small Business Marketing Sucks.

BusinessclientsfreelancefreelancingMarketingsalessellingselling your servicessmall businesssocial media
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