Wondering Out Loud

Social is great, but it can’t replace personal

Social media is a great way to engage with your market – we all know that – and an untold number of companies are now taking part. But I’ve been concerned that too many of the younger folk who are growing up in the world of social networking are going to fail miserably when forced to communicate face-to-face rather than Facebook-to-Facebook.

While I still believe there is reason to be concerned, I discovered – actually it was my 12 year old son – two local establishments that employ teens and young adults that are so customer-centric, I was pleasantly shocked by the way these young kids conduct themselves. What hit me hardest, though, is I never expected it because of my own perception of the culture they are immersed in. In this case, as in most, perception is not reality.

Before I elaborate, I need to provide a little background.

My 12 year old son discovered Aggressive Inline Skating (AIL) during summer vacation. If you don’t know what it is, take a few minutes to watch the video. He’s been (ice) skatingĀ  and playing hockey for several years already, but when he found AIL he fell in love. He’s not quite to the level of the guys in this video, but he’s having a hell of a good time trying to get there.

After several months of skating at the local indoor skate park, 3rd Lair, in traditional inline skates, mom and I decided to find him a used pair built for the type of skating he’s doing. Knowing nothing about them, I did as much online research as possible and went forth to find a pair. He tried ‘em and liked ‘em – just like Mikey – then we decided to get an expert opinion. The guy’s at 3rd Lair were the first stop.

They not only took the time to answer all of our questions, they also answered several questions we didn’t think to ask. Just to be clear, there’s was no profit motive at work here as 3rd Lair deals in skateboards, not skates. After giving us as much advice as they could, their last bit was a recommendation that we visit a shop called Pinewski’s.

Pinewski’s deals in skis, skateboards, knee boards, and inline. We brought our used skates to the shop hoping to learn just how good a deal Dad got on them and to find out if they were any good. For the next 30 minutes, a young man named Steve gave us a tutorial on aggressive inline skating and, in the end, we found that Dad, I, did make a good purchase, but that the bearings were a bit worn. He did recommend a replacement bearing, but also said it would be better if the lad spent a few weeks on the skates before taking on the extra speed the bearings would bring him. Here the guy could have made a sale, but recommended something that would, at best, delay us from spending or, at worst, have us buy the bearings from a shop closer to home.

Both young men were doing exactly what we try to do with social media: share our expertise, without selling, knowing that we are building credibility in the market and putting our companies in a position win future sales. I don’t know if either was conscious of the tactics they were using, but I tend to doubt because other experiences tell me it is part of the culture to coach and mentor those who have an interest in skating.

Too often, what is now called social is anything but personal. It’s nice to know there are at least a couple of places where personal comes first.

It gives me confidence that we won’t completely loose the real in favor of the digital.

June 3, 2011 Posted by | Marketing, Social Media | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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