The Secret Sauce of Social Media: Kindness

thank you written on the beach
You can read all the “10 Ways to Succeed at Social Media” articles you like, and strain your brain trying to memorize them all – out there in a vacuum. Or you can practice Kindness. Good graces. Honesty. Maturity. Etiquette. These are the values that separate the social media masters from those who merely use it to game the system or to further their own goals regardless of others.

Readers of this blog know I am keen on strategy rather than random approaches to social media and business. It dawned on me this past weekend that kindness best informs my approach to strategy! Sometimes the word strategy conjures up images of cold, calculating planning, one-sided advantages, and even a sort of Machiavellian approach to a goal whereby the end justifies the means. Certainly, many approach business in this way.

I prefer to have my strategy grounded in kindness and etiquette though. You might call it “Things my mom taught me about marketing strategy” or you might say it is a perfect pairing of Emily Post and Bill Benton, with a dash of Julia Child thrown in. (Old school references…)

Unlike traditional marketing, social marketing is grounded in the people as humans not numbers. Who they know, how they interact, and their ability to have an emotional experience about your brand and then share that experience with others. Real. Live. Humanity.

It is also grounded in the democratization of communication and the stripping away of hierarchical levels of power and access in that communication. Yes, everyone has an opinion and can share it publicly.

The secret ingredient that makes social marketing successful IMO is the kindness factor. It was drilled into me as etiquette growing up, but being a people person by nature, I have embraced it as not just “the right thing to do,” but something that feels good and that gets results.

dania katz, of edible hawaiian islands magazineMy friend and colleague, Dania Katz, of Edible Hawaiian Islands, has become a rockstar on Twitter – not because she is geeky – she is not especially. What she does so well is combine her savvy business skills (yes, there are tips behind the scenes that are teachable) with her deeply embedded sense of etiquette and kindness. She has an extraordinary rolodex and she connects others to each other. This is powerful! She is a one-woman economic development department on Twitter. Great sales people understand this part of sharing their network.

photo of liza pierce, blogger at A Maui BlogAnother example is my friend and colleague Liza Pierce. She runs Maui’s most popular blog, A Maui Blog. Every day on Facebook she is sharing other people’s photos, giving praise for accomplishments, shining the power of her light on others. The power of her light. With a large network, when Liza talks, people listen. We can sometimes forget about that. One of the greatest gifts we have to offer is attention, especially in this Attention Economy.

photo of frank robinson of island events, luxury Hawaii destination management companyI also learn from and admire Frank Robinson, of Island Events, a Hawaii luxury destination management company, who is a friend and also a client. You might say kindness and etiquette are “de rigeur” for his business. Frank excels because K&E come naturally to him. He is not shy about making sure standards are met though – and he knows how to get results! I am learning from Frank how to not to confuse kindess with avoidance of accountability.

It makes such perfect sense. If social marketing is about the people, then creating genuine connections with people that feel good to all who are engaged is the way to hop on the “rising tide floats all boats” phenomenon.

Kindness is also about the energy, not a superficial set of social behaviors. People can feel the difference. You can feel the difference, right? It’s the difference between someone who robotically retweets your link and someone who stops to read and comment on it. (Sidebar: Another reason not to use in the browser as it forces un-editable retweets!)

So for today, social media success boils down to kindness. Treating others in a way that shows them, you respect them (and their time in this busy world!), that you hear them, that you appreciate what they bring to the conversation – even if and especially if they disagree or have a different perspective. This last part is challenging for some of us, when it is coming at us, not from us. I know I am continually working on thickening my skin a little – to help me become a better listener.

My first thought was this applies more to small businesses, who by definition are closer to their customers than large enterprises. But I instantly remembered Frank Eliason, who created the @ComcastCares account on Twitter way back on 2007. He started it to help people. Real people, one at a time. It grew into a completely revised customer support department at Comcast and set a new standard for customer service.

So this is the positive side of this discussion. What do you do when there is heated conflict, hurt feelings, or bad information being put out? Well, that is when our talk has to go for a walk! More on that in my next entry. Meanwhile, I’d like to hear what is your social media secret sauce? I know – it’s secret – but socmed is also about sharing!