I recently attended a networking event for Social Media Day in Phoenix. As far as networking events go, this was much like the others I had attended; multitudes of people shifting and moving around clutching their swag bags in one hand and perhaps a cold drink in the other. Name tags were slapped onto shirts or a dress identifying most everyone by name and/or company and the interaction was amiable. All in all it was a very nice event.
While I mingled with another co-worker we were approached by a woman who briefly introduced herself and we each did the same. She then quickly asked in a monotone fashion “So do you think a tweet has the capability to translate into a sale?” I was stunned for a moment, “Um, Uh, I…guess it depends?” While I suppose this was a normal enough question to ask at a networking event devoted to social media, I couldn’t help but notice it felt forced and inauthentic. This wasn’t really a query to drum up some juicy debate on social media or to exchange ideas and advice; it was, of course, a gateway to a quick sale. Kind of like human spam mail.
It is understandable that networking events can be a nerve-wracking experience and the litany of icebreakers out there to assist you can come across as generic, so I can understand where the question came from. You are there, many would say, to make a connection that benefits your company or career in some way. I certainly can’t blame one for resorting to such an opener to segue into a sale, but there has to be a better way. The interaction reinforced something for me though, something that emphasizes what social media and the new era of marketing is all about, that authenticity matters more than ever.
In today’s digital marketplace most consumers can detect an inauthentic campaign or sales pitch a mile away. We’ve been spammed, e-mail marketed and telemarketed to death for years now. The very best social media strategists and marketers seek to engage their customers in a conversationalist tone and create a dialogue that seeks input from the marketplace. People don’t want to be sold and they don’t want to be told what to consume, they want to be asked, intrigued and they want to strike up a conversation.