When I think about growing up in Chicago I remember people sitting on lawn chairs in their front yards greeting passersby. Often a radio would be tuned into a baseball or football game. When someone did stroll by, the lawn chair neighbor had three choices – wave hello, start a conversation, or ignore them. We have these same choices on our social media sites.
Brian Solis, author and principal analyst at Altimeter, created a presentation called The State of Social Business 2013 in which he and Altimeter founder Charlene Li, surveyed businesses and interviewed top digital analysts to learn how social business is evolving. To show how young the industry is only 19% of business social media programs have existed for more than 5 years. Nearly a quarter (22%) of the businesses have no social media team in place. The number of official social accounts for companies has decreased from 2011 to 2013 with only the number of blogs increasing slightly.
In Chicago, the lawn chair was a great way to develop ongoing dialogue and engagement with neighbors. Each day offered a new chance to listen and learn from them. These are two of the most mentioned objectives of businesses for social media according to the Altimeter survey. Providing direct support was another top objective. Think of this as offering a drink to someone walking by in 90° heat. This gesture always improved neighbor relations.
Many of us dabble in social media. But it is the lawn chair neighbor that consistently puts out his chair, who learns the most. He became a dependable social encounter and a community influencer of sorts. Some may look at it as a waste of time, but when the lawn chair neighbor went missing lots of interest and concern was generated over why. After his leave, the lawn chair neighbor understood more fully his role as a community member.
He increased his time outside and happily shared his observations. “Don’t park there the police will ticket you,” he called out to strangers. He even took some risks: “Did you vote today? The polling place is still open.” And after he built trust with the kids he offered them advice: “If you study more you might be somebody, someday.” He also learned to accept advice from passer by. He added sunscreen before sitting out on his lawn chair. And he began saying hello to everyone – even to those he knew would not say hello back. Because he had become such a steady presence in the neighborhood, we all grew to know and like him.
It doesn’t cost anything but time to put your chair out. If you stop thinking of social media as a technology solution to your marketing efforts and view it as a lawn chair, you may get better results and you will like it a lot more.