When you put lots of energy, time, and passion — but no plan — into your social media marketing and PR campaigns, you’re a forager. And you surely won’t starve foraging. You’ll always be fed. Social media foraging does get protein in the pot, though that protein is generally more in the form of grubs than it is prime grade lean steak. As they say, “look under enough rocks and you’ll eventually find a snake” (to eat). And, growing your followership, engaging heartily and consistently, and building up your Klout and reputation means that you’ll increase your snake-finding opportunities. But what you’re really doing is setting up a system where you know where to look and under which rocks.
While this is an excellent first step, it’s very passive and generates relatively little meat for your family, while also easily being depleted as you evolve from being a lone wolf to joining a tribe, evolving into a village, a town, and a city.
There is nothing at all wrong with foraging, especially if your needs are modest and you’re only providing for yourself or your nuclear family; however, it doesn’t scale well, especially if you’re part of a larger agency or if you’re the social media marketing rep for even a small business. If your company has a sales force or a business development department, you probably should evolve past foraging.
Practically-speaking, social media foraging includes sharing content and links from content and news sites that are not your own as well as engaging in conversations that aren’t linked at all but rather share your experience, your smarts, your mastery, and your currency on a subject, be it professionally, personally, or on behalf of your brand, employer, or client.
Mind you, I guess it depends on how much your time is worth — what you’re foraging for. You can surely live very handsomely from foraging for truffles; indeed, it all comes down to the value of what you’re able to piece together and how valuable or nutritious your collected grub is.
A lot of people get stuck here because they are afraid of being perceived as selfish if they spend too much time actually promoting their own products, services, case-studies, staff, or brand — it’s a very WASPy thing to do (just say no to gauche, improper topics such as Sex, Money, Religion, Health Issues, Politics, or Family — no, no, no!) and while it can, indeed, build your reputation and probably gets you lots of retweets, likes, and attention (especially if you’re witty, funny, clever, or share witty, funny, and clever content from elsewhere), you probably won’t get anyone to “click through” to your content on your site or blog (because the only link to your site, your content, or your services are on your Twitter bio, your Facebook about page, or the professional information on your LinkedIn profile).
Foragers rarely hijack hashtags or trend-surf — those things are just not done. The messaging is all about being compelling, interesting, attractive, entertaining, and informative — one’s charm and engagement should be enough. Being present, observant, and persistent should be enough to both build one’s reputation both on social media as well as in real life.
In a perfect world, I guess most passionate social media users are foragers by nature — especially if their goal is to become popular or to really become part of an online community. In a perfect world, online engagement wouldn’t have such a strong “what’s in it for me” agenda; however, there’s a difference between being a social media maven, a social media passion-player, or a social media celebrity and being a social media marketer.
Social media marketing demands a strategy that ultimately results in an outcome that means something to a business’ bottom line, be it your own, your boss’, or your client’s — whether that’s more subscriptions to your blog or newsletter, more traffic to your corporate or product site, or channel leads and sales, being a social media marketer is not simply a popularity contest, its a contest for market share, for revenue, for brand recognition, or for leads.
Surely, a forager in the wild indeed knows what’s under every rock, what’s in every rotten stump, and what fungi are edible, poisonous, or even a truffle!
However, in order to scale, you’re going to have to drive interest beyond yourself, beyond just making ends meet. Do you want to scale? Do you need to?
Do you need to feed more than yourself and your family? Are you responsible for an entire tribe, a village, or even a town? In that case you’ll need to evolve into a social media trapper or even a social media hunter, which we’ll talk about in my next two posts.
About Chris Abraham
A pioneer in online social networks and publishing, with a natural facility for anticipating the next big thing, Chris is an Internet analyst, web strategy consultant and advisor to the industries' leading firms. He specializes in Web 2.0 technologies, including content syndication; organize search engine optimization (SEO), online reputation management (ORM), content marketing, online collaboration, blogging, and consumer generated media.