Before Facebook, there was… face.

An “online sale” meant you had to stand on line before you could buy something.

The bells on the shop door jingled when it closed behind you, and you made eye contact with Sam the butcher standing behind the counter (think… Brady Bunch).  You smiled, he smiled, and even though he already knew that you likely wanted “the usual,” he asked anyway.

You probably were on a first name basis, and you definitely knew each other by sight.  Maybe your kids were in the same school.

You weren’t best friends, but you trusted him to have good products and you believed him when he told you what you needed for your big weekend get-together.  He was right, too.

He could be a little gruff sometimes, but he was the best butcher in town.  You wouldn’t invite him over to your house – and he wouldn’t have you over to his – but you had a trusted relationship under the roof of that shop.

That trust enabled you to give him your money and feel good about doing it.

There’s a lot to learn about social media from those interactions

Since day 1 of my business, the “old time butcher shop” was my model for how I wanted to interact with customers, and I’ve worked hard at building that level of authenticity and trust.

It’s a lot easier to do that now than when I first started my company in 2000 to sell multi-pocketed clothing online.  Youtube makes it easier.  Twitter makes it easier.  Facebook makes it easier.

The Dark Ages of social interaction

There was a bit of a “dark age” in the early 2000s when impersonal, faceless email was the main way for people to connect, and I think that grew tiresome.  People felt disconnected from each other – there were no “online old-timey butchers” – and it created a craving in people to connect again, but this time through technology.

The advent of more personal social media platforms was a natural correction of the hollow, faceless interactions people were experiencing by default.  The proliferation of high-speed internet enabled that shift.

Now, I feel like the tools have caught up with our desires for meaningful social interaction, and we can be personal again using technology.  Facebook in particular has allowed us to emphasize that “face time” once more.

Those CEOs and brands who succeed at social media are the ones who embrace the face, and participate in online social interactions that are real, transparent and uniquely theirs.

It takes time to “get it”

Perhaps people of the future will be born with a social media gene, but even for someone as extroverted as I am, my initial attempts at using social media were all wrong.

When I first started, I talked AT people.  I used Facebook as a soapbox, and I never stopped in between words, sentences, paragraphs or books of content to just… listen.  To be blunt, I didn’t think that anyone who had the time to follow me on Facebook could possibly have anything interesting to bring to the conversation.  I was so wrong.

During this whole period of time – years, in fact – I was just playing with social media.  I wasn’t actually participating.  I was one of the countless, clueless business owner/CEOs who missed the point.

But I get it now.

It happened in a flash.  I woke up one day and decided to have authentic interactions online.  I wanted a relationship, and not another soapbox.  I wanted a conversation.

In that instant, everything changed.  I stopped looking for sales and stopped thinking of social media as a way to disperse propaganda, and I started to think of it as relationship building.  I went back to the butcher shop, and started interacting with people like real people.

Very quickly, I understood the more you put into it, the more you get out of it… but that’s not measured in sales or conversion rates.  It’s more nebulous than that, and yet more important.  It’s a way to practice and to share your authentic self, not the watered down, corporate-friendly version of me.

Before coming to work at my company, I insist that job candidates follow me on Facebook so they get a real sense of who I am, what matters to me, and what it’s like to work with me.  Employees, too.  Because I am authentic on social media, they see the real me.  If they don’t like what they see, it won’t get any better – or different – in person, so social media is an important part of candidate screening atSCOTTeVEST.

Are you reading that from… cue cards?

The lack of authenticity and transparency in social media is where I think most CEOs – and most companies – fall short when connecting with their customers.

We’ve all seen many companies on Facebook whose interactions feel very “corporate.”  There is clearly a filter between the real person or the real vibe of the organization and what actually sees the light of day through social media posts.

I have no filter… and yes, sometimes that’s a problem (for other people… I’m fine with it).

It’s clear that I’m not reading from a script… even when my life seems like a reality TV show.

If you’re not going to be “off script” and say original thoughts that come into your head, then you’re not really participating in social media… you’re just using social media tools in ways they were not intended, and ultimately, it’s going to be less effective than if you were “real.”  Everyone who has ever had a face-to-face conversation is capable of being real on social media.

Real interactions unlock surreal opportunities

When you use social media as a tool to share your authentic self, unimaginable things can happen.  Case in point…

A few months ago, I found myself in Santa Cruz, CA with someone else’s car keys in my pocket.  The car and person they belong to were in San Francisco, about 100 miles away.  As you might imagine, he was eager to get his only set of keys back so he could, you know, drive his car.

I couldn’t run back immediately to bring him his keys because of a meeting I had scheduled, and overnighting them isn’t really fast enough when someone is stranded.  So I posted my lament to Facebook.

To my surprise, three people near Santa Cruz responded that they were heading up that way, and that they could meet me and bring the keys with them.  A fourth person happened to be driving by, saw and recognized me, and shouted out, “Hey Scott!”  He was also a Facebook follower, and he wound up handling the key hand-off.

None of this… none of these interactions, none of these random meetings, none of these surreal situations could have been possible without an authentic presence on social media.

Period.

Social media is self-correcting

When I go too far, or step out of line, my audience knows that their reaction is heard… by me.  If I apologize for something… it’s real because it’s from me.  When I say something they LOVE… they tell me directly.  Praise or blame, the interaction is real.

A real apology for a real post gone awry.

To be real is risky, but the risks pay off.  When you are yourself on social media, you draw the line.  That’s part of who you are and how you are perceived.

I thought that I wanted to be on a reality show, and social media can be like a reality show… but less scripted.  The risk is that things can get a little too real, but the payoff is proportionate to the risk.

To make it clear: I don’t spend half my day on Facebook.  I don’t even spend 10% of my day there.  But when I am on social media, I am engaged.

This is where rabid fan loyalty comes from.  This is why Sam the butcher’s shop is celebrating their 50th year in business even after the big supermarket chains came into town with lower prices.  Some people will always buy on price… some people need to (and should).

But those aren’t my loyal customers.  I’m on social media for the people who want to interact with me.

My customers are the ones that enjoy the products AND the connection.  My customers are the ones who sense the pride I have in my products and business, and that makes the experience… more.  More compelling, more personal, more everything.

As a CEO or business owner, if you can’t be authentic on social media, just don’t use it.  If you want to do it right, be authentic and personal, otherwise it’ll backfire.  If you task an employee to run your company’s social media program, empower them to be authentic, too.

Social media isn’t something new.  It’s a new technology that unlocks (once again) a type of interaction we let slip for a few years.

If you want to succeed as a business owner, CEO or brand on social media, think of it as a direct, in-person interaction with your audience.  Whether you realize that or not, it’s true.  Embrace it or be another voice drowned out by the crowd.

If you are a CEO or business owner, win at Facebook by treating it like real face time.

If you want to learn more or just enjoy my “reality show,” follow me on Facebook.

Are you a business owner who participates directly in social media?  Comment below and follow me (top of this page) to see future posts.  For even more stories about my approach to business, check out my top-rated book, Pocket Man.

ABOUT SCOTT JORDAN and SCOTTeVEST

Scott Jordan is the CEO and Founder of SCOTTeVEST, which creates multi-pocket clothing designed to carry electronics. He is the author of Pocket Man: The Unauthorized Autobiography of a Passionate, Personal Promoter.

Read a sample of Scott’s book for more about his experience on Shark Tank and the pocket empire he has built.

Interested in working at SCOTTeVEST? The team is growing and there are several openings available for motivated candidates.  Be sure to send a thank you note!

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