Ian Greenleigh (@be3d) is a social media and content strategist. He’s writing a book titled The Social Side Door: How Social Media Has Rewritten the Rules of Access and Influence, and he works at Bazaarvoice in Austin, TX.
Social side doors are avenues of access and influence made possible by society’s adoption of social media. It has never been easier to avoid the gatekeepers and engage with decision makers in meaningful ways. It no longer makes sense to compete for attention by traditional means alone, or to stand in line for a chance to be heard. Social side doors are all around you. Here are five ways to open them.
1. Get there early.
Early adopters are given unique access to others. New tools and platforms tend to be more open and barrier-free, encouraging reciprocal communication. The basis of this engagement is shared interest in the medium; it has little to do with the status one has before she enters the new circle. New communications technologies tend to be democratic, access is open, and attention is earned. As more users arrive, some abuse the privilege, and access is constricted. Think about all the technologies and personnel we use to block unwanted access by phone (including voicemail, DND and executive assistants). The circle grows; ease of access diminishes—so get there early!
2. Show up in unexpected places.
Even the best marketing emails, resumes and cold calls are given short shrift today, and it has more to do with the medium than the message. We’re trained to ignore these expected approaches.
Standing out through social is about making oneself known in an entirely different context. I learned just how effective this was when I took out a Facebook ad and targeted decision-makers at the company I currently work for, Bazaarvoice. My resume had been passed on by recruiters, but my ad caught the attention of a senior marketing exec that happened to be browsing Facebook and I soon had the job. Another effective tactic is to find out where the people you’re trying to get in front of go to learn, and who influences them. Leave thoughtful comments on these blogs, build relationships with their influencers, and eventually submit a guest post. If you do this well, you’ll be demonstrating your expertise as you build visibility—the killer combo of influence and access.
3. Write Rocket Content.
It never makes sense to focus only on the decision maker. They’re the ones with the highest barriers to access, and they’re quickest to say “no thanks” to outside approaches. That’s why you need to write kick-ass content that helps others in their decision ecosystem sell for you. The right content is irresistibly shareable, makes the person sharing it look great to those above them, influences at every rung of the ladder, and ultimately convinces those at the top to take you seriously as a vendor, job seeker, or whatever you’re going for. What I wrote in 2010 is still true, but let’s give it a social update: “If you can’t easily imagine your readers emailing [or tweeting, sharing, LinkedIn messaging, Chattering, Yammering] what you’re writing to their bosses, it’s probably not rocket content.”
4. Be three-dimensional.
“I’ll be interested if you’ll be interesting,” read a poster at this year’s SXSWi. People have more than one dimension, but they often choose just one boring, incomplete version of themselves to show the world. Social side doors open when your online presence truly conveys who you are—not just your area expertise and authority, but also your personality and values.
We like to do business with (and hire) people we genuinely like. Each touch point should convey some of who you are. When I was in sales, I found that people were far more interested in what I had to say after we had interacted through more than one medium. If we had tweeted, for example, they would reply to my emails more often, or pick up the phone when I called. When people associate the “from” line in an email or the name on their caller ID with someone they’ve had pleasant, authentic interactions with across social channels, that feeling cascades into other mediums and areas of conversation (like what you’re selling or why they should hire you).
5. Understand ego capital.
Normal people like to be praised and recognized, and that’s good news for you. Ego capital is, “anything that we feel will help us look better in front of others.”
Two things happen when ego capital is properly “served.” First, the subjects of your positive coverage tend to make themselves more accessible to you. If they know that you ask great interview questions that position them as an expert, you’ll have an easier time reengaging with them later. Second, they are extremely likely to share content that makes them look good, and they’ll often link to it as well.
The perfect person to reach out to is someone that is a highly-regarded authority on a subject with a large following of people in your target space. The most effective ways to leverage ego capital are quote requests and interviews. After all, who doesn’t want to have third-parties featuring them as experts in their respective field? And if it were you, wouldn’t you share it? (Perhaps you’d add #humblebrag to it, but you’d still share it, right?)
But ego capital can absolutely be abused. Always make sure you’re developing content that will actually be enriched by an expert quote or interview, and that it will still stand on its own if your request isn’t met. And don’t treat it like a numbers game, racking up as many expert quotes as you can cram into a blog post. Be selective with your ego capital, treat people with respect, and see what it does for you.
These are just a few of the ways to use the changing social landscape to build access and influence. What social side doors have you found in your life?