I want to share some great things I’ve learnt about social media with my very small business community – the geosynthetics industry. For the uneducated, geosynthetics are engineered products (usually made from plastics) that are used in civil engineering and infrastructure projects. The interesting thing is the market dynamic of such products – it tends to be a technically / specification driven model. Most in this sector are quite new to the whole social media world, and as we can see, our community remains small but is growing very rapidly – everyone is aware of the need to get social now. Social media provides all of us with a fantastic opportunity, however, let’s do it well so we all win. I suggest we set the industry standard for social media marketing, by defining the “dos” and “don’ts” right now.

I am taking a first stab at it here and would appreciate your thoughts and feedback on this blog post. I’m in a unique position in that I straddle both the geosynthetics and social media fields, as I help technically driven companies with effective use of social media. So I hope this blog offers you a valuable insight into one area for being successful in this arena.

The first thing I’ve noticed is a small number of people selling their company/services – especially on LinkedIn. I have to say that LinkedIn is probably the most active community for our business sector at the moment. I expect Twitter to take off more rapidly this year and maybe Facebook will follow – especially with more Gen Ys coming through the ranks – but for now, LinkedIn will probably remain the key platform for sharing and dialogue.

Please take this advice with respect – if you sell to our communities on LinkedIn, however blatant or subtle, over time, people you want to influence will not pay attention to what you are saying – it is a complete turn off. Just think of the boy who cried wolf once too often, after a while no one listened. Our community is not online to be sold to, and if you carefully analyse the group, you’ll see that practically no one is a customer…. yet. BUT even when the customers come, they do not want to be sold too, they want education, guidance and advice. So please keep this in mind, as it is the difference between being successful or failing dramatically in social media – and I don’t want that to happen to anyone.

I seriously recommend that if you want to build your profile using any social media platform then you MUST share value. Find some interesting news that will impact all of us and share your thoughts/start a discussion. Write a blog or post on a relevant product / project experience you’ve had, the benefits of such systems, practical challenges and what you learnt. It’s important to give a lot in these exchanges, because if you give, people will appreciate the knowledge shared and they will come back to you again and again. That is what professional social media is – establishing a platform for yourself as someone of value and credibility in your industry.

Remember, social media started as a “social” platform. Now businesses are seeking to influence on that platform. That means you’ve got to follow the social rules and be social. What does social mean? Discussions. Sharing information of value to our community. Raising issues or concerns. Sharing lessons and global trends. Demonstrating success. Sharing high value information. It is NOT selling.

Also remember LinkedIn is a professional networking community NOT a sales community, so use it wisely and it will be your greatest friend, an invaluable source of information and contacts, bringing you accolades and business success down the track. If you are great in social media, over time, your audience will begin to understand that you are someone they can trust, as well as someone who knows what you are talking about, and that is where your success will come from as they will consider you someone they MUST work with.

Good luck, be smart, be engaging, be social and I look forward to lots more great discussions and sharing of information within my groups.

Steve Johnson

Managing Director

Geosynthetics Asia

(a SAJE company)