In 1848, along the American River in California, on John Sutter’s property, nuggets of gold were uncovered, and the United States, not to mention the world, was changed forever. People who had perfectly comfortable middle class lives in Pennsylvania and New England suddenly said, “Hey, wait, I could go out to California and become the richest guy in town!” People piled into California with picks, spoons, pans, and anything else they could muster, and they all went to the banks of that little California river.
Well, almost everyone.
A few people went to the area where all of the hubub was happening. They saw that the miners were always running low on food and equipment. They said, “Hmm, I could open a store here, and as long as people are here, I’ll be able to make a living.” They said, “Hmm, I’ll bet these fellas, who are far, far from home, would really love a well-cooked meal. I could start a restaurant here and make money for as long as people are here.”
And they did. And even when the gold was no longer visible on the surface of the ground or water, the stores and restaurants that had opened up to service the miners were still there. They could now service the big companies who used explosives to get to the gold. They could service the towns that were growing up around them.
Social Media as the American River
I just watched an interview that Mark Schaefer conducted with Jay Baer, and Jay referred to the current status of Social Media marketing as the gold rush. It made me stop and think about what that could mean (since I always have my history hat on). What is the gold rush right now? Where are the miners? Here are some ideas.
• People are mining for followers and fans
• People are mining for the “big post”
• People are mining for blog traffic
• People are mining for borrowed influence from more established names in this space
Engagement can outlast what people are trying to dig up
To me, it seems like the craft of learning how to engage with people, how to develop your business using new online tools, is like those stores and restaurants that opened up around the gold rush. People who are digging for new followers on Twitter will eventually find themselves in pretty low shape if Twitter ends up going down in a blaze of glory, right? We’ve talked about blog traffic on this site before – if you’re getting lots of traffic and none of those people give a darn what you are talking about, what does that really do for you?
Engagement can be whatever you want it to be
It seems like now is the time to figure out what you want your long-term strategy should be. Why do you want to be engaged with other people in this online space? What are you hoping to accomplish? Think beyond the “get rich quick” scheme of jumping into the river and panning for gold. Don’t think about a specific platform. Think about something you could offer that everyone in the online space will need, even after they are convinced there’s no more gold to be found. How can you keep them around? How can you keep your plan in action? Deep relationships, in my opinion, is the first step. What comes next?
What do you think?
This is post #35 in The Engagement Series. I hope you are enjoying it. I hope my series doesn’t have a mid-life crisis!
Image by Stephen Eastop. http://www.sxc.hu/profile/Eastop