The other night, a young, attractive woman handed me a beautifully-designed business card in bold shades of red and black, promoting her new website. She had a charming smile as she handed her card to everyone in the group, saying, "we're trying to grow our audience."
No, no, no, no, NO.
After a few seconds of her explaining how she and her partner were trying to "grow their audience," I asked what the site was about--what the content might be of the videos she was promoting.
"We're showcasing our work."
Uh-huh. And I would be interested in that work because... ?
She went on to explain how they wanted to encourage the audience to create their own responses, get involved as fans--it all sounded great--but fans of what? And WHY?
"Content is king" isn't just a cheesy saying, folks; it's the rule to live by in our current age of social media. We can get great content almost anywhere for free--so what is compelling about yours? Why would I want to go to your site instead of the thousands out there that provide the same or better content in an easy format? You have to give me a reason not to throw your business card in the trash can on my way out the door. Give me something, some motivation to check in out later. Tell me what's in it for me.
And keep in mind that only your very dearest friends really care about helping you grow your audience. The rest of us want to know what's in it for us--why should we spend time on your site? What would we say when we Twitter it, blog it or mention it on a podcast? When we Digg or StumbleUpon it, what descriptors would we use in our recommendation? In short, why is your content different and compelling?
Don't tell me what you want; you seem nice, but I don't really know you enough to care about what you want. Instead, tell me what benefit your site has for me and my friends. What can it do for me? Entertain me in a way that only you can? Engage me in a story I won't want to leave? Provide me with a service that will save me time and money? I can't help you unless you tell me how to become first a raving fan and then a brand ambassador for you.
When people ask what I do, I say, "I help people build passionate communities online." (Thank you, Erich Viege, for the push to use that benefit statement more broadly!) If they ask for more informaiton, I'll continue with, "I show companies and not-for-profits how to use blogs, podcasts, Twitter, wikis, Facebook, Seesmic and other social media tools to engage both customers and critics in an interactive, online community." If they don't seem interested, I skip that statement and get curious about what they do and how I might be able to help them with an introduction, a connection or advice. Frankly, at most events, I end up hearing others' benefit statements far more often than I give mine. And that's as it should be--I believe strongly in going into things with the attitude of "what can I do for you?" rather than "how many business cards/leads can I get?"
Ick. No, no, no, no, NO.
If you're going to ask for traffic to your site outright, at least make it the beginning of an engaged conversation. How about, "Hey, well, my partner and I have this new site, and we're not sure how to promote it. We think it's cool; it's all about X, Y and Z. If you have time, I'd love it if you could take a look and tell me if you have any advice on how we could improve it."
Asking for advice is cool. Asking for hits isn't.