I’m basically a code-monkey at heart, but with a healthy dose of entrepreneurial spirit mixed in. This combination helps me to better understand social media from both a technical and business perspective. I’ve been on Facebook and Twitter for some time now, as well as several other social media sites, and have attended several seminars by assorted social media gurus.
When you boil it all down, here are the social media secrets I’ve been able to uncover:
Anybody can be a “social media expert”
Lawyers have the bar exam, and doctors have degrees and medical boards. There is no regulation or governing body overseeing social media. So, apart from peer review, there is no reason why anybody can’t arbitrarily call themselves a social media expert. How do you know if you’re one? That’s easy – results speak louder than words. Claim your social media bones by demonstrating real results in driving qualified customers to a business, or other similar measurables. Having eight Farmville neighbors does NOT make you a social media expert.
Not all social media is the same
What works well for Twitter doesn’t necessarily cut it for StumbleUpon, or LinkedIn, or whatever. Each social media channel has its own unwritten rules and ways to appeal to the masses (or, at least, the masses on that channel) and you need to learn the lay of the land for each one. As with most skill sets, this is easiest to learn over the shoulder of somebody who knows what they’re doing. Just make sure you pick the right guru (see #1 above) or be prepared to spend some time learning this stuff on your own.
Not all social media is used the same
Just because you had great success in leveraging social media for one industry doesn’t necessarily translate into expertise in every other industry. Each industry has it’s own peculiarities, and each industry’s customer-base can be starkly different. Similarly, each social media channel has it’s own peculiarities and a member-base that can be very different. When you put those together, you can end up with some great combinations and some pretty ugly ones. (For example, Myspace works wonders for bands, but if you’re selling accounting services don’t waste your time.) Who knows, with some experimenting and experience you could easily become the social media expert for your industry/channel combination!
Followers do not make a following
Many folks on Facebook and Twitter will boast how many followers they have. How many of these followers are actually people, and how many of them are doing any “following”? There are lots of folks out there that will follow you if you follow them, regardless of whether you have anything interesting to say. (In fact, I once saw a Twitter account with over 5,000 followers and NO TWEETS.) When you have something important to say, will any of them be listening? I doubt it very much, unless you’ve engaged them first. How do you do that? See #5 below.
Don’t be that guy
There are (too many) accounts that produce nothing but feeds for tweets, either an endless stream of their own links or spammy “get rich quick” tweets. Don’t be that guy! Treat your followers as if you were at a cocktail party. Join in on conversations, comment on links you’ve seen elsewhere (not just your own), retweet when someone says something interesting or important. It’s OK to occasionally post about one of your links, but don’t overdo it. (One speaker I heard gave percentage guidelines for tweeting, for personal vs. business etc. I’m not a stickler for the numbers, but just put yourself in your followers’ shoes to see if you’re pushing too hard.)
Give to get
This is a concept that’s near and dear to my heart. The opposite of #5 above, this approach says to share your knowledge and expertise with your channel. When you take an active and compassionate interest in your followers, you’ll find that folks will respond to that and you’ll end up achieving your goals. I’ve been to numerous Meetups and business happy hours and such over the years, and have found that I’m usually unsuccessful when “selling” our services there. However, when I just try to meet people and see what they do (i.e., expand my network) I hook up with people that I end up doing business with. Similarly, I’ve given numerous small business seminars for the sole purpose of helping other entrepreneurs avoid pitfalls and be a bit more knowledgeable about the internet. Do we try getting business out of them? No. Do we end up getting business out of them? Often – that’s the essence of give to get.
At its heart, social media is about socializing. Remember, socializing is not meant to be work. Have some fun with your channels, you’ll be sleep better at night. After all, I hear you don’t need to be a social media expert to get eight Farmville neighbors.