I’ve just returned from a seminar on “Social Media – the Next Generation” and was flattered to be asked to field the question,
“What does it take to be successful in Social Media?”
a) I am
b) that I knew.
My first reaction was that if anyone sets out ‘just’ to be successful on Social Media, that’s probably a bit sad. Does it mean you have a big network, a big Klout score, that lots of people know who you are?
Maybe, but what’s the point?
Having pondered this weighty question I clicked on my Twitter stream to find one of my contacts who runs a very successful business looking forward to watching a particular popular teen vampire TV programme and drawing all sorts of other folk out of their closets to admire the (in my opinion) rather drippy hero.
A riotous exchange of tweets followed with me extolling the virtues of ‘real’ men who smelled of whisky and tobacco and thought personal grooming was a close shave while the much younger faction swooned over waifs with gelled hair.
There were several laugh out loud incidents and then we all went back to work.
I suppose this is what the SoMe experts call a ‘water cooler moment’.
What does it have to do with being successful on Social Media?
Quite a lot.
a) we were all being our authentic selves
b) it was fun
c) we all learned a bit about each others values and what makes us tick
d) nobody was trying to sell anything but we established the start of some interesting relationships
e) it proved to very amusing to some of the several thousand observers and revealed a lot – none of it bad – about all of us.
At the start of the excellent seminar mentioned above, the opening question was “What’s the most important thing in any business?” and the answer is, of course, people.
People (whether owners, employees, suppliers or customers) want to be noticed, to be valued, to be acknowledged as people with different values and ideas because that is how we all relate to each other. The roles we play may be important but its who we really are that enables us to form relationships that work.
Some big brands have spotted how important this is in SoMe and use it to their advantage, getting individual members of staff to engage with people on social networks while maintaining the brand presence. Some (too many) still get it spectacularly wrong and simply spit out sales messages, expecting the ‘brand’ to speak for itself. It doesn’t.
Owners of small businesses have the biggest advantage on SoMe
People who can BE their brand either have to truly live all the qualities they talk about or be extremely good actors because being bland doesn’t work.
Trying to appeal to everyone doesn’t work.
At some point your sense of humour, your values and beliefs will reveal the real you and just like in real life, some people will like you and some won’t.
However, that’s OK because its better to find out before you do business with someone, than after.
There are all sorts of tools and analytical devices you can use to see if your messages and links get clicked, liked, forwarded, shared or re-tweeted.
There are tools that tell you who to ditch and who to follow and when your followers are on-line and if they are real or robots.
You can track your numbers in every combination and format and there are people who use all these devices very successfully.
Can these numbers be used to measure ROI?
These numbers are sometimes used in an effort to prove return on investment (ROI) but some of the algorithms are less than effective.
No-one can say that 100 followers, fans, contacts or clicks will produce x% return because no-one can assess the quality of these connections, many of whom are there because of the ‘social’ aspect of the media rather than for business, and many of whom will effortlessly pass on interesting details to their own connections.
It is impossible to measure ‘influence’ by numbers so, at best, these tools are guides and, at worst, downright misleading.
No-one can measure the effect of me praising the work of a New York artist or the effect of him telling his contacts about my work on business growth. It is too random, in some ways too bizarre and unexpected and the threads that are created are too tangled to prove any real return.
The only certain thing is that it is possible to make contacts through social media that would otherwise have been impossible and that once the contact is made it is the quality of your content that will keep them and help them to grow.
The strategy that delights one person will dismay another.
Most people have to try it for themselves and find their own style of doing things.
So, my answer to “What does it take to be successful on Social Media?” is, you need to understand people.
You need to know who you want to attract and what will attract them.
You need to understand yourself and what you stand for.
Most of all you need to know how to communicate.
Good content, whether in a 140 character tweet or a 500 word blog post will carry more weight than anything else. It builds trust in your expertise, your skill and your knowledge but above all, in you as a real person with values that others can relate to.
Before you can write good content you need to know not only who you are writing it for but who YOU are to those people.
It was 1937 when Dale Carnegie wrote in his wonderful book, “How to win friends and influence people”:
“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”
The medium may be different but the message is the same.
What do you think?