Social Media Professional

What does it take to be successful in Social Media?

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?”

implying that

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.

No contest

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?


9 replies
  1. Liz Weston aka @cambridgemummy
    Liz Weston aka @cambridgemummy says:

    I agree with everything here EXCEPT that you think Edward Cullen is drippy. I drool over him but that’s another matter entirely :) And I’m pleased that I sparked this for you as it’s a belting blog post :)

    I love social media and it’s working for us not just because we understand people, but also because sometimes, we don’t understand people and use it to ask questions, learn and find out more about the people in our lives and around us. It’s an amazing tool and has to included in the “business toolbox”.

    I’m off to share your blog with people, if I can edit out your slanderous comments about the hunk that is aka Edward Cullen from Twilight :)

  2. Lisa Garwood
    Lisa Garwood says:

    Oh Ann – I don’t know what has distressed me more! You calling Rpatz (AKA Edward “yummy bum” Cullen) a “drippy hero” or blogging about, and revealing, a secret I’m trying to keep, well… a secret!

    Honestly though – what a cracking blog!

    SoMe has completely changed the way we interact with people – you can leap over months of the odd face-to-face networking encounter with the same person where you get to know each other slowly, to developing fantastic business connections/friendships etc in double quick time. Now that’s effective and efficient! And it works both ways – you might meet and then build that friendship through regular tweet chats, or find someone you follow is a great person to know and then actually get to meet them in the flesh. Not at least counting how many people I love tweeting with who I may never meet – but have in many ways enriched my life, made me laugh, giggle, smile, appreciate, learn and sometimes sit back in awe of.

    Now, I’m sorry that I just can’t bring myself to go ga ga for Richard Burton – but you know that would be a bit like fancying my Dad! – however when I looked back at some of his more youthful photos – was he really that different to Robert Pattinson *swoon* :)

  3. Desiree Ashton
    Desiree Ashton says:

    Nice post, Ann, and another example of how social media can be used as a ‘de-brief’ vehicle following an event. I see this a lot with those who work in the e-learning sector, and the research suggests that it is becoming an increasingly integral part of the learning process because of the knowledgeshare and bonding which is facilitated off the back of it…as you term it, the water cooler moment. I found the event hugely informative – not just gaining more first-hand insight into the very real issues that small business face with social media, but also because all of us, even the presenters, acknowledge that we are still learning. Lovely to see you, by the way!
    At the risk of alienating a swathe of your followers – give me the grit of Burton any day. I can’t be bothered with these half-baked pretty boys.

  4. Max
    Max says:

    OMG I am in shock at Edward Cullen being called drippy! Shock horror!!

    But back to your question. I believe when people ask this it usually translates into “How do I get work from using and participating in Social Media?” and that is a very different question indeed.

    Let’s face it most small business people are not participating because they have no friends. They are using it primarily to “get their name out there” and ultimately to win business.

    Klout, Peer Index and a few others can help people to look at certain metrics but this is no different to having KPI’s in line with a business goal except they need to be the right sort of KPI’s (and it needs to be the right goal). They need to be meaningful and relevant. I think the danger with tools such as Klout is that in some cases they can measure the wrong sorts of things if people are not careful. Having lots of followers or following lots of people is very easy with automated tools and is a twitter equivalent of wasting a lot of time putting your ladder up the wrong wall!

    Having said that there is an argument that says tools such as Klout deliver information that isn’t readily available in other places and can be used as a very useful and free tool but it really comes back to what it is that you should be measuring in line with social media marketing plans.

    What tickles me is when I see people promoting their services as Social Media Expert/Guru/Coach/Digital Mentor/Tormentor/Whatever and their Klout or Peer Index information (not just the scores) gives a completely different picture. Sometimes that they are more of an expert in one particular platform (Twitter or Facebook or Linkedin usually) but have scores and information that do not provide any reassurance at all that they understand “SoMe” as a whole and do not keep up with any emerging stuff or niche areas that are more beneficial or relevant to their clients.

    One of the most important things to measure in my book is listening and so far I haven’t come across a tool that will do that for you :)

    Great blog post by the way and hope you are well :)


  5. Ann
    Ann says:

    Thanks Max.

    I agree that ‘listening’ is a very important aspect and I’m always surprised by how many people are quietly sitting back reading posts and updates who don’t participate but like to keep up with what is being said.

    Whether they’re tracking their own brand or competitors in their industry its is obviously very useful.

    I’m afraid I’m not that disciplined. I only listen to people who are really interesting and most of them aren’t talking about business!

  6. Desiree Ashton
    Desiree Ashton says:

    @Max – this is an interesting post on Social Media and Listening:
    I get what you say about the Gurus, but I do know a local company whose tagline is something along the lines of – if we’re not Tweeting, it’s because we’re busy working on our cleints’ social media. In one way, I think they have a point. While my role is to bring organisation and structure, when my desk /in-box is at its messiest and the post-its are threatening to drown my desk, I’m doing my job well.

  7. Simonecas
    Simonecas says:

    I think the internet is wonderful in that it allows people who are marginalised for whatever reason to walk into the spotlight. I have found it the most democratic and meritocratic way to establish a reputation in whatever field. 
    I find it very frustrating when a small business owner questions the value of my work, since Google analytics is not as good measuring traffic coming from social media as with ppc. Obviously they make money from the ads so I accept that it’s more their priority and they do have organic columns… Then the client might ask me another impossible question: how can you prove they came to my website because of the blog/twitter/pinterest/etc and not because they found it through ppc? Round and round in circles with that, hoping I’m some sort of web wizard. I give the content marketing spiel but it’s not enough. The question will arise again in a month’s time, when the next batch of analytics are put together.

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