Twitter Lessons

My use of Social Media started years ago when I joined Facebook in order to create a Business Page and use it solely for Marketing. Like millions before me I discovered that there was no way to disconnect the Personal Life from Facebook… eventually I stopped fighting the connectivity and embraced it as a way to connect with far flung friends & family and market my business.

It took me a lot longer to embrace Twitter. I signed up for an account years ago, but after my first few visits I was overwhelmed; it was like going to a family reunion where everyone knew each other and EVERYONE had A.D.D. So, like many before me, I connected my Facebook feed to my Twitter account (a practice I do not advise unless you NEVER intend on Tweeting) and ignored the monster.

Eventually I realized that I needed to seriously get my hands around how Twitter works; it may not have nearly as many users as Facebook but I knew I was shortchanging my growing client list by leaving it out of their Social Media plans.

So I jumped in and did what I was told: I LISTENED first.

Eventually I made a few ‘friends’ that shared common interests: Women in Business Issues, Social Media as a Marketing Tool, and my greatest love: Sarcasm. In order to get more connected I started using the Who To Follow option and soon I was trying to consume everything from ESPN feeds to the Wall Street Journal. I followed and followed and followed until I broke Twitter.

Or at least I thought I did.

I hit a wall I didn’t know existed – the Following 2000 mark. My ‘following privileges’ were revoked. I was stunned.

In order follow more fascinating people, I’d have start culling my list. Hmmm…. I had never considered that the gates would be shut and I’d be forced to do this, but I had no choice.

So I went back to the very first people I’d followed. I quickly found that there were literally hundreds of people I couldn’t recall. Hundreds more I’d never had an interaction with. Soon I’d unfollowed enough people to give myself a nice comfortable following-to-followers ratio and I didn’t have to weigh the decision so heavily before I clicked the Follow Button.

Just when I thought I’d settled back into a groove, Chris Brogan’s The Great Twitter Unfollow Experiment of 2011 occurred and all hell broke loose.

Well, not really, but it sure seemed like that to some of the Tweeps Chris unfollowed. They were hurt. They were angry. They were vengeful. Some of them begged to be Re-followed.

I watched with fascination as my mind crystallized around the fact that THIS WAS SO PERSONAL TO SO MANY.

I had seen Twitter as a TOOL to learn, research and distribute ideas. Now I realized that it was more like the telephone than the megaphone if you used it properly.

Since then my entire approach has changed. I’ve made Twitter FRIENDS and have real, longer-than-140-character-conversations. I’ve discovered that the conversation is much better than the Broadcasting capability. I follow #SocialChat on Monday evenings because it gives me an hour with people fine-tuned into what I care so much about. I stopped worrying about knowing everything that’s going on and instead I check in with Tweeps I know provide good information and conversation.

In other words, I’m becoming a Twitter Grown up.

Just like every other communication tool, it takes a while to figure out how it works, and how it works best for your own goals and interests. One day, when I’m a Twitter Elder, I’ll look back on this post and realize how little I knew then.

My Top 10 (+) List of Who to Follow on Twitter

Twitter was not my first Social Media love; like millions of others, Facebook stole my heart first simply due to the fact that my Real Life Friends were on there. Twitter’s fast streaming feed and strange ‘rules of engagement’ were a little intimidating at first.

Over time I realized that Twitter was actually a gold mine of information, inspiration, and the ability to connect so much more easily than Facebook. I learned to use Twitter for research, or just plain asking the answer to a question I didn’t know. Here are the most valuable folks I follow:

1. Women Leadership Inspiration: @chiefhotmomma, @NAWBONational, @HotMommasProj,@barefoot_exec,@RoxanneJoffe
2. Social Media Knowledge: @jaybaer, @chrisbrogan, @ginidietrich, @Danny Brown, @JeffBullas, @jeffjarvis (he could go in many slots so I’m sticking him here)
3. Absolutely hysterical humor: @redheadwriting, but you must be prepared for the cuss words.
4. Humor, Marketing Strategy, and GREAT writing: @marcymassura, YES, in a class by herself.
5. Great Marketing Thinkers: @GuyKawasaki, @ScottMonty, @DebbieLaskeyMBA
6. Entrepreneurs: @garyvee, @richardbranson <-- My all time favorite business hero because he KNOWS it's about your TEAM. 7. Great Photographers: @aquamojo, @ScottDickerson, @bernabephoto
8. Artists worth keeping tabs on: @joliebstudios, @ModernPainter
9. Interesting Smart Folks with interests too broad to define: @baratunde, @cspenn, @julien, @chrisguillebeau
10. Great Writers/Content Creators: @penpointer, @problogger, @copyblogger, @MenwithPens

Of course this is my own personal list – I’m sure there are lots of great tweeters out there that I overlooked or just don’t know. So, if you think I’m really missing out, let me know WHO I’m missing out on.

When You Should Disconnect Your Facebook Account from Twitter

When I jumped into Social Media in earnest a few years ago I went the easy route and connected both my Twitter & LinkedIn accounts to my Facebook account, ensuring that everything I put on Facebook fed to the other 2. There was something inherently wrong with doing this – and I was intuitive enough to know what it was:

Social Media is about being HUMAN, even when ‘doing business;’ I learned that early on from reading Trust Agents. This being real or human in marketing is exactly why I understood how powerful Social Media Marketing could be.

There was one reason I connected the 3 platforms despite knowing this: I was overwhelmed by how much I had to learn and I knew I couldn’t master all 3 platforms at once.

So I opted to learn the ins and outs of Facebook first, primarily because it was so visual, I already had a fairly large network of friends, and I felt a resonance with its marketing capabilities. My thought process for Twitter & LinkedIn were that at least I would be putting SOME content up there for now.

What happened is that Facebook became THE marketing tool for my business – so much so that it was the source for 60% of my workload. My LinkedIn connections grew as my network grew, and I kept tabs on my contacts’ careers on that platform. Twitter sort of languished; I followed my favorite marketers & business people: Chris Brogan, Guy Kawasaki, Jack Welch and Richard Branson but I didn’t really use it. With less than 100 followers I was a little overwhelmed each time I visited the site; there were just so many people talking AT one another.

Over time as I learned about the powers of Social Media as a collaborative, many headed tool I realized that it was time to dedicate myself in earnest to Twitter. In the beginning I simply listened and learned from the smart people I followed. Then I realized how fantastic Twitter was as a tool for learning and exploring, and I actually found and hired a WordPress freelancer by connecting on Twitter.

Like any platform, the more I used it, the more comfortable I became until suddenly I was having conversations with new and interesting people regularly, learning about new products/services I could sell to my clients, and building an actual following. I realized that the Facebook connect had to go because now that I was having real conversations with real Tweeps, the Facebook re-post was a lazy insult. Facebook and Twitter are inherently different; as I’ve dedicated myself to really getting the most out of Twitter I realize it’s time to cut that apron string and have an authentic Twitter voice. No, I don’t tweet 50 times a day, but I do use Hootsuite to make sure that I have a regular voice by pre-scheduling some of my tweets.

I’m not a hypocrite. If you’re new to the Social Media world I’d encourage you to do it the same way I did; until you can digest and understand one platform, it’s ok to connect them all. But once you get your sea legs make sure you cut the cord so that you can effectively build a following & communicate on each platform authentically.

Facbook Business Page Posting: How Much is Too Much?

I’ve been delving into Infusionsoft this past couple of weeks and I’m really impressed with its capabilities for lead follow ups and interacting with prospects. While taking their Social Media tutorial I am told by Mark Bast that on Facebook you don’t want to overwhelm your clients so beware of posting too often, and on Twitter you should only post once per day. We break these rules, with intent, everyday. That’s because I totally disagree with the frequency of posting they suggest.

Think about this: if your fans have 300 – 500 friends they’ll have a lot of activity on their wall. If you post at 8:30am you may get a quarter of them seeing your post on their feed if you’re lucky – their other ‘friends’ and pages will quickly push your post down and off of their wall; the only way they’ll see your post is if they actually seek it out on your page.

This is where understanding WHO your target prospect is becomes vitally important – when are they likely be be on Facebook? If they’re business people it is likely that they check it first thing in the morning – say 8 – 9am, surf a little at lunchtime, and then check it at the end of the day. If your target is a woman with children often they don’t get a chance to go on Facebook until after the kids are bathed and ready for bed, so evening hours are critical. Sunday afternoons are prime time for all demographics.

There is a fine line between being invisible and overwhelming your fans with posts but my general rule of thumb on Facebook is to post 3 times a day most days AS LONG AS YOU ARE POSTING WORTHY CONTENT. Mashable posts again and again but because I am very interested in what they do and they’re a reliable source of good information I don’t mind at all. In fact, I seek their page out everyday if I haven’t had time on Facebook. If you’re just posting for the sake of BEING THERE you’ll lose fans quickly, so provide good information/content and post when your fans or prospects are more likely to be online.

As for Twitter, I’m afraid I think Infusionsoft is Wrong Again. With approximately 27 millions tweets flying out each day (@BrianSolis)) how on earth is ONE TWEET going to be seen. Just look at the people who are ‘successful’ on Twitter that make their living on Social Media: @ChrisBrogan, @GuyKawasaki and @GaryVee and you’ll see constant communication. Why? Because even more so than on Facebook the Twitter Feed moves quickly. People follow hundreds or thousands of other Twitter profiles and your message will not be heard if you say it once a day.

Using Twitter successfully is often described as “grinding out tweets” because it takes lots of work to build followers and get noticed. My advice to most small business owners is to have a Twitter profile, but if you don’t have the time to dedicate to Tweeting and building your following by multiple tweets per day, focus on Facebook first. Like everything else in business, focus and consistency are THE key elements.

There are lots of people giving advice on Social Media, and I by no means claim to be the end all ‘correct’ voice. But I’ve spent the last few years watching and learning from those who have done it successfully and Social Media Marketing is our main source of new clients so I think we’ve figured some of it out. Our advice is to create and offer good content, post at least 3 times a day AT THE TIME YOUR TARGET CUSTOMERS ARE ON Facebook, and Tweet continually if you have the time and energy. If you can only do it once a day, save yourself that time and skip it all together.

This Social Media Thing Ain’t Easy

Because it doesn’t just ‘happen.’ Anyone can throw a FaceBook connect button up on their website and create a business page, but that doesn’t mean squat if you don’t do 2 things:

1. Understand how to go about building an online following.
2. Commit to posting good, interesting content on a DAILY basis, and not just once.

That’s right, a daily basis numerous times a day. Sure it seems like a second job, and yes, you can shrug it off as ‘too much work;’ the savvy ones out there are thrilled that you might because they know how much there is to be gained and how few understand the opportunity Social Media provides.

The painstaking process of ‘Suggesting’ your Facebook Page to friends is NOT the way to build a Facebook or Twitter following – the entire point of Social Media is to get outside your circle. You don’t know the people that you want to follow you – they’re strangers. So, in order to get them to follow you have to give them the chance to “meet you.” How does that happen?

You need to be out there participating in the conversation in a meaningful way on Twitter, Blogs, Facebook and anywhere else your target customer type is hanging out. You need to enter the conversation when you have something meaningful to say. For example, Entrepreneur’s Blog is a place I find a lot of interesting, educational and inspirational information. I go there a lot because their articles or posts draw me in. I have met numerous new “friends” on there that have followed me back to Facebook and Twitter because we connected through our comments on posts. They have sometimes suggested my page or blog to their associates and thus the snowball starts to roll.

Most importantly: you had better have something interesting for them to see when they do follow you back; a page that has been quiet for days will get very few new “Likes.” Good content begets others to “SHARE” your page or repost it on theirs, and thus new followers.

YES, it’s A LOT Of hard work – but no one said success in any venue would be easy. Just like old school advertising, effective Social Media marketing takes consistency, discipline and hard work. This is just a whole lot more targeted and inexpensive.

Be Human

I am often asked about Twitter Names – should they personal as in @AmyTobin, or the face of a company @ArielMarketing Group. When I first started seriously marketing my company through Social Media I struggled with this concept, and actually changed my Twitter handle back and forth a few times. Eventually Chris Brogan made me understand the fundamental reason you should Tweet as yourself: people buy from people, and that’s who they want to deal with.

If you are new to Social Media Marketing and you don’t know Chris, run as fast as you can to www.chrisbrogan.com and sign up for his never ending stream of helpful advice and insight. Buy his book Trust Agents (with Julien Smith) and you will understand that the key to the success of Social Media is that it allowed the individual to cut through all of the BS Traditional Marketing layers and get to the heart of the companies they buy from. It allowed all of us a voice, and became a global conversation instead of the always frustrating automated phone call when you need help or advice.

Of course companies have Twitter handles, and if you’re smart you’re probably already following @EntMagazine on Twitter, but you can also follow Amy Cosper, the brilliant editor @EntMagazineAmy. So sure, go ahead and set your company up with its own Twitter handle if you have multiple people contributing to your message, but make sure that you, and they, communicate as people too with your own handles.

Being “ON” Social Media isn’t Enough

Interacting with Clients & prospects, I regularly hear the comment “We do Social Media,” or “We do Facebook.” Of course I immediately look up their Facebook/Twitter/Linked in pages as soon as I’m in front of a computer; more often than not I find the following:

Do you have a Social Meida plan?

1. An account on Facebook usually set up as a personal account so the client is “friending” people instead of collecting fans – bad idea for many reasons, primarily visibility.
2. No “Join Our Newsletter” button on the Facebook page, and usually no customization of that page.
3. No Twitter Account, or one that is unused and not connected to the Facebook account.
4. No Merchant Circle Account.
5. No “Like” button on their website.
6. No Blog on their website which therefore is not being posted on Twitter/Facebook.
7. Not enough content that the visitor actually wants to read; no one wants to visit your page for the advertising.
8. No video on Facebook.
9. No one monitoring the conversation and interacting with customers.

You get the picture – just being there isn’t enough. What all of these issues indicate is a lack of a clear Social Media Marketing Plan or strategy. If you’re making the same mistakes, that means you’re probably having a very poor return on the time you’ve invested. It’s not enough to just “be” on Social Media. You have to understand each platform and how to use them, as well as have a well thought out strategy that includes goals and how to measure your success or failure. You need a company culture or agreement on how you will ‘behave’ on Social Media, what the message will be, and when/how often you will be posting. If you’ve committed to a full scale Social Media Marketing campaign, you need a program or method for measuring the success of the campaign.

None of this is rocket science, so yes, you CAN figure it out yourself, but if you don’t have the time hire a professional. Facebook alone is an incredibly powerful tool if put to proper use, but just ‘being there’ is not enough and can actually be damaging to your company’s reputation if you sell constantly and become annoying to those who take the time to listen, or if it appears that you don’t care enough because your level of involvement is sporadic. Make sure that before you jump in you have a clear plan of action and the discipline to follow through; the rewards can be amazing.

The Great Twitter Debate

Small Business Owners constantly ask me about the usefulness of Twitter. Actually, LOTS of colleagues and friends do as well. Why? Because HOW to use it is not obvious to any of them. In general terms, many small business owners are overwhelmed by how to use Social Media to market themselves; I usually have an easy time explaining to anyone serious about marketing how powerful Facebook can be. Once a business owner is committed to harnessing the power of Facebook, we develop a strategy and we’re off to the races.

Do You Tweet?

Twitter? Not so much. The questions usually focus around the point that Twitter often appears like a whole lotta people saying a whole lotta stuff – with no one really listening. Of course that’s not exactly true. When I first dove into the Social Media Marketing world I didn’t quite know what to make of Twitter either, but I stuck with it because often I learn about new technology and its capabilities only after I’ve used it repeatedly. This is what I tell my Small Business Owner Clients that I’ve learned:

1. If you have limited time but want to enter Social Media to market your business, start with Facebook and make sure you are providing content, especially visual content, that people actually care about.
2. Set up a Twitter account no matter what you think of it & link it to your Facebook account; important posts such as blogs, links & your website can resonate on Twitter and you will gain followers, even if gaining them is a very slow process.
3. No, you don’t have to tell people what you are doing every millisecond on Twitter; if it’s not interesting no one will follow you anyway. If you’ve got something important to say – Tweet it often.
4. If you don’t have the time, energy, or staff to tweet regularly (or schedule Tweets to come out regularly), and I mean hourly at least, don’t expect a lot of followers and Don’t Worry About It. Focus on Facebook, your blog, and making sure your website retains customers once they visit.
5. Use Twitter for professional development: even when I didn’t trust its usefulness I used Twitter to find lots of smart internet marketing types who have broadened and enriched my knowledge base.
6. Understand that Twitter can be very powerful for branding, which is very different than building a business. So, if your goal is to make everyone in a 1 mile radius come to your sub shop Twitter might not be for you; if your goal is to make as many people as possible aware of your new product, its priceless. Get the difference?
6. Don’t shut the door on Twitter forever. Technologies constantly change, and so do companies. Once upon a time Facebook was only for college students. Keep abreast of Twitter developments & keep your mind open.

Connectivity: Can You Ever Rest?

The idea for this post was derived from a question Chris Brogan posted on FB that asked if scheduling Tweets/Blog Posts etc. was ok, so that you were always THERE. As I said in an exchange on the comment section of that post, sure, if you’re Chris Brogan and you have a hungry army of marketing minds to feed.

The people who know will tell you that Twitter only works if you are on it constantly; you won’t be seen amongst 20 billion tweets if you are not continually posting… which means programming it that way unless you want to be “on” every second of your life. So the question is, should you be “on” every second? For me, the answer is no. There is something that seems very silicone or artificial about always programming to be there. Since the success of my business is based upon developing deep relationships with my small business owner clients and becoming their marketing partners, I can shut down for a day or two and they’ll still be there, and probably even appreciate the ‘quiet” coming from my end of the web.

My experience with Social Media is that it’s only successful if it is “human;” people are so sick of being sold to that you must make every effort to be as real as you can be when marketing your company. So, if you’re a major national company being “there” all of the time is not unnatural; we all understand that you have a marketing department to make sure you are. If you’re an internet marketing guru, same rules apply. But if your focus is regional or relationship driven, I’m not so sure. Disconnecting, really stepping back from all this connectivity, may help your creativity, and give your clients a break from the constant chatter.

Where Do You Draw the Personal Line with Social Media?

How personal can you get?

I’m reading my favorite magazine in the world, ENTREPENEUR, and I come across a column: “Beware the Bitter Twitter.” The gist of the column, which is really more of a table comparing the Do’s and Don’ts of Twitter, is based on the premise that you should never tweet when angry or cynical. THAT concept I don’t disagree with; the more I learn about Internet & Social Media Marketing, the more I understand that it’s all really, at the base of it, about Sales 101. And at the base of THAT you will find Human Relationships 101: treat people with respect and dignity, don’t talk just to be heard but provide remarkable content, and please don’t just sell yourself or look out for your own self interest. If you are a considerate, interesting, warm Internet Presence, just like in real life, your message will be better received.

In this list of Twitter Do’s and Don’ts there is a Don’t that I don’t agree with; “Don’t mingle personal announcements with marketing messaging.” The table suggests that you should create separate accounts for personal friends and for business associates. I mean, I get that concept in the traditional psychology of marketing, but I think it’s counter to what Social Media Marketing is all about. The beauty of what is happening with online marketing is the ‘democratization of branding’ (borrowed that line right from Amy Cosper’s Editor’s note); we want to and are now able to find out WHO we are buying from. We don’t just follow companies, we get to know their marketers and PR people on a virtual but personal level. And if you DO create separate accounts, what’s the point because we will seek out your personal account anyway and follow you there?

What this means of course is that there is no more “personal space” once you market your company online. You shouldn’t be “bitter” via the web; just step away from the computer when you’re in a negative mood. You cannot get into fierce political arguments or say whatever you think online anymore than you would at your place of work. It doesn’t matter WHAT platform you’re on; anything you say can and will be found. My advice to customers is “Embrace your friends and customers through the internet, but understand that you can only be yourself to a degree if that means spouting off opinions. The whole world IS watching, and that is the beauty of it. You can now speak to hundreds, thousands, even millions of people that you may never have had the marketing budget for in decades past. So save your policital opinions, bitter venting, and off color jokes for your real life friends in a real life pub. Don’t Tweet hostility or bitterness to anyone, ever, and don’t think there is true privacy online. Save that stuff for real life, close friends, and share it privately with them, where hopefully no one is using a cell phone to video you.