Over the last five years of social media experience, I’ve made many mistakes. Most of them could have been avoided, but I learned quite a lot from them. Like they say, there are no mistakes — just experiences.
It’s all about designing your network. It might sound weird because on social media, it’s pretty much like a beehive with everyone following everyone else, and the noise to signal ratio is awkwardly high. But the whole idea is to make sense of it all within that larger buzz.
1. Attract The Right People
This is the key to building your network. Your success in social media is all about how you design your network and whom you’ve chosen to be with — this is a basic thing most people forget.
You know those schemes where, for the sake of building volume, everybody follows everyone? Well, that’s a mistake. There is absolutely no value in beefing up your network volume without criteria.
Those criteria should center around the quality of your network. Ghost accounts and bots have always accounted for a significant portion of spam (especially on Twitter), and it’s easy to gather them up under your followers list. But there is no value to be gained from them, apart from showing off your numbers.
During the early days of Social Media, I was clueless about whom to follow and what to do. The whole thing was a video game of sorts, with top lists and everything. So, I went ahead following lists everywhere — you know, those “you follow me, I follow you” kind. Then, of course, there were the top 100 Twitter users, the top 50 artists, top 50 musicians, etc.
It was all fun in the first few days, because as I followed them, they followed me back as well, and my follower number shot up. But then later on, the pain started. None of their tweets made any sense to me because I was an online marketing guy following artists (who were posting pictures every now and then, and that was about it). Most of the conversations in the “Reciprocal Followers” network didn’t make any sense because there were no conversations in the first place — they were all on auto-RSS feeds.
So, attract the right people to your network. Say no to folks who are trying to rig the game. Tweak your bio to say the most appropriate and accurate thing about you, then tweet about things that you care about so folks who think similarly can find and engage with you in meaningful conversations.
Talking about things that you really aren’t interested in for the sake of popularity or follower count can send you in the wrong direction. Project the right impression of yourself, and let the right people follow you, thereby adding value to your network. Use it as a filtering strategy to ward off the noise.
2. Meaningful Conversations Are The Right Way To Engage
Sometimes, we all forget the real value of social media, which is being able to connect and converse with anyone in the world — from NASA scientists to actors and artists! Imagine being in a conference with the best talent in the world, and getting a chance to do a one-on-one with each of them.
Social media lets you do something very similar. One can now talk to whomever they’re interested in and engage in meaningful conversations. If you’re an online marketing enthusiast, befriend the online marketing gurus and engage them in meaningful conversations. Ask a question about their recent blog post, challenge them in the right way and post a thought-provoking question — whatever!
Connecting with the right people through conversation will elevate you automatically into their league, or at least get you nearer to it. Be sure not to overdo it (constantly trying to engage someone can come off as annoying), but this is a good strategy that can create a win-win situation for all.
My many conversations with folks within my network have taught me that not everyone in there is genuine or responsive. But, there are a handful who are always willing to provide some great support for you. For example, I used to blog about SEO, and there were many folks who asked great questions on Twitter and Facebook. I loved that kind of interaction. Not only does it help you improve your craft, it also provides value to whomever else is listening.
In summary: great, meaningful conversations should be part of your social media mix, but it can take time to get comfortable in this arena. It requires an initial investment period during which you try to engage with a few people and figure out who’s genuine. Down the line, you’ll have a reliable circle of friends and followers who can add a lot of value to your network by engaging in great conversations.
3. Provide Value To Your Network Or Get Ignored
I mean, this should be the very basic thing, not even a selected goal. There is always that one thing that you are really passionate about — maybe more than one thing — but there are those topics that you could talk and talk about for hours without getting bored, right? Determine what that passion is and stick to it. Champion it!
Why? Because a great way to provide value to your network is by becoming an expert at something — photography, painting, movies…it could be anything, even the silliest of things. Being online marketing folks, we all have great stories to tell regarding what to do and what not to do in marketing. Even sharing mistakes can be useful, as those in your network may benefit from your experiences.
Make it a point to “give” something through your conversations, tweets and posts on social media. People love that kind of practical wisdom.
In my early days of social media, I used to post a lot of news stuff. I still do, but back then I went overboard with it, tweeting every CNN or Mashable story. I later realized that hundreds of people in my network do that, too. I thought, What value am I bringing to the table? Am I not being just another guy out there? So I quit it. Instead, I started adding my own viewpoints about those news items, giving sort of a personalized review. And I stuck to news about online marketing, SEO and Social Media — things that I really cared about.
People loved it. There were more replies (positive and negative) and mentions on those tweets and posts than the CNN articles — and that made complete sense. People liked the personal opinion part of it. That was the value I was adding in. Be it good or bad, someone always had an opinion towards it, and they could not resist replying back or commenting.
So, you get the point? Bring in that unique value proposition in your social media content. There are millions of folks out there doing the obvious stuff. So, try hard to find your niche and provide that additional value. People can’t ignore it.
4. Be Transparent, Be Genuine – Build Relationships
This applies more to the folks who are into personal branding, but others may find this advice useful as well.
Like I mentioned above, all of us have something special in us, something that will help others: our expertise. However, I’ve seen many who claim to be this and that in their bios but when you actually start conversing with them or reading their content, you feel like something’s not right there. I mean, there is not necessarily anything wrong with this approach — being marketing folks, many of us do the shouting part well, to get the attention.
But my point is, in this world where everybody is exposed to a hell lot of information, we’ve evolved our instincts and senses to scan and figure out who’s genuine and who’s not. We’ve been exposed to enough scams and tricks that we’ve learned to be skeptical — we know if someone’s trying too hard to impress us or if they’ve got real stuff between the ears. It’s all so transparent and evident.
It’s my personal philosophy that I’ve come to believe over the years: Be genuine and real. Make the conversations more subtle than bright and polished. People love to do that little bit of scratching on the surface before they submit to you. But let it be. Allow them to do it. Because, those folks who come in with that little bit of skepticism and disagreement will stay longer than the guy you just managed to convince with your “shouting”.
Having said that, being genuine and real is not easy. You might have to admit your mistakes, or go back on your claims.
But isn’t it all about self-correction and evolution thereby? Being real and genuine can win you more (and better) long-standing relationships than any other strategy. And in today’s social landscape, that’s the most valuable thing you can score: Relationships!
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.