I don't consider myself to be a social media expert - social media is in its infancy and is being redefined every day - but I do work extensively with social media outlets, like Twitter and Facebook, on a daily basis. I use them for me, not for you (I'll explain later).
The Social Media Pressure Is On
You're nobody unless you're on Twitter or Facebook nowadays - especially businesses. But how do you get started? How do you get people interested and build up your followers?
First, let's clear up two myths about social media that so many fall for:
If I have a lot of followers or friends on Facebook and Twitter, then:
- I am popular
- I have a huge market of consumers to advertise to
All those users that fall for these ideas have one goal when social networking: build up their follower list. Lots of people like you or your product and therefore you've succeeded!
What a load of crap.
Now, don't get me wrong. Having a huge following can indeed be a good thing, but you have to have the right type of followers.
It's Easy to Get Lots of Followers & Friends
There appears to be an unwritten social networking rule that states that if I follow or friend you, then you should return the favor and do the same to me. I fear that this rule was probably started by spammers and egotistical, self-satisfied people trying to make themselves appear more popular. None the less, because of this unwritten rule, there are hundreds of online systems and tools that will allow you to 'mass' friend/follow thousands of users within a few hours in the hopes they will return the favor. Literally - within just a few days you could have thousands of friends and followers on Twitter and Facebook. These systems are even smart enough to check and make sure they stay 'friends' with you - if they don't, then they unfriend/unfollow them for you. This creates an environment where users follow too many people and have too many followers. Let me quote a tweet from Weird Al Yankovic here:
If you're following more than 1,000 people on Twitter, you're not really 'following' anybody at all.
He's right. If you're following more than 1,000 people you're just trying to get followers for one of the two reasons listed above. Period. You're not interested in what any of these people are saying at all, which probably means they aren't interested in what you have to say either. Your "friendship" is artificial. There is no way someone can possibly follow that many tweets.
Having Thousands of Followers Doesn't Mean They Are All Listening
The funny thing about all of this is that because these systems 'auto follow back' anyone that follows you, you have nothing but a huge electronic network of robots following each other and connecting millions of strangers together as 'friends'. They then proceed to spam the hell out of each other - but nobody is listening because it's virtually impossible to read and follow the tweets from 1000+ other people.
So what's the point?
We should all use Twitter and Facebook the way they were meant to be used. Not as popularity confirmation or a spamming tool. Use them to keep track of your friends, family, customers and people you are sincerely interested in. If more people did that, everything would fall in place.
How I use Twitter and Facebook for Myself
Currently, I follow 17 people. I follow them not so they'll follow me back (most of them don't) but because I really want to follow what they have to say. Crazy, right? Most of these people are major players in the Web Design/Development world. They have thousands of followers, but they themselves only follow a handful of people. That makes sense. Sure it would be great if one of these guys would follow me, but that's not why I am following them. They keep me informed and up-to-date. Since I started following these guys, I don't even use my RSS reader anymore. These guys tweet all the good articles, websites and blog post links they find. Now instead of me having to filter through hundreds of RSS feeds trying to find something interesting, these guys do it for me!
Amazing as well as that sometimes when I tweet back a question from a tweet, these guys will actually reply back to me! Mixed in with all the good info they provide are bits of their personal lives. These guys tweet about what they had for lunch, what their daughter said to them after school, and so on. In some crazy way, I feel like I know them on a personal level. Some day in the future, when I run into one of them at a conference, I feel like I have a better chance of making an impression when introducing myself.
How I use Twitter and Facebook for My Business
Lots of our Doodlekit customers follow us on Twitter and Facebook. We work hard to insure our free website creating tools are always up and running. People let us know when they are not or something goes wrong. They ask questions to keep up to date with us about new releases and upcoming events. It's also a great backup resource should our system ever go down for any reason - these social networks provide us with a communication line outside our own system.
We also use these social networks to communicate free drawings and contests to reach out to new potential customers. Directly asking people to follow you if they are interested in your product or service will have a much higher conversion rate (versus just following strangers and expecting a follow back). We do drawings asking people to follow us who might be interested in winning a free website. This expands our following with quality followers who are actually or potentially interested in having their own website. While they may not win the drawing, they might see a tweet from us later about new features we just implemented or a special deal we're running on websites. Potential customers are always the types of people we want following us.
For Me, Not You
Every day I have people follow me on Twitter. Every day I have people unfollow me. Those are the spammers & bots fishing for new followers. Sorry, but I'm not going to follow you just because you follow me. Don't waste your time. I use Twitter for me, not for you.
* Thanks to Dave Shea for the idea behind this blog post.