“You Have To Be In It To Win It!”

By Erica Hall

If you had asked me in 2005 what I’d be doing for a living in 2010, the answer would have never been social media strategy.  The Internet, then, for me was a tool to gather information, not a tool by which I would interact with my friends, receive news and get through my day with.  Five years later I can’t imagine how I would get my news, chat with friends and make new friends without Twitter and Facebook (both online and on my phone).

“Hello, My Name is Erica and I Am a Twitter and Facebook Junkie”

The key I have found for really understanding Twitter or Facebook (when to use it, how to use it and why to use it) as marketer is simple: You MUST be a fan and consumer of the medium.

In the hilarious article “Are You a ‘Twitter Quitter’” by Michelle Godall, she points out that “the fact remains that personal experimentation of social media is a key prerequisite to helping businesses understand, embrace and use social media effectively.”

The best social media marketers are those that are able to understand it’s workhorses, Twitter and Facebook, from more than a strategic research based perspective.  To join in a conversation with your clients, brands and consumers you need to really understand the ways in which people interact in the social networking landscape from a practical standpoint.  The nature Twitter and Facebook is dynamic and constantly changing; if you haven’t logged in to your Twitter or Facebook account in the past 60 days, you have missed out on how the changes you are simply reading about are affecting the very audience you are attempting to engage.

I have a few ideas for those marketers who want to be better about being advocates as well as consumers of Twitter and Facebook:

1. Why are you here?

Define why you are on Twitter/Facebook.  What is it you want to accomplish? Are you looking for new friends or customers? Are you looking for a way to interact with current fans? Are you attempting to brand yourself?  Once you define a clear reason for being in social media, it can better direct how you use it to accomplish your goals.

2. Be authentic.

Make sure you are who you say you are and what you represent.  If you chose to use an alias make sure that the accurately represents who you ACTUALLY are and the goals you have already defined for yourself within the social media context.

3. Be timely.

Update and engage frequently.  This means checking in to your accounts daily, and sometimes multiple times a day.  Update your Twitter status frequently with information that is relevant to who you have defined yourself to be and the reasons why you are in the space. Remember, “you have to be in it to win it.”  If you aren’t logging in to your social media accounts 3+ times a week you can’t call yourself an expert, your are merely a passive user.

4. Join the conversation in a relevant way.

Interact with other users in a relevant way.  Offer some unique perspective, don’t just rehash (or in the case of twitter re-tweet) news without some perspective attached to it.  Share intellectually stimulating content.  A good barometer of this is to share and interact on things which ignite a passion in you; this includes things that you’d discuss with your friends at the end of the day. The conversations you chose to join should be timely, authentic and true to the reasons for your existence in the space.

Still not sure what types of things will engage your audience? Take a look at the science behind the New York Times most e-mailed posts here.

5. Give back and give “props.”

Stop with the pitches and begging people to re-tweet your content.  Social media is about getting things from people, but much more about what you give.

Are you a retailer? Give away discounts or coupons.  Are you trying to develop your personal brand? Give away advice, inspiration or perspective on your industry.  No one wants to follow someone or engage with a brand that is about one-way communication.  If you are getting something out of the social media space, remember to give back as well. Give people something that will uplift, enlighten, cause them to think, or stimulate conversation.

Another way of giving back is to give “props.”  Acknowledge those fans and experts that inspire you or have something relevant to say.  If a piece of news or content comes your way make sure to give credit to the person or persons that inspired you.

Of course, there are many other ways to effectively engage the Twitter and Facebook  landscape; these are simply a few ideas to initially get the savvy marketer on the bandwagon as not only an expert, but a fan.   Join me in my addiction, become a fan, not just a spectator.