Monday, 4 April 2011

Confessions of a Twitterholic

Ok, I'm not, really. In fact I think I'm what you'd most assuredly call a messerer-arounder. I've dabbled in Twitter, done Facebook experiments, used LiveJournal up the razoo and have several unsucessful blogs and websites in my back catalogue. In fact, the hype around social media smacks of that previous winner in the "Next Big Profitable Thang" stakes: Advertising on the Internet (it's the next big thang and you can make millions!). Number of people who managed that: About five. Number of people who put in a half-assed attempt and came out the other end without enough money to buy a Happy Meal: About a million.

There are, of course, and handful of successful Tweeters out there. Take Charlie Sheen... ok, no, bad example. But he undeniably has a huge following, and if he weren't so busy winning then his Twitter account could be directly earning him quite a tidy sum. Case in point: I have a personal Twitter account with 3700 followers despite the fact it's just full of auto-postings from my blogs. Is it making me money? Well, it used to, when I made an effort. Not anymore.

It seems as if the masses have taken to social media while most businesses have stood around twiddling their thumbs. For far too long places like MySpace and Facebook were seen as merely recreational - and it was 100% true. So where was the problem, exactly, if we're only pissfarting around? Rigid thinking, my peoples, rigid thinking. People assuming that because things "were" just for fun then things "always would be".

A couple of businesses broke the train of thought. The arguably most-successful of these is Zynga, who've brought to us such masterpieces as Mafia Wars and Farmville. If you haven't heard of these two, where have you been... under a rock? (Or in a Facebook-free Cone of Silence?)

AHHH but I hear you say, I don't make games so how can I possibly use social networking to make money? See, there you go again with the rigid thinking. Who said it had to be about games?

The reality is that just as it is for any business tool, success via social media takes effort. No company would expect that $20 worth of advertising on tv would make them millionaires. The same goes for sticking your most junior receptionist into Twitter and telling her to say cool things about your product. It's not going to do a thing except clog up your Twitter account with tweets nobody reads. So. Imagine you're at a party.

There's one chick at the party that you don't really know. You've heard of her name, but that's it. Someone introduces her to you. But she talks NON-STOP about her company and never stops to draw breath or actually chat *with* you. She's like a movie projector looping a silent documentary about the mating habits of dung beetles. THIS is what your social media looks like if you're trying to use it to plug your product. You're just that boring chick at the party blabbing non-stop. People turn their backs on you (and your product) because you're boring. They're here to have a party! Who wants to hear a lecture in a party? Puh-lease!

The magical buzzword is "engage". Harness what social media already is: it's SOCIAL. You wouldn't go stand at a party and be that chick, would you? How would you behave at a party, or some other social gathering, if you showed up in the flesh? You would ask questions of people. You'd share ideas. The talk would go back and forward. You'd chat to several people in different ways. Tell one guy a joke; ask another girl how her studies are going. You'd talk about topics that interest them - not just yap about yourself or your work day (or your product). Perhaps you'd dance or sing along; have a cup of coffee, enjoy the movie, try the french onion dip, help wash up. Essentially, you'd interact and adapt.

And this is the crux of it all. Real-life friends have similar interests to you and like what you have to say. You find them interesting, so you reply. But the business/customer relationship is not the same so you can't treat it the same and think anyone will care about what you tweet or Facebook. You have to go to some effort.

Firstly, KISS. Keep It Simple, Stupid. By its very nature social media is "dumbed down" and simplified. Your polished sales spiel from the glossy catalogue won't necessary fly. Smile. Seriously, if you don't make an effort in text, the emotion is often lost. Be nice. And if someone decides to play dirty, don't engage.

Secondly, most of us use social media on a one-to-one basis. Even if ten people click 'Like' and five more comment on our status, we reply to seperate people. So when someone makes a comment on your company - any comment - make sure someone is replying. Be human, or else you simply won't belong. Ask questions. Be nosy and listen. Give feedback. Encourage the two-way banter. Get your potential customers talking to each other about you.

Spread yourself out. Visit other parties. "Friend" (or "Follow") your competitors. Incorporate ideas from like-minded businesses - if you sell cloth nappies, post articles from people who sell toys. Comment on their posts. Network, network, network. Ask the toy seller to post an article about you. Say thank you. Buy them a beer.

Keep picturing your company as that chick at the party and make sure she's popular. It's a lot of effort to keep making brand new friends like you, after all. But if you treat social media like it's merely messing around, then that's all it ever will be.

PS. If you follow every single one of my rules, religiously, exactly and with enough fervent ardour, you will be guilty of rigid thinking. See if you can break a few rules...


  1. excellent post and really well organised (what on earth were you talking about). Another observation is that both of our posts sit really nicely together for this subject. Where the hell is T-Bones?

  2. It's there you geek! I'm inviting you to my parties none of my friends ever help with the dishes

  3. I'm only coming if there's french onion dip.