Last week I attended a conference and got involved in a marketing discussion. One woman asked: ”If every company jumps on the Twitter and social media bandwagon, how does any company stand out? Aren’t we all just creating a bunch of noise at that point?”
I’ve been thinking about her question and decided to make this post as a response.
Welcome Back to High School
To me, social media and especially Twitter are a lot like high school. You have different activities that promote interaction like sports, clubs and drama, or in this case different platforms like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. You have “cliques” within those groupings, and you have all walks of life together under one roof.
And everyone knows, in high school its the popular kids who have the most pull, the most power, the most social validation. Everyone wants to know what the popular kids are up to, who they’re dating, what they’re doing on the weekend. And Twitter is much the same way. So to answer that lady’s question, you are making a lot of noise, unless and until you are one of the popular kids. And once you’re there, everyone is listening.
This Time, You Can Be a Popular Kid Too
The good news is that anyone can now be the popular kid of their particular industry or interest. It’s not necessarily based on looks or wealth or anything else superficial like that, like it was in high school.
Starting out on Twitter can feel like your first day at a new school where everyone else already has their established group of friends. Here are some guidelines for making friends and eventually becoming the popular kid:
1. Start Slow – You didn’t walk up to every stranger on that first day at a new school and ask them to be your friend. Why not? Well, you come across eager, desperate and just weird. I recommend that Twitter newbies observe for a while, find some lists or people to follow, and learn through observation. If you try to do too much too soon, you come across as spammy and people will not follow or respond to you.
2. Don’t Be a Showoff, It’s Not All About You – When making friends in high school or anywhere else, you probably had the most success when you showed interest in other people first. The same rule applies on Twitter. Yet many people forget this rule, and their Twitter feeds are an endless rambling about themselves. To earn some social power, keep tweets about you to a minimum, like 1 out of every 10 or so. What should you tweet about? Start by re-tweeting other people, participating in organized chats, and posting links to content your target audience would appreciate.
3. Be consistent – Socializing in high school worked well because you were there every day. You had a set schedule of interaction with people on a regular basis, and the more involved you were with activities, the more friends you made. And more friends meant more social power. Twitter is no different. If you want it to work for you long term, you must show up, post, respond and engage on a regular basis.
4. Understand Social Proof - When I was in eighth grade, I tried out for and made the cheerleading squad. This got me introduced, and eventually friends with, the “popular” girls at my school. And once I was in with them, I became friends with their friends, and my social status was immediately elevated. It’s interesting how that one event, making the cheerleading squad, was social proof to those girls that I was worthy of their friendship. Twitter works much the same way. You will feel like you’re working hard, posting and reposting, until other people take notice and validate what you’re doing. And it’s the popular kids who will have the most pull in validating you, until you become a popular kid yourself. You will notice though, the popular kids spend quite a bit of time talking about and elevating each other in order to preserve their status.
5. Lay Off Your Thumbs and Get Out There – Your best memories from high school most likely occurred outside of the classroom, so consider that same principle with Twitter. You will have the most success when you step away from the computer and attend conferences, Tweetups and other events that help get you better connected. Other tips? Put your Twitter handle on your business card, in your email signature, on your website and in your presentations. Let people know you’re new but want to interact. You will find most people to be very welcoming and helpful. Remember, social media starts with being social.
Anything I missed? Please feel free to comment and share your thoughts.