Before someone decides to hire you or buy something from you, one of the criteria they use to evaluate you is your social footprint. They consider three things: Volume, quality, and credibility.
- How many followers you have
- How many social channels you participate in
- How helpful your tweets or posts are
- How original, insightful, and non-promotional your tweets are
- How many followers were “bought” rather than “earned”
- How much your blog posts are commented on or shared
You don’t have to participate in every channel; only the appropriate ones. In general, if you operate in the B2B world, they expect you to be on LinkedIn and Twitter; if you are in the retail B2C world, they expect to find you on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. (Of course, if you want to know exactly where your customers expect to find you and what they hope you will do for them there, you can always ask them using the simple method I describe in my book.)
Twitter currently consists of several categories of tweeters: consultants competing for influence; celebrities interacting with their fans; sports and events tweeting and interacting with fans in real-time; everyday people tweeting about a news event; people with time on their hands trying to get silly things to trend; and companies (or their customers) using it to provide (or attempt to get) customer service.
LinkedIn has become the world’s most efficient recruiting resource, and a great place to find out more about a person’s business background. It’s also become a vibrant channel for professionals to interact with each other, although discussions are often dominated by consultants fishing for business.
Facebook continues to be the best way to keep up with friends and family. However, the customers I interview for my clients tell me that they worry about privacy each time Facebook makes a change. They also tell me that they studiously avoid clicking on the ads, because they feel the ads are an intrusion into their personal space. Facebook has also become a platform for B2C companies (and celebrities) to establish a connection with their customers.
Pinterest has become, almost overnight, the biggest community of enthusiastic spread-the-word (mostly female) window-shoppers. (A newcomer and Pinterest look-alike, TheFancy.com [which does not require an invitation] is trying to combine Pinterest with the referral-points, friend-pestering Groupon model; we’ll see how that works out.)
I should mention Google+ here. It’s still a ghost town, in spite of its evangelists (Guy Kawasaki and Chris Brogan come to mind). The other channels I’ve mentioned have a clear niche. Google’s niche seems to be, so far, “It’s Google, so we need to pay attention, but there isn’t anything there that I can’t get elsewhere.” The format is “more than Twitter and more like Facebook,” but it doesn’t yet meet a unique need in the mind of the people who might use it.
What do your follower numbers say about you?
Those of us who have not “bought” any followers are well aware of the amount of work and time it takes to build followers the old-fashioned way – by earning them with our content. We know what makes our numbers rise (controversy always works, but it has its own risks). We also know when our blog posts or tweets are not really lighting up the revenue scoreboard. The knowledge we have gained helps us advise our own clients, because we know from experience what the social community deems valuable.
Those who “bought” their followers don’t learn these lessons.
It’s gotten pretty easy to figure out who bought followers and who didn’t; a person with 55,000 followers, who also follows 53,000 people, has almost always used the “I follow you, you follow me” method, usually via an overseas service.
What do your tweets say about you?
If your tweets are completely self-serving, you will be seen as just another hypster. The “get rich quick, using my amazing videos” guys fall into this category.
Your tweets should be a healthy combination of retweeting others, tweeting your own thoughts and content, interacting with your followers, and helping anyone who needs it. I have found that if the majority of your tweets fall into these categories, your followers won’t mind at all if you throw in some self-promotional tweets. In fact, these promotional tweets can be the ones most retweeted; your followers will be happy to help you after you’ve helped them.
Silliness, sarcasm, or swearing will come back to bite you when someone is considering hiring you or buying a product. You’ll never know that they came, they looked at your tweets, and then decided you were not professional or adult enough.
Your tweets should also stay on-theme. If you are using Twitter to promote your products or services, save your personal comments for your friends/family channels, such as Facebook.
The smartest companies are using Twitter to interact with customers, real-time, and actually solve customer problems. But they are very, very rare.
Most companies just have not invested yet in the infrastructure and personnel to do this right. They are still investing heavily in Plain Old Marketing, which stopped working a couple of years ago.