This blog is the first in a three part series to show you how to build a social media account that will last for the long haul. Social media can be a powerful force multiplier to get out your message, connect with new people, and find new and interesting ideas, but your social media tactics need to be aligned with your business goals. And, most importantly, it is always all about the people.
To take a step back, let me explain how I use social media.
Back in 2008, I took a job as an industry analyst and was quickly tasked with building a practice that brought in $600,000 per year based on providing insight and working with key influencers. I was a career IT technician and project manager, I had no business development experience, and I had few market-relevant connections. I had never worked for a top analyst firm such as Gartner or Forrester, I’d never worked for a top consultancy such as Accenture or McKinsey, and I had never worked for a top technology vendor such as IBM or SAP. In short, I had very few earned skills that could help me to be a public-facing and successful thought leader.
However, the one personal ace in the hole that I had was my experience with social media. Having followed the ins and outs of everything from USENET to IRC to instant messaging to LiveJournal to Myspace to Friendster to Facebook to Twitter, I had followed the evolution of social media closely and knew that we were reaching a tipping point where normal people were starting to use social media. Over time, I built my Twitter account to the point where I was actually getting business associated with my social media work and I have been named as a top technology thought leader on social media on a number of occasions, all of which are seen as aspects of my thought leadership. It’s not a coincidence. I built my social media presence to do that and I can help you follow that same path.
Let me show you the first steps of how to create a social media presence that will help your reputation and your bottom-line business goals.
Step 1: Focus on what you know. As an IT and Telco professional, my core expertise built over the past decade was in telecom billing, databases, cell phone deployments, and IT project management. Those are the topics that I decided to focus on as I started using Twitter and that focus led to the long-tail audience that I was looking for. I didn’t need 48 million Beliebers; I needed to start with 100 – 200 relevant influencers and contacts in a specific area.
Step 2: Identify keywords and hashtags that you want to own via Tweetbinder and Twitter searches. For me, that started with looking for specific phrases that were relevant to me that I thought that I could “own” with consistent effort. Be realistic. There are key words like “technology” that you will never be able to own because companies like CNN, The Atlantic, and the BBC have much greater reach than you. But maybe you have a shot at owning a more specific phrase, such as #CloudManagement or #MobileAppManagement or #SocialHackathon that might be more relevant to your company’s specific focus.
To that purpose, Tweetbinder is an interesting service that you can log into with your Twitter account. You simply enter a hashtag and this website will provide you with a detailed report of the tweets and demographics associated with that hashtag.
However, for me, the real value of Tweetbinder is that it will also show you the top 20 influencers in that hashtag via several different measures. Currently, by going to Stats, then Contributors, you can see the most active Tweeters, the contributors providing the greatest number of impressions, the most popular contributors, and the contributors who provide the most original tweets. This is a great way to find out the most important people on social media for your specific keywords.
The most interesting part of this exercise is that the key contacts are not always who you would expect. Sometimes you find that a “Tier 2″ thought leader is actually a key influencer in the social space whereas a “Tier 1″ thought leader in regular media will not help you in the social world. Based on your findings, Follow Your Key Influencers! Don’t worry about running out of followers: Twitter allows you to follow up to 2,000 accounts regardless of how many are following you and at this point, you should be nowhere near 2,000. You don’t want to follow 2,000 people. That is simply overwhelming. Start with 100 key people.
Step 3: Create original and interesting media that is relevant to your expertise: blog, video, pictures, infographics, etc. Social media is an amplifier. It’s not the end-all and be-all of all media. Social media works best when you’re sharing additional thoughts. Ideally, you can introduce people to your work, your brand, your employer’s brand, or your own thoughts through social media. No matter how smart you are, 140 characters is probably not enough to showcase your brilliance.
The easiest combination is typically something like Twitter + a blog (which is why we have a blog!) or Twitter + YouTube. But it is difficult to grow Twitter as a standalone account unless you are already famous like Bill Gates or if you are a huge company like IBM, SAP, or Oracle. (Note: if you are Bill Gates, you do not need my help. You’re already doing pretty well for yourself.)
Having built my social media brand from scratch, I know that providing your own perspective is a key component of building your social media brand. However, unless you’re a full-time professional writer or videographer, you won’t have enough time to create interesting media for every tweet, so there are a couple of additional ways to send out the social media message.
Step 4: Curate unique and interesting content that is relevant to your brand. Don’t just stick to your own ideas. If you see a good idea, retweet it with credit to your source! This is actually one of the best things that you can do both to provide high quality social media and to showcase your own brand: show everyone else what you find interesting. And, if you include a reference to your original source, they will notice the reference and appreciate it. For instance, I see every single mention of my own Twitter account, @hyounpark, through HootSuite, which raised $165 million last August and recently announced a partnership with IBM in advance of IBM Connect at the end of January 2014. Hootsuite is a tool that I’ll talk about more in Part 2.
Step 5: Create automated content, such as Paper.li, that collates the content you’re providing. I was one of the first to use Paper.li, back when it was still practically an alpha product, but I’ve found it to be one of the most valuable social tools I’ve used in the past decade. It serves as an aggregator of news sources and of your social stream, which is useful in either summarizing the key stories among your own social media feeds or to get the key stories associated with top stories. As an example, I have a Paper.li built around next week’s NRF 2014 show, which is the most important show in retail. You can also broadcast via Twitter when these Paper.li aggregators update, which can be scheduled on a daily or weekly basis.
This is just one example of automated content that provides value. I do not recommend fully automated social media entries that simply spam an audience. Don’t irritate people with the same message over and over at preset times; make sure that whatever you send is timely and has interesting content. Use automated content wisely and sparingly.
Step 6: Once people start following you, what are you planning to show them other than these basic topics? In my case, it was the ability to work with my research, gain my advisory services, and introduce appropriate followers to the services that an industry analyst firm can provide. Now, it’s the ability to provide consultative services for product development, social HR, social sales, gamification, and bridging the gap between consumer and enterprise technology. It’s not something that gets thrown out all the time, but always remember what your ulterior motive is and introduce it when the time is right.
So, that’s how you get started. By following these 6 steps, you can build the foundation for a Social Media presence that provides long lasting value to yourself and your organization. In Part 2, I’ll explain how to grow and maintain your social media presence as time goes on. It’s not an immediate process, but you’ll see the benefits increase as time goes on.
If you have any further questions on how to take these steps or how to translate these steps to a different social network, please reach out to us at email@example.com or read more about our Social Media Jumpstarts. And, of course, follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn to keep up with our latest insights and social media lessons.