Social Media Tip: Play before Work

This bit of advice surfaced in a discussion at an in-house SEO event I attended last weekend, and I think it merits a note. We were talking about companies selecting people to run their Social Media campaigns and what criteria they should use.  My experience at the car dealership immediately sprang to mind. I selected people who already used each platform.

The best Social Media marketers and salesmen are the ones who are already playing in the medium.

Social Media is not really one easy part of the sales / marketing funnel. It’s better used for building brand-love, and for connecting with fans and customers. Someone who has been on Twitter for a few months for their own purposes knows this. Anyone who scrolls past fan page content on their Facebook newsfeed understands that intuitively.  Casual users understand the culture and the social rules.

I’m following a bunch of authors who get this right. Who let their personalities shine through, who chat with other people. Then, sometimes (and only sometimes), they toss information out there about their books.  This is appropriate. And expected.

I’m also following a bunch of authors who get this terribly wrong. They seem to have a lot of followers, and they seem to be retweeted often, but this is deceptive. They are followed by people who follow-back automatically. They are retweeted by people who use their accounts exclusively to push their own books or retweet others.  No one is reading this. No one is responding to it. No one cares.

If you want to schedule a whole bunch of repetitive tweets that will get lost in the noise and never generate a sale. By all means, build your platform that way.

If you want to actually have fans and people who care about you and your success, it’s time to change the game.

My advice: Don’t try to sell anything – yours or anyone else’s anything – for two months.

Log in every day. Send out notes and @-replies every day. But don’t try to sell anything.  Make friends. This will help you learn how the medium works. It will let you see examples of what not to do in your own feed, because they will irritate and distract you.  It will help you intuit how to improve your own interactions.  You’ll learn the culture.

After two months, you can start selling again, but I guarantee that if you try this experiment, you will change your tactics.

Related post: Why I’ve Unfollowed You On Twitter

Why I’ve Unfollowed You On Twitter

I enjoy Twitter. This is my umpteenth account, and I really like being able to finally be myself in the space. I’m writing this to “you”, an unspecified Twitter user who just figured out that I’ve unfollowed you for some reason.

I also enjoy teaching people. I want everyone to succeed, and grow and learn. To that end, I’ve created this post for you.  If you’re willing to reform and want me back as a follower, just comment, and I’ll come back. I promise.

What Did I Do?!

Twitter follower numbers turn me into an angsty 13 year old. I want to know what I did wrong. I’m going on the assumption that you might want to know that, too.

First, if you want to see the cardinal sins of Twitter that you’re committing, go run Twittcleaner, and then click the option “How do I look on Twitcleaner?” to have it look at your own feed. See what it has to say.

Even if you do nothing with the report, Twitcleaner catches all sorts of issues:

  • inactivity
  • tweeting the same link too often
  • never retweets
  • never at-replies
  • ONLY retweets
  • posts too many “follow all of my friends” posts with multiple @s
  • tweeting only links
  • repeating the same tweet too often
  • uses ad networks (paid tweets)
  • follow back fewer than 10% of their followers
  • “all talk, all the time”
  • self-obsessed

I use twit cleaner about once every 2 weeks or so (usually after a Follow-Friday binge) and check to see where I stand. I don’t unfollow everyone for breaking these rules, but I do take into account why each of them do so. (e.g. “He’s a celebrity, of course he doesn’t follow anyone back”, or “They are a magazine, of course they link the their own site a lot.” and “Her account is brand-new. Give her a chance to get started.”)

I’m going to caveat this, though. There are other things that drive me batty that are not caught by Twitcleaner’s impressive scans.

Here are additional reasons why I might unfollow someone:

  • Salesmen.  I taught a car dealership how to use Twitter without coming off like a car salesman. If they can do it, so can you. Stop selling and start interacting. I chase down the products and books of people I consider my Twitter friends. I don’t do that with people who only promote their wares.
  • Overly tweetative.  I myself might fall into this category when I’m in a particularly chatty mood. If people like my tweets regardless of that, they stick around.   I follow nearly a thousand people from all over the world.  Many of them are writers, and chatty. If your pre-scheduled push-tweets show up more often than the faces of the people I interact with, I get annoyed.  I might actually find value in your tweets, and keep you around for a while. But secretly, I’m seething. Eventually. I will unfollow just to save my teeth from further grinding.   There is no rule of thumb on how often is “too often”.  I personally feel that @replies – because they don’t get spewed out to everyone all of the time – are an exception, and that’s where I go tweet-happy.
  • The Gurus.  There are some very nice people in my Twitter feed that I like as human beings. I want to support their endeavors. But they are novices tweeting as experts. Writing Tips should come from editors, publishers, and writers with some books under their belt. Neil Gaiman can tell me how to edit. An unpublished novice who has no more experience than me? Um. No thanks. And if you do this all the time? I’m going to unfollow you.  Being inspiring, encouraging. These things will make me happy with you. Acting like a voice of authority when you have no authority? That makes you the bossy kid on the playground.
    • I want you to notice that I’m writing this from a subjective point of view. I’m stating, in this post why I, personally, unfollow people. What is true for me is often true for other people. I’ve run over 20 Twitter accounts, so I’m fairly aware of the way the tool works. But I’m not claiming to be an expert. I’m stating my opinion. You might consider using this as an example of how to give advice.
  • Hash-o-matics. Twitter hashtags have a variety of formal and informal uses. In my opinion, none of them are wrong, but some are misused.
    • One informal use is to smash a snarky comment or punchline into a hash and use it for comedy. I’m fine with this, honestly, as long as it’s not overused. I often think it’s funny. I use it occasionally (though I’m often not all that clever).
    • The formal purpose is discovery.  The reason Twitter created the function was for people who don’t know one another to connect. People will search on a hashtag, or click a tag to get an aggregation of all of the tweets including that tag. This is how chats work. The tag combines all of the tweets for everyone taking part in the chat.   This is also how people with similar interests discover one another. Popular tags like city names, team names, or activities like #amwriting are great for this.
    • Here’s the problem scenario:  I’m going to talk about the #book I #amwriting. It’s a #sci-fi #novel that is a #dystopia set in the #future.   Do you see how hard that was to read?  It’s even harder when your interface turns them all hyperlink blue.  When added to a tweet with a link, my brain screams SPAM!   When this is the only style of tweet you send? It’s a turnoff. Hashtags are for sprinkling on the 1-2 most important words in a tweet. They are the categories you want that one tweet to fall under in the massive index of tweets.
  • *YAWN* Twitcleaner can’t tell if you’re boring. I don’t unfollow people when they offend me. I’m a big girl, I can take it.  I’d rather be offended by you than bored by you, honestly.  If you are a one-topic, one-trick pony, SNORE. If you use twitter as your personal whine-stream and only that, I will unfollow. (I’m okay with bad days and complaints, we all have them. Just not exclusively bad days and complaints.)
  • Unresponsiveness.  I don’t mind the automatic DMs welcoming me. I don’t love them, but they don’t annoy me like they seem to do a lot of people. I do write back to you when you DM me, though.  And I judge you if you don’t reply. Harrumph. This is not an automatic unfollow, but it is noted in case you continue to rack up negative marks.  I will also attempt to engage you via @-reply. If both of these attempts fail to prove that you are a human being using a social media account, I’ll be seeing you later.
  • ALL CAPS. I get shouty when I get excited, and we often use CAPS for titles due to lack of italics. But if your whole feed has the caps lock on… no thanks.

Look, I originally followed you for some reason. I liked you enough to click “follow” to begin with, but after seeing you in my feed for a few weeks, it’s time for me to go.

If you have honest questions, if you’re interested in learning more, please comment or contact me.  I am happy to help people who want to learn.   Internet marketing is my day-job, after all.

PS: this post from Rascality about “Good reasons to follow and not follow” folks on Twitter is very useful about making that tricky decision from the get-go.

Brands, Links, Authority, Blah, Blah, Blahhhhh

I’ve started this post a number of times regarding brands, authority and links. I’ve started and then stopped it because I still don’t think I’ve got my mind wrapped around it completely.

History Lesson: Vince

Ever since the Vince update in 2009, SEO folks have been talking about the weight Google gives to brand names.  They notice that big brands rank higher for general terms than small sites do, and they conclude that this means that brand recognition is a ranking factor.

I work with a big-brand website. One you expect to see at the top of the SERPs. If you follow this blog, you know that I started working here in 2010, a year after the Vince update. It was one of the first things I asked my new boss. What was the impact?

His answer was that it helped drastically at first, but that the overall impact has blurred and diminished. That subsequent updates have undone most of the impact Vince had.

Bruce Clay published a summary of an SMX West session about big brands earlier this year that I would’ve loved to have attended.  But the messaging there appears to be the same, brand is only a tiny part of ranking signals.

Fast Forward: Authority

Panda demoted sites at the domain level for low-quality results. This is a brand-level assessment. Rel=Author is at a writer / contributor level assessment of authority – do you have experts contributing to your site? Are real writers paid real money to produce high-quality content?  This then lends to domain and brand-level authority.

Doesn’t an “authority” site have reasonable brand awareness? Does it have branded interaction? Brand-specific search, branded terms in keyword anchors?  Isn’t “authority” just a new buzzword for building an online brand?

 

Next Steps: Brand Management

One of the big takeaways from the SMX Advanced sessions – from Matt Cutts and from the SEO panel – was that sites need to make an effort to clean up their link profiles. Google is talking about allowing webmasters to disavow crappy links.

If last year was about establishing authority signals, then this year will be one of ensuring that we’re sending the right signals from all of the right places.

Online brand awareness cannot exist in a vacuum, it has to accompany real-world brand awareness.

 

Be Authentic – How to Market a Real Person or Product

A lot of buzz recently in the SEO world has been about Social Media and how it can impact search rankings. I particularly appreciated this post by Jennita on SEOMOZ… but not because it offers a new trick.   We all know that tweeting helps, right?

What I found interesting was this one line down in the takeaways section:

It appears likely that Google (and Bing) are using the concept they described in the interview on SELand of “Author Authority” to help weight the value of tweets (as we’ve seen that bot-repeated tweeting in similar quantities doesn’t have this affect) [sic]

authenticity in marketing and social media
Photo from Morguefile, Patricia Fortes

Here’s the deal folks. And this is true with Social Media marketing and SEO.

Be A Real Person.                          

Be Authentic.

Be Who You Say You Are.

When I first started having to explain SEO in layman’s terms to people, I would explain that the meta data is what you tell search engines your site is about, and the text they crawl is what it really is about. Search Engines like it when you are what you say you are. They reward authenticity, and strike out against what we would now call SPAM or black hat techniques.

Now, the search engine algos are showing rewards for the same exact thing on Twitter and Facebook and other forms of social interaction. Don’t be fake.

It’s like High School all over again, isn’t it?

But here’s the trick, eventually that personal brand will earn you other’s recognition and respect. Eventually, that personal tweet that you send out will get retweeted because people know you’re a real person, because they know that you have original thoughts, and because they respect what you have to say and how you say it.

Welcome to the real world, people. Just take a deep breath and be yourself. It’s the best any of us can do.