Becoming a writer is all about telling your own stories.
2013 is a tipping point.
Over the next few years, we will see companies start disappearing off social media because they failed to use it right. Up until this point, brands could butcher social media and still gain a following. This is the year when it all starts to change.
The younger generation is getting older and soon they will be calling most of the shots. Like I've said in other posts, they don't know a world without internet and they have been marketed to since they came out the womb, so they are ten steps ahead of every average marketer out there. They are taking social media by storm and if you don't understand social media from their perspective, you are going to lose.
(Disclaimer: This is far more about context for each social site than it is about the actual tech side of how things work. This isn't about link building, design, Google Adwords, implementing SEO, etc. This is purely about storytelling and context.)
The first step
The first step in developing your story telling across your social media platforms is to have an actual story you are trying to share. You have to give your customers/clients something to believe in.
For example, one of my favorite new bloggers is Chad Howse at chadhowsefitness.com. You can see from his posts that he started as a primarily fitness blogger, and still is, but as time went on he focused his website around becoming a legendary man. Building a body is a small but significant part of becoming someone of value, and it is a breath of fresh air outside of the "Get 6 pack abs so you can bang all the girls" marketing that is infiltrating male spaces. The message is: If you follow him and his advice you can also become legendary, and Chad is living by example; a glance at any of his social sites will demonstrate how clearly he communicates his message.
This is exactly what I talk about when it comes to creating a vision for yourself and your business. You have to hitch your business to a message greater than yourself if you want to make it through these next few years. Until you start defining your vision, you can't possibly communicate anything through social media. So if you don't have a long-term vision yet, I'd suggest working on that first before you tackle anything else in this post.
Where social is now
"If content is king, then context is God." -Gary Vaynerchuk
No longer can social media marketers just find a few articles, go to Hootsuite, schedule all their posts, and have it go across all their platforms. You know what that screams? "Hi I'm a lazy ass marketer who couldn't find two seconds of my oh-so-precious time to log onto each social site for a minute to post this article." Instead, you end up seeing hashtags on Facebook posts and posts that cut off on Twitter due to the 140 character limit that link back to a Facebook page. If it looks like you truly don't give a crap, why would anyone give a crap about you? Marketing is not a lazy business.
The new wave of consumers want you to show you actually care about them as an individual.
If a teenager in a town Tweets out they need a new pair of shoes and a local shoe company responds back asking about what kind of shoes they are looking for (never try to sell on the first interaction on social media), your chance of gaining a new customer just increased by a billion percent (I don't know the actual numbers because there is no measurable ROI on this type on interaction... yet).
This is how I helped a company I worked with beat every single one of their competitors out on social media. I'd say a good 90% of brands out there don't respond to people or go searching for people talking about things they have the answers to. All I focused on was searching out people talking about a certain product, reaching out to them first, establishing a relationship, and eventually stealing them from a competitor. This took quite some time and the ROI was slow, but now it is the #1 brand for that product and the competitors are scrambling to try and catch up. If you don't respond to the people who "@" reply you or who are talking about your products, you can bet your ass someone else will and then it is game over for you.
But let's get started on the sites themselves, yeah?
Thanks for keeping us all in touch with the people we wanted to lose touch with anyway.
Demographic: First off, everyone and their grandmother is on Facebook. So, almost any business could have a page and see some success, because almost every single target market in the world is on Facebook.
Edgerank: If you were dumb enough to buy followers for your Facebook page, you have to realize that due to edgerank less than 30% of your followers will even see your posts, and if half of the people who liked your page are robots, then your odds of your actual customer base seeing your posts are slim to none. This is why I highly recommend that you don't be dumb and buy followers. Not to mention, if your customers find out you bought followers you will seem incredibly desperate, or in the words of the upcoming generation, you're a tool.
In order for more of the people who have already liked your page to see it, you have to "promote" it. (There are other ways, but I have zero interest in talking about the technical details, so Google it if you're interested). Promoting requires you to pay money, and the problem with a promoted status is that if people who aren't following you have your status come up in their feed and they label it as "spam", it hurts your edgerank incredibly.
The decline of Facebook: As the news studies keep showing, younger people are leaving Facebook. I wouldn't doubt that within the next few years Facebook will be only filled with 35+ aged people still keeping in touch with their high school/college friends. Here is the reality: Once parents join anything, it is automatically uncool. South Park touched on this years ago. The parents in the show wanted their kids to stop doing something, so they pretended to like it and all of a sudden kids weren't interested in it anymore. If the next generation sees Facebook as a stupid waste of time, the site won't last long. End of story.
I'll bet you read everywhere that you HAVE to be on Facebook, right? Are these people also over the age of 30? Yeah, thought so. Facebook is awesome to people over 30. So unless your business caters to the 35+ age group, I wouldn't worry about your Facebook page as much.
When I ask the younger generation what they think about Facebook, one of the common words that comes up is "creepy". Oh, weird, they don't like when companies keep track of every little thing about them so they can market to them. This is the generation that was raised to keep an eye out for creeps in their neighborhoods/schools/online, so they aren't too fond of being tracked and there is no one who is a bigger violator of this than Facebook. On top of that, Facebook is always messing with our privacy settings and trying to get everyone to share everything. No one likes to be lied to.
There is also an incredible amount of drama that comes from denying someone you know in real life on Facebook. So that super annoying co-worker you have that adds you and you have to listen to her whining every single day on Facebook? Yup, you have to accept her friend request. If you ask almost anyone, I'd guess that most people would delete 70% of their friends on Facebook if they could avoid the consequences. So when Facebook came out with Facebook Home, of course it tanked because no one wants to hear about their college friends having kids and those kids eating crayons and how "cute" it is.
On top of that, the world is absolutely going to mobile and the Facebook app sucks. There, it's been said. I understand that was a lot of negatives about Facebook, but this is what is going on in social media and staying ahead of the curve will get you far.
After all, it was my generation that took down Myspace when everyone said "Myspace isn't going anywhere".
Storytelling on Facebook: That being said, story telling on Facebook isn't so hard as it allows every type of medium to be shared (video, text, pictures). With Facebook, you can't really see your followers walls or what they talk about, so you have to judge based on what gets the most interactions. Share stories and pictures around what I told you to do in step one and track what gets the most attention and start catering the content to what they like to see. You may find out that they like pictures more than news stories, and the handy thing about Facebook is that it gives you statistics about your followers and what they like/comment on the most and how they ended up liking your page. They also give demographics statistics. Pay attention to these.
Something I see brands do successfully on Facebook is to offer deals exclusively on their Facebook page. This attracts customers and brings people to "like" your page so they can also take part. The same applies for running giveaways on Facebook pages. There are so many incredible sites that can create landing pages for Facebook pages that look beautiful and do all of the work of running a deal or a giveaway for you.
Also, keep a watch on your community because there is no other site where a conversation can spin quickly out of control quite like on a Facebook page.
Hot on Facebook right now: Political debates, people hating their jobs/day/life, pictures of their children.
You glorious, sexy site you.
Demographic: 20-40 year-olds. Hipsters. People under 20 don't really get it and people over 40 make fun of Twitter because they think everyone just posts about what they're eating.
Where brands get it wrong: Twitter is the culmination of brands that are doing social media right. For me, out of all of the sites I'm on, Twitter brings me about 70% of my clients and I only have followers in the 300 range. Yes, it is possible to make a good living with only 300 followers. On the flip side of that, I know many brands who have 30,000+ followers who are on the brink of bankruptcy, so don't let the numbers fool you, because conversion is a tough game, but I'll get to conversion farther down the post.
There are two tactics that make you seem like an asshole on Twitter:
1. You follow 40,000 people to get 40,000 followers. Most of the followers you will get will not convert to sales. Twitter is not high school. It is not a popularity game. More followers DOES NOT equal more sales. On the flip side of that, following back the people who follow you first isn't always a bad idea. Just don't start following thousands of people day 1 and looking desperate.
2. You auto-DM (direct message) EVERYONE. Talk about one of the most impersonal things you could do on social media. "HEY THANKS FOR THE FOLLOW LIKE MY FACEBOOK PAGE TOO!!!" Selling on the first pitch screams "marketer" and "asshole" so you will get unfollowed quickly. If you absolutely are sold on direct messaging, thank them for a follow then talk to them about something they have an actual interest in. If they tweet about the Broncos, ask them how they think the season will go this year. If they tweet about living in Chicago, ask them about their favorite local restaurant.
Then, just like Facebook, many people buy followers on Twitter. Do whatever you want, but the same rules apply as to what I said about Facebook. Plus, there are now sites that can show you the % of fake followers someone has (thus usually concluding they bought some), so don't look like a tool in the future. Do it honest and it will pay off.
Another common problem on Twitter is that brands don't utilize the bio part of their profile. When someone comes to your page, they usually decide within seconds if you're worth following, if you don't make it clear on what you actually talk about/help with, they won't know. For example, I was recently followed by someone who is in the marketing field and her bio was something along the lines of, "Mommy of three, loves chocolate cake, mexican food, and cupcakes." Then I searched through her tweets and realized that she actually shared really valuable articles about marketing, but if I hadn't searched I would have never known, if I just had went off my first impression (which most people do), she would have never gotten my attention because personally I don't care about people's kids or anything else she said in her bio. Change your bio to be accurate and you will actually attract the people you want. If people see you as a resource for something they want in life, they will follow you.
Storytelling on Twitter: First and foremost, you should always be searching keywords related to your business. This tip has been taught for years but still, brands still aren't doing it? Why? It's one of the most time-consuming things out there.
As for the Tweets themselves, stay focused on your actual niche. Share articles that bring real value and not just "top ten tips for blah blah blah", and you will see more people start to actually care and share your content.
One of my favorite things about Twitter is that for the most part everyone has open profiles so you can actually see what your target market is talking about on a daily basis. This can help you bring value to the people in your target market. Only drift outside of your niche if the context is relevant. For example, if you are a local restaurant, you may share local news or even give tips for the best places to do x, y, z, in your neighborhood. You may even want to tell a little backstory on the restaurant, the local area, or the history of the food served in your restaurant. All of these ideas help build your story around your brand.
On Twitter, it isn't usually strange to hear from people you aren't following, which gives brands a perfect opportunity to start discussions. You can jump in conversations and help answer questions or talk about a topic you have in common.
Hot on Twitter: News about your niche, trying to be a smartass, posts about marketing/social media.
You have so much potential.
Demographic: 12-18 year olds... (so far)
What the hell is Vine? Vine is a new platform brought to us by Twitter. 99% of people think it is incredibly stupid, but I think there is a lot of potential. After all, don't forget how many people thought Twitter was the dumbest thing they have ever heard of for years.
The general premise is that you can only make a 6 second video to share and it has to be completely raw footage taken with your phone because it doesn't allow you to upload your perfectly polished videos.
There is a lot of potential for Vine in the fact that it levels the playing field for video. Look at some of the best YouTube channels out there: so many of them have a film crew, a really nice camera, great editing equipment, etc., and most people cannot compete with that because they lack the funds to do so. Vine is the answer to that.
If you're curious about Vine, I'd recommend you check out what Lowe's is doing in their Vine. Social media "guru's" are freaking out because they didn't think of that use for it and while every brand out there is scrambling trying to figure out how to use it to their advantage, if you jumped on it right now before they figure it out, you could be at the forefront of the growth
Are you a restaurant? Show your food, show your restaurant, show a meal being made.
Are you a comedian? Tell a 6 second joke.
Are you a consultant? Get creative and give advice in 6 seconds.
Are you a wine drinker? Give 6 seconds reviews. (Gary Vaynerchuck is on his way to dominating this).
Give deals. Use hashtags. Be friendly.
Whatever business you own, you can even take the creative approach Gary Vaynerchuk did and answer questions from your customers in video format. It brings a whole new level to personal.
It is also a hot new app for the next generation because, like I said above, mobile is going to be everything and it is a mobile app that runs great for the most part.
Hot on Vine: People being funny and ridiculous. You may get motion sickness. Also there is porn on Vine... so there's that.
You are like crack for women.
Demographic: Women between the ages of 20 and 35.
Storytelling on Pinterest: The ability to group pictures by boards is phenomenal. If you are in the business of fashion, food, wedding anything, photography, travel, design, or anything else heavily picture based and your target market is women, this is absolutely your site.
If you are going to use Pinterest for your storytelling, getting high quality pictures is one of the most important things you can do. Each board can tell a story, and if you have those pictures link back to your website that goes into more detail that the pin leaves them a desire for, then that is how you boost traffic for your site.
For example, if you are a local restaurant (I love marketing for restaurants... My secret is out), and you post a beautiful picture of your berry pancakes and have a caption "Berry pancakes: simple as 1, 2, 3! Find out the recipe!", you will absolutely get people clicking and going to your website to get the recipe.
Also, Pinterest gives your brand a chance to show a little more personality in the boards. Maybe you are a shoe company who is focused on helping the environment. Maybe you have boards of cool eco gadgets, green ideas around the home, and gardening tips. It allows you to expand out because followers can pick and choose which boards they have an interest in. If you want to go the extra mile and have a small amount of employees, you could even have a board with all of your employees and their story.
Hot on Pinterest: Food, travel, fitness.
The best place for free music and stupid comments.
Demographic: 12-25 year olds. Super crabby video gamers.
The downside to YouTube: So many YouTube channels are one step away from being produced by movie sets. While the quality is great, this definitely can bring a challenge to smaller businesses who don't have those kind of resources. If you're going to seriously market on YouTube, I would highly suggest you get a quality, handheld video camera and an Apple computer so you can use iMovie.
Another downside is the heavy amount of twats who never get laid and are hyper-aggressive who leave comments under fake pseudo names. If you post a video of something simple, like your favorite pair of shoes, be ready to be told you're the dumbest person ever That is the reality of YouTube and I can't wait for them to fix this problem.
Storytelling on YouTube: YouTube is fantastic for easy storytelling. You could tell your whole brand's story in segments of clips. If you ever do speaking events, you can share those. If you're in the fitness area, share your meal plans or your favorite workouts.
The secret is to not let your videos get stale. Keep it fresh, keep up the energy, and bring value. If you find yourself rambling in some parts of your video, just cut those out.
Hot on YouTube: Jenna Marbles, Gangnam Style, trolls.
The place for angsty teenagers.
Demographic: 12-20 year olds.
Storytelling on Tumblr: The hardest part about Tumblr is that it is a very tight group. Although it just got bought for 1 Billion+ dollars, it is still a small community and if you even do the slightest thing wrong it will spin through Tumblr faster than you can click your mouse. People on Tumblr take this site seriously and many feel like their Tumblr friends are their actual family. It's like walking into a room with a bunch of high schoolers: be prepared to get stared down until they decide if you're cool or not.
The great thing about Tumblr is the ability to "reblog". For those of you on Twitter, it is like "retweeting" in a way, you get to share what someone else said and sometimes add your own commentary.
Another great thing about Tumblr is the ability to use the beautiful option of blog layouts they have available, even when you just have a free site through them and don't buy your domain.
Hot on Tumblr: Feminism, Dr. Who, hilarious gifs.
How I wish you would take down Facebook.
Demographic: More than 70% male, college educated, older crowd.
The downside to Google+: It breaks my heart that Google+ isn't taking off in the way everyone had hoped. The mobile app is incredible, Google Hangouts is the chat option all other social networks lack, and the website itself is flawless. The only problem is: almost no one is on it.
It's hard to say whether Google+ will take off or not. It does incredible things for SEO, because, duh, Google is going to favor its own products and the people who are on them above anything. It is the sexiest site I have used and the syncing between my e-mail account, my Google+ page, and my YouTube account is flawless. If I had to take a guess as to whether Google+ will take off or not, I'd have to say that if they stop marketing it as a tool to talk to your parents/grandparents, it might have a chance. Like I said earlier in the Facebook discussion, NO ONE WANTS AN EASIER WAY TO TALK TO THEIR PARENTS. This next generation isn't rebellious, and they are actually closer to their parents than in recent generations, but that doesn't mean they want to video chat with their parents or grandparents at any moment. On top of that, they don't want their boss/co-workers to video chat with them at any time, either. No one is going to hang out where their family/co-workers are.
Storytelling on Google+: The ability to have a Google Hangout with other thought leaders in your industry is an incredible idea. A great way to bring people to your page is to host a streaming discussion with other leaders in your industry and then record it and share it. Google+ is also a lot like Facebook in the fact that you can post pictures, videos, text, etc. This is one of those areas kind of like Vine where if you can come up with a super creative idea and execute now, you may get ahead of the game. When new social sites are launched is when new people are launched to the forefront of social media innovators.
Hot on Google+: Articles... lots and lots and lots of articles and pictures.
The birthplace of copyright violations.
Demographic: 15-30 year olds. Hipsters. Environmentalists. Fitness people. Coffee lovers.
The downside to Instagram: Outside of the huge controversy involving Instagram, it is owned by Facebook so you know eventually it will have to be monetized in a way and marketers will enter the picture.
Actually, marketers will eventually ruin every single site I have talked about because that's what marketers do... But not you. If you've already read this far (and holy hell if you have I want to send you a gift...) you're in it to win it.
However, since Facebook spent over 1 billion dollars on Instagram, there is no way they are just going to let it continue to be free. Eventually, either paid pictures or some other idea will enter into people's feeds. This is what they do on their main site so how could it not?
The other downside is that because Facebook has such a huge ego and refuses to play nice with other social sites, it likes to mess up its connection with Twitter from time to time. You can't find your Twitter followers on Instagram easily anymore.
Also, copyright violation is all over Instagram. There is a process called a "regram" where people screen shot their pictures, then give you credit for them but they upload them on their channel. So, as long as you're okay with that, continue on.
Storytelling on Instagram: The great thing about Instagram is the artistic capabilities. The filters are incredible and it is nice to see a stream of pretty pictures. For the average person, it really helps make your pictures prettier for you so you can focus on other things in your business.
Hashtags are a great tool that is on Instagram and isn't as flooded with spam as the Twitter hashtags can be. One of the most common ways these hashtags are used is brands create their own individual hashtag and run contests only using that hashtag. This way when people upload pictures and use your hashtag, they are entered to win whatever contest you are running and on top of that, their friends see the hashtag and may come check it out.
For brands, it provides a great opportunity to see "behind the scenes" of your brand. You can show the actual process of your product creation. You could also showcase events you attend or give teasers at future products being released.
Hot on Instagram: Hipsters. Always, always, hipsters.
Everyone talks about the benefits of blogging for your brand, and I completely agree, but I am also going to take it back a step here.
If you are only blogging for SEO, if you are stealing other people's content, or you are taking your same boring content and only changing some of the words by a certain amount, please quit blogging today.
Google Search is trying desperately to get these types of websites to stop showing up on their front page. One day they will outsmart you, because it's Google, and all your SEO will be wasted. You can feel high and mighty right now because you're probably on the front page with your crappy no-value blog, but you will see and in a few years no one will ever remember your site.
Your site is a shame on the word "blogging" and you need to stop. Maybe you have a gardening tool and you use the word "gardening tool" 3 times in your blog (yes, that's all SEO is ladies and gentlemen), and all you talk about in every post is how great your product is and your "innovation". The circle jerk you have going on must feel really great, but give it three more years and your competitor (maybe who hasn't even launched yet), comes into the scene and starts blogging about gardening tips and tricks, health benefits of gardening, and gives away one tool a month to someone who needs it. Hell, maybe they even help build a garden at a school. All of those things bring value to a reader and their online community. Your circle jerk of SEO is going to be forgotten, so enjoy it while it lasts.
Bring value or be forgotten.
LinkedIn is mainly for professionals who work for conservative brands or professions. Lawyers, engineers, accountants, etc. It is the place you go when you can't say the word swear on your Twitter account. For obvious reasons, the younger generation isn't on it yet, but LinkedIn will be around for a long time simply because it is the only social site for a lot of professional people.
If you love to answer/read questions and connect with people, Reddit and Quora are for you. I don't really understand those sites, but I know there are a lot of sites out there to help with that process.
WayWire is a new site that is primarily based around videos. I have no idea about its staying power, but the trend in upcoming sites seem to be around the idea of video. Personally, I think a lot of people have spent so much time on social media, and the human connection can be brought through video in a way that the other sites can't compare to.
Final action steps:
The demographics of your target market matter a lot when it comes to social media. Once you become someone as big as Whole Foods, just get on all the sites, but when you're a smaller business, just focus on the sites that matter and dominate them.
Always, always, always respond to your customers and clients. Studies say somewhere between 60-95% of brands out there don't respond to the people who reach out to them. If one of your competitors isn't helping their customers, do not be afraid to step in and assist them. This is business, people. It's not flowers, feel good woo-woo stuff, and rainbows, it is competitive. You aren't being a horrible human being by being competitive. Like the Godfather says, "It's not personal, it's business."
Every now and then reach out to your customers and clients and give something without expecting anything in return. Give spontaneously without having a formal "contest". If you notice someone extremely active in your community helping others out, reach out to them and thank them in some way. This is becoming the Thank You Economy and if you aren't willing to go down that route, there are a lot of 9-5's that would love to have you work for them.
Stop cross-posting across all sites. Don't be lazy. Log into each and every site and update your content based specifically on the context of the site you are posting it on. If you want to go the extra mile: every now and then create content specifically for each individual site and don't post it anywhere else. That gives people a reason to follow you on all of your social channels instead of just one.
Never sell on the first interaction on social media. Instead, ask how you can help first. Always look to help first.
See if things are converting. You could be a rock star on social media, but if you can't convert those followers to a sale, then you will never see those benefits to your hard work in your bank account.
"If they like you, and they believe you, and they have confidence in you, and they trust you, then they MAY buy from you." -Jeffrey Gitomer
Let me know in the comments what you agree/disagree with or what brands you think are dominating social media!
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