Twitter: A Fine Day To Start Again.

I was listening to Mark Schaffer discuss the update of his book The Tao of Twitter on Michael Stelzner’s podcast the other day and realized that I have been using Twitter all wrong for the past 6 years. Maybe I shouldn’t say ALL wrong. Twitter is one of my favorite social channels. I use it to stay connected with the latest developments in the industry and share valuable articles and resources with followers and via hashtags. I have even added it as required participation (#SocialMedia453) to my Social Media Marketing course at JHU.

Learning and sharing and finding are all part of Twitter, but the big piece I have been missing is real time conversation. No channel gets closer to real time socializing like Twitter. This is perhaps its greatest value and I have been missing out on it for 6 years! The closest I have gotten to this step is at conferences where I have had wonderful Twitter conversations with audience members of talks. I have found that the most meaningful professional relationships and opportunities tend to come from conferences where real time, in person conversations happen.

In Twitter I have had too much of a publishers mindset.  I have been viewing tweets as a set of blog posts that will be viewed somehow like a table of contents. I also worry about direct comments feeling out of context for others who see them. Now I am realizing that these thoughts are merely misconceptions. There are over 350,000 tweets sent per minute, 500 million tweets per day and around 200 billion tweets per year. A Twitter user on average has over 200 followers and follows over 100 people.  With this sheer amount of activity, rarely do we see someone’s stream in its entirety.

Twitter is not about more information or perfect information. Twitter’s strength is making mini one-on-one connections that can build up to more meaningful relationships. To do this we must cut through the clutter with real conversation. This is what Gary Vaynerchuk was talking about in The Thank You Economy. I know all these things. I’ve read the books. How did I miss it for so long?

As I have attempted to build up social media knowledge I have tried to be everywhere and learn everything. I have jumped on every new and old social channel and have tried to do it all. Do you do this too? Yet most of the social media experts tend to be experts in one or two channels. Generalists are few and far between. Community managers are hired to be active in one social channel. To be more effective and get greater results from what Mark Shaeffer calls, “The most popular real-time conversations in the world” we may need more of a focused approach.

Personally, this may mean letting go of some of the other channels for a while. For marketers this may mean cutting channels to the ones that make the most sense or dedicating people to individual communities. Really get to know what makes a specific channel tick and put that effort into each interaction. On Twitter, Shaeffer says it’s about “People sharing, connecting, teaching, and entertaining each other in the moment.” For Twitter tactics I turn to Jay Baer at Convince & Convert. He reports that 92.4% of all retweets happen within the first hour a tweet is sent out and he makes the following suggestions for success:

1. Find Influencers. Not all Twitter followers can amplify messages equally. Find the most influential followers and concentrate efforts there. Interact with them when you have something relevant and valuable to add to the conversation.

2. Repeat Tweets. Tap into multiple Twitter audiences throughout the day. Jay tweets posts 3 times a day with different headlines. Research suggests that the best times to tweet in general are 10am – 3pm – when most people are active on Twitter.

3. Test Tweet Times. Give yourself the best chance of being retweeted by knowing when influencers are on Twitter. Try different times, track response, and look for patterns. Or simply think about possible patterns in your audience’s day. Breaks between meetings, lunch, morning, night – when are they most likely to be on Twitter?

4. Manage Expectations. Only 6% of all tweets are retweeted. Don’t expect everything you send to get shared to the world. Focus on quality versus quantity. Build more one-on-one relationships that will build to more influence over time.

Shaffer says Twitter is the most powerful business networking system that has ever existed (via 140 characters) yet 60% of people who try Twitter quit after the first week. To truly get these benefits we must use the network the right way – the real time way.
For one last insight, Vaynerchuck’s latest book Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook says, “link clicks do not create stories.” Real time conversation is about sharing stories. People are moved by stories. How do you use Twitter? Are you missing out on its greatest potential?

Social Media Is Like Running A Marathon.

Training for a marathon is long. I just starting my four-month training program for a fall marathon. This after months of setting a solid base of 30 to 40 miles a week and years of consistent running before that.

The marathon itself is long. The beginning is exciting with the crowd, the newness, the scenery. But then somewhere after the halfway point, away from the crowds, the novelty wears off, replaced with grueling mile-after-mile. This is when I start thinking “Why am I doing this?” “I am so stupid.” “This isn’t fun!” “I am never doing this again!” Then you “hit the wall” around mile 20 when all energy is used up. Yet if you pop some energy gels and “will” yourself to the end, it is all worth it. A feeling captured in The Baltimore Sun describing a runner who crossed the marathon finish line, threw up and said, “That was the best time of my life!”

Social Media can be like this. Not the throwing up part (perhaps sometimes), but the day-to-day posting. Despite all the talk of ROI and immediate measurement, social media marketing doesn’t give immediate return, like a new TV campaign that can spike retail sales the weekend you run it. Many are jumping into the social media race, but you must be in for the long haul to see real results.

As Jay Baer said in “Are You Slow Enough To Succeed In Social Media?social media adoption is quick, but interacting and engaging with customers and prospects happens on a one to one or one to few basis and that takes time. Social media is built on trust. Building trust takes time. Jay likens this to recruiting a volunteer marketing army one soldier by one soldier. That doesn’t happen overnight. We may think it happens overnight because we read an article about a social media star and never get the years of hard work background story. Like all those overnight success bands that actually gained popularity on their 10th album.

Seth Godin has been publishing a blog post everyday since 2002. No I didn’t miss the “1” in front of that last “2.” For over 12 years, he has faithfully put out daily social media content and it wasn’t always highly successful. His first post “Death of a myth?” to this day only has 1 Tweet and 4 Likes. But today his post “Trading favors” received 1,162 Tweets and 568 Likes. Of course he is also the author of nearly 20 best-selling business books.

A 2014 survey on MarketingCharts.com reveals that social media marketing’s main expense is staff and the staff spend the majority of their time (60%) on content creation. Content development takes up nearly 6 times the amount of time as the next nearest activity – strategy development.

Being a writer, a content creator for nearly 20 years, I can understand this. Advertising agencies are the same. Our main cost was staff and we spent most of our time developing content. The great novel, short story, brilliant 6 word headline (It’s Everywhere You Want To Be) or brand building 3 word tagline (Just Do It) takes a lot more than the time to type out the letters.

Quality content comes in the idea before you write. Quality content comes in the 10th rewrite of the same sentence or paragraph. Quality content will come into its own, but it takes time to build a mass audience and response. Who remembers Ernest Hemingway’s short story “A Divine Gesture?” It was his first professionally published piece in 1922. Thirty years later he published the Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winning Old Man and the Sea.

For those who have patience social media does deliver results. It may not take 30 years, but it may take longer than you think or are willing to accept. In June I presented at INEGRATE, WVU’s IMC conference. Before my session I saw David Higdon, NASCAR’s IMC Managing Director, talk about the brand’s remarkable overhaul.

The effort has been successful. Sponsorship deals have risen 8% since 2008 – higher than before the recession, and 23% of Fortune 500 brands are now part of NASCAR up 20% from 2012. A survey also found that 61% of 18-34-year-old avid fans are more interested today in NASCAR than the year beforeand 65% of those have been fans for less than 5 years. This increase in fan interest is attributed to NASCAR’s social media engagement.

Yet the story behind NASCAR’s success is these results came after an 18-month review and then a 3 to 5 year plan to achieve these goals. That’s right 3 to 5 years. How does that work in a business culture where the average CMO is out in 2-3 years? By the way David Higdon (the NASCAR Social Media Guy), his father is Hal Higdon – famous marathon runner and author of best selling books including “Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide.” Perhaps his father influenced his social media strategy?

What’s my long-term marathon goal? Qualifying for Boston. I may not qualify this year or next, but I will keep trying. Logging in those miles week after week. Like in social media, the only way to see the return is to put in the daily effort over the long-term. But daily training isn’t so bad, I get to run next to the beautiful river you see in my masthead. I wonder what kept and still keeps Seth Godin writing daily. What is his and what is your Boston Marathon jacket?