Here we are, after introducing the process to get to social media, at the social media part. For information on getting here, go read the post from last week on Content and Visibility. We ended last week with this:
Focus and real conversation with a sprinkling of “here’s what I offer” are keys to the continuation of your own sanity and to helping your tribe (especially the folks who need/want what you offer and will do the energy exchange) connect with you.
My recipe for social media participation: Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, with Pinterest/Instagram for visual spice. Yeah, Facebook is missing. I’m not saying to never use it to share ideas or pictures, but I’m not a big fan of Facebook Pages as such. There are a lot of different social networks out there; I’m looking for the ones that seem to give the best return for the effort in terms of growing you a tribe that has a larger percentage of actual customers in it. There are some things FB has done recently (enhancing its search capability being primary) that may change its effectiveness, but I still think it’s harder to build a tribe there (except for one part, which I’ll get to).
When it comes to social media to support your craft or service business, focus on the ones (or have your social media maven focus on the ones) that are based on sharing common interests, not just connecting emotionally with family and friends who may or may not share your passion. The social networks that operate on the “follow folks who like the stuff you like” (this is how to concentrate stuff and build gravity to bring your tribe close enough to create an energy exchange) are the ones that have more potential customers. Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, and Instagram (even Tumblr, although it’s a bit wackier) all function on the basis of shared common interest, not on personal familiarity. LinkedIn is kind of a mixed bag, really. More on that in a minute.
You don’t have to be posting on these networks everywhere all the time, either. Some are more conducive to frequently dipping in to do something, and some are more open to status updates on what you’re working on vs. just sharing that common interest stuff, whether created by you or someone else. Interacting with others regularly (but you don’t have to spend hours and hours on social media) let’s them feel visible and valued. It becomes reciprocal.
Let’s look at some of these online communities that I think will provide the best return in building your tribe (fans and customers) over the long-term.
Yep. Lots of little star-birds tweeting their lights all at once seemingly everywhere. Twitter was a bit overwhelming for me at first, and can still be intimidating, but I just have to remember that it’s about common interests, moving information along to the next star, dipping in several times a day to interact with one or two people and being visible as a source of interesting stuff. So choosing who to follow means choosing quality tweeters whose material you want to share. This is the network that you’ll want to check in with most often because threads of conversation move almost as fast as gamma ray bursts and then are gone. But don’t get into angst about missing things; you’ll never be able to keep up with it all. Just maintain a regular presence over time. And go ahead and lay out a bit about what you’re working on (not to sell directly, but just what you’re doing); Twitter culture seems open to that.
Another Facebook? No. Way different demographic, for one thing (younger and more male and more geek than FB). Google+ is about circles and search. Different circles for each band in your spectrum of interests. Post to whichever circle or circles for each share so you can keep everyone connected to the interests they share with you. Google+ is kind of a water cooler or lounging on the corner or coffeehouse space. You don’t necessarily know most folks personally, but you can share stuff you both like (whether cat pictures or tech gadget links or occasionally what you’re making/your blog post). There isn’t a lot of “what I’m working on today,” though. In that respect it’s quite different from both FB and Twitter. And by virtue of being on Google+ with a profile or a profile and a page based on your business, you are visible to Google and it’s vaunted search engine. You will gradually gain more visibility in search by potential customers just from being on Google+. This won’t build your business by itself, but it’s a nice leg up.
It’s all about the groups, really. The numbers and layers of your connections make a nice pattern into cyberspace, but that’s not the real substance. Most folks on LinkedIn only know their first connections personally or professionally, and the fact that you’re connected to Ashton Kutcher at the fifth level isn’t going to help you much. 🙂 You won’t be visible on LinkedIn until you participate in groups based on…wait for it…common interests! I remember just scratching my head over LinkedIn and basically ignoring it until someone turned me on to the groups. I now belong to some book indexing, editing, and publishing groups, and this is where the connections are made. Most of the focus is on bringing up a topic or asking a question and then having the opportunity to interact. Answering questions allows you to show your expertise, which can lead to new clients. LinkedIn has also evolved to support status updates where you can let folks know what you’re working on.
Pinterest and Instagram
I consider this the spice category. Pinterest in particular doesn’t seem to have much in the way of interaction; it seems to be a place to “advertise” your interests visually and again connect with people who have the same interests. So, if you have a visual product or want to share pictures with inspirational quotes, etc., Pinterest is a cool place to hang out. I wouldn’t make it my main event, but you can collect some interest. I’m still thinking about Instagram. I know a lot of folks use it, but I’m not into building image/quote combos and I don’t take a lot of pictures of life in general. But if you do, then Instagram seems to be a place to make connections about the beauty of nature and the human spirit. Spice.
OK. I do have to mention one redeeming factor of Facebook: groups. Yep. Just like LinkedIn. When I first joined Facebook back in 2009, I think it was, groups were just confusing. Like most things with Facebook, groups started out kind of dorky and useless and then shifted as Facebook gradually changed its structure. Now groups are where all the common interest-based interaction is going on. So, if you want to maximize your visibility on Facebook for your own business over time, join groups that are interested in your particular star stuff. Ask questions, provide answers and occasional links directly to your own website (rather than fooling with a separate FB page). It’s all about the groups.
It’s not imperative to reach from one end of the universe of humans to another; it’s about finding your galactic neighborhood and cultivating that. Social media provide you with potential access to the entire universe, but the best use of your time and gravity is to coalesce your own galaxy; it will be large enough to support your star stuff, and social networks can help you shine. 🙂