Tweet Better: A Stupid Guide to Social Media

Hey gang! Steve here. I bet you're wondering how I got to be such a social media master. Well, the answer is pretty simple: I spent a stupid amount of time in my youth wasting time on the Internet. It started with AOL chat rooms and IMs and when social media came around, the transition only made sense. When Facebook was only taking college email addresses to make new accounts and I wasn't in college, I tried my best (and failed) to fake a college email address to get in. When Twitter was in its infancy I was using it as a sort of alternative text messaging platform to blast all my friends at once. When Instagram came along I thought it was stupid at first but quickly came around. And there was also MySpace... Oh, MySpace...

I loved all of these platforms so much that after I discovered I wasn't really able to sell the screenplays that I wrote I decided to devote my life and career to them. How did I do it? By just... doing it... And that's what I want to talk about here. I went from helping out my dad with making a Twitter account for his startup to managing developer-focused social accounts for Cisco Spark (Now Webex Teams), a company with employees and clients all over the world. And I learned how to do that the same way that most people learn languages the best: Full Immersion.

Full Immersion


Now, Full Immersion doesn't just mean regularly posting things and hoping that people notice. That's what I thought at first, too, but it didn't work. You have to realize social media is an inherently self-focused medium. Oh, you may comment on and like other people's posts, but in the end, it's all just a way to bring a little attention to yourself (Hey! Look! I Liked your thing!). It's so self-focused that much of the time people aren't going to notice you unless you bring them something that they value: entertainment, insight, world news, family updates, whatever floats their particular boat. So, no, you can't just be online for 10 years and claim to be Fully Immersed.

Full Immersion means noticing what other people do, trying out new things, and measuring what works and what doesn't. When I started turning social media into my career, I followed business accounts that I never would have otherwise followed. I actually paid attention to the likes of Pizza Hut, Wendy's, Denny's, Google, local government accounts, and local businesses. Some of them had lots of followers just because they were big names. Some of them had lots of followers because they were doing interesting things. Full Immersion meant trying those things out, too. It meant putting in the work and measuring the results.

Measuring


I hate measuring. There, I said it. You can take solace in the fact that a professional social media manager doesn't like measuring. It's like stopping my fun in the middle of the game and analyzing what just happened when I haven't even finished having fun yet. But measuring is vital. Nowadays most platforms come with their own analytics. Facebook is really good at this. Twitter leaves a bit to be desired... Instagram is dead basic. What you really want when you want to measure is some third-party option. Hootsuite's got that. Buffer's got a little of that and is coming out with more which will be awesome. There are all kinds of measuring options out there, but the point is to look at where the high numbers are and figure out how to keep those numbers high.

Measuring can also be tricky, though. Because what, exactly, are you measuring? If you clock a video view, that person might have only seen 2 seconds of your video and moved on. If you clock a click, that person may have accidentally clicked your button and immediately closed the new window. Here's a little secret: it doesn't really have to be that tricky. Remember how I said social media is inherently self-focused? Well, to get your numbers high, all you have to do is lean into that impulse. Focus on the users and engage with them. Notice, I said "engage" and not "sell." Yeah, they're going to IMMEDIATELY know if you're trying to sell to them and IMMEDIATELY be turned off. Especially if you're talking to them from a brand account. Your logo is showing up in their timeline, so that's enough advertisement. All you have to do from there is talk to them like human beings.

Engage!


Like Captain Picard in the captain's chair of the Enterprise, your primary job on social media is to engage. Because engaging is the only way you're going to get people to engage back (that's the thing that boosts your numbers). I can't count how many times I've seen, for example, a video that I just let scroll by my screen and didn't watch it until the person who posted it started talking to me. And this, believe it or not, is the really tough part. Random engagement with a stranger is an immediate turn-off. But if you find a stranger who's interested in what you got, then engagement will be a huge win for you. How do you know who's who? Well, if they mention your brand name, that's a good start. But if they don't even know who you are, you're not gonna get that. Put out some paid ads; that'll get some mindshare out there. I'm no expert on TV commercials or magazine ads or that kind of thing, but you gotta do something to get your name out there, even if it's just hanging out at networking events. And then you can gauge who's interested and engage with them.

Then once people start using your thing, they're gonna mention you on social media and say what they think because now it's about them. You're involved, but they're posting about themselves using your thing. And this is where it becomes even more tricky. Because do you really want to impress them? Do you really want to lock down their loyalty and make sure they come back for the next thing you have? Respond to them within 30 seconds. Yes. 30 seconds. That's your time limit. Especially if they have something negative to say. In fact, you want to thank them for the negative thing. Let them know that you're taking the negative thing into consideration and making changes for the better. If they say a positive thing, thank them for that, too! Celebrate with them! Send them some celebratory emojis!

Engagement, and I mean quick engagement is critical to your perception online. How would you feel in real life if you ask someone a question and they take a couple of minutes before answering? Makes you feel pretty crappy, right? Like you and your issue doesn't really matter to them. The Internet is even faster than real life. 30 seconds is all it takes for people to start getting disappointed in your response time. And, yeah, to some extent they expect a longer response time from brand accounts, but that doesn't have to stop you from exceeding their expectations and making a customer for life.

Social Media is Stupid


A lot of business owners come to social media with this mindset and it just hurts my brain. As of the third quarter of 2018, Facebook had 2.27 billion monthly active users. (source) Twitter has 67 million. (source) Multiply those numbers by 2 and that's about how many eyes are not looking at your product if you aren't on social media. And if you're on social media, but your account is dead, then that's how many people are disappointed in you (or, best case scenario, think you've gone out of business). If you come to social media thinking about it as a personal user, yeah, okay, it could be stupid. It's a naval-gazing time suck that only feeds you pictures of babies and food filtered through a hue lense. But some people (2.27 billion people) are into that. So in order to sell your thing to them, you need to be into that, too. Or at least your business does.

The really stupid thing to do, though, is to swing the pendulum to the other end and focus too much on social media to the detriment of your business. Social media is hard. It takes dedication to manage all your accounts and respond quickly. If you're already running a business, you don't need another thing to take a huge chunk of your time. Hire someone to do it for you. In-house is great, but there are also plenty of freelancers and agencies out there who will do it better and for cheaper. Get someone local who can be there for your events and take pictures of your Thing to show to the Internet. If you're in Tampa, that can be me! If not, a quick Google search will bring up who does social media near you. (If it doesn't, then they're not doing their job very well.)