When Andy Warhol said that, in the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes, his words were more prophetic than he could have imagined: 15 minutes is the effective lifespan of a comment on Twitter. If it’s not picked up or re-tweeted within that time, it’s history.
I mention that to highlight the ephemeral nature of social media. OK, your tweets might live on for eternity in hyperspace, but like shooting stars, they will only enjoy a brief moment of public attention. So even if, for example, you’re Stephen Fry, with 2,500,000 followers, your tweets are only going to reach a fraction of that number at any given time, because your audience have other pressing concerns, like trying to find a plumber or running the kids to school.
And assuming that, unlike Stephen Fry, the world is not hanging on your every word, the moral of the story is to schedule your tweets at times when your audience is ready to engage – the online equivalent of water cooler moments. For business people, that is often on the hour or half hour, when they’re coming in or out of meetings or breaking for lunch and coffee, and grabbing a moment to check on their emails etc.
Then again, if time is infinite, so is space, for which read hyperspace. It’s a big place to get lost in. So it follows that undirected social marketing is, if you’ll forgive the pun, a waste of space. It’s not enough to write a blog and ping off a series of tweets into the ether. You need to identify the locations – networking sites, chat rooms etc – where your potential customers congregate, and channel your output there, where you’ll find the on-line equivalent of a hot mailing list.
Of course, in an ideal world, you’d like potential customers to congregate at your website: this is the Holy Grail of social marketing, and towards which all your efforts should be directed. Better that they beat a path to your door than you footslog around theirs. But how to achieve it?
The first rule to remember is that social media is, by definition, social. This might seem blindingly obvious, but you’d be surprised how many think they can use it in place of traditional hard-sell advertising or promotion. You can’t. You can – and should – use it alongside advertising and promotion in an integrated marketing campaign. But even used on its own social marketing can be hugely effective in winning business – if you know how and when to use it.
The traditional medium social marketing most resembles is public relations, and it works on much the same principle: people trust an unbiased source, and a third party referral carries more weight than self recommendation. Someone might, for example, appoint a supplier on the basis of a tip from a colleague on the golf course.
Once all business was done this way. Nowadays people have a wider pool of experience to draw on, and tend to search for ‘expert’ advice on the web.
All that you have to do is set yourself up as that expert. Just remember that you’re not a sales person, you’re an adviser, an explainer, a sharer of news, views and practical tips about your area of expertise. People are hungry for information of that sort, and will read all you care to write in that vein – which should be plenty. If you’re a greengrocer, for example, blog about how to tell if a melon is ripe, how to prepare a pineapple for the table, or share your Aunt Mabel’s recipe for homemade strawberry jam (the ingredients for which you just happen to be able to supply!)
Do it regularly and often enough and your reputation will spread far and wide. Your tweets will find their target, your website will become a by-word for high class provisions – or whatever it is you specialise in – and your fame, trust me on this, will last a lot longer than 15 minutes!