Archive for September 2010
If you are living or working in and around Colombo, I invite you to join hands with us for a very special event called “Social Good Day Colombo” on this coming Thursday. You have used Facebook to keep in touch with your friends, and use Twitter to meet and interact with new friends. You watch Lady Gaga videos on Youtube, you use Wikepedia for researching for your studies. But, have you ever thought that you can use all these social media services, to make much worthier causes? That’s what Social Good Day (SGD) is all about.
Few weeks ago, I compiled a list of Sri Lankan brands on Twitter, to monitor their online activities on Twitter. My aim was to observe how effectively these brands are using Twitter as a customer engagement tool, and to spot some common mistakes made by them. Here are some of my observations. When looking at this information, it is obvious; most of these brands on Twitter are actually not quite “getting it right” to begin with.
1. Twitter on Autopilot
Most Sri Lankan brands have synchronized their Twitter account with their Facebook pages or blog RSS. Every time they post something on their Facebook page, it is updated automatically on their Twitter account as well. However, they never bother to check back for any customer reactions for these messages on Twitter. They only bother about the comments they get for the Facebook post, and simply ignore the Twitter feed. This leads to abandoning a segment of customers who are willing to participate in a conversation with their brand and they simply alienated these customers without attending to their feedback to the brand via Twitter.
Finally, we have a ‘permanent’ cat in our home and guess what; this cat is a social media cat! I tweeted few days ago, asking for help finding a white kitten for my son. Coincidentally during the same time @Roshm found a stray kitten down in Kataragama during a business trip there, and tweeted asking someone to help finding a home for the kitten. The most admired ‘cat specialist’ on Twitter, @Moshanthi was following both of us at that moment, and introduced two of us to come to a negotiation.
At first, there was a problem about the color of the kitten, as my son insisted on a white kitten (“Sudu Poosa – White Cat” is a character from one of his favorite storybooks). We decided not to adopt the grey kitten, thinking that the kid will not like the poor animal. We published an update on “Pets Are Family Too” Facebook page asking someone to volunteer adopting the ‘grey kitten from Kataragama’. Unfortunately, we could not find a home for the poor kitten through that channel as well.
On many occasions, I was puzzled about why people are so much obsessed about the ‘like counts’ and ‘follower counts’ as measures of social media success. Particularly I get this feeling when looking at my Google Reader browser and going through hundreds of stories appearing there from various social media blogs I follow. How many posts we see about certain shortcuts to increase follower counts or likes count?
An interesting discussion took place this evening on Twitter, when someone tweeted saying “A twitter power user is one with over 100 followers and over 1000 tweets”. (This stat said to be coming from a survey, but unfortunately, I could not find any reference to such a survey by Googling for it with different search terms. If you know where to refer for the original survey, please post me a link).
The thinking that anyone over 100 followers and 1000 tweets will automatically qualifies to be a “power user” is part of the ‘bean counter paradigm’ where you try to quantify everything into numbers and generalize it.
Armed with information like this, we all get into the rat race of hunting for more followers and likes on Twitter and Facebook. Companies will throw thousands of dollars on sophisticated tools to automate tweeting, attract followers, and do what ever they can do to become “power tweeters”. In the end, your social media effort becomes merely a managing of a set of tools with the aim of attracting more followers and likes.
But are we really doing the right thing? One mistake most companies are doing is, taking “social media” as a technology subject. Some companies are a little bit better, and they mistake social media to be a marketing subject. But in my opinion (which may be wrong, and which also is supported by many other bloggers as well) social media is not about either technology (no way!) or about marketing. The most important aspect of social media essentially is its “social” element.
Who is a Power User?
Being social means; maintaining meaningful relationships with other members in the society, and mutually benefiting from such relationships. Being socially powerful, (a ‘power user’) means, having an ability to influence other people for behaving in a desired way. Think about socially powerful individuals in real life. Are they influential simply because they have 1,000 friends or because they wrote 10,000 articles to a weekend newspaper which has only a circulation of 1,000 copies? No. There are influential people in our society, who has the ability of convincing other people to behave in a certain desired way by engaging in a meaningful conversation with them. Some people are powerful, because they have close contacts to influential people. (A clerk at the president’s office may be socially influential largely than you or me)
Power users on social media are not different to this. More than the number of followers or tweets, what you have to focus on is their ability to influence followers for behaving in a desired way. The desired actions may be to Re-tweets, @reply, or to click on a link provided in your tweet.
Ability to Influence
Without this ability to influence, it is useless to have thousands of followers or tweeting 10,000 times. This is why I never endorse the cheap tactic of bulk following thousands of people on Twitter, with the hope of some of them start following you back. I have seen some brands, following about 2,000 people but only 100 or 200 are following them back. This doesn’t look good on your credibility. Anyone (with common sense) can guess, the 100 followers you are having are random people you collected through “follow back love”. If you build your follower base with this type of a strategy, you will invariably find it difficult to engage in a conversation with them, no matter if you tweet 1000 times or 10,000 times. So, does that make you a power user?
How to Build Your Twitter Power?
I always recommend you to be selective about who follows you. Define what you stand for on Twitter (Eg: I have defined myself as “Sri Lanka based marketing professional who also loves cricket”). Once you define what you stand for; you have to target followers with the same set of interests. This way, you slowly build up an audience who are receptive for what you tweet. Start with 10 followers; interact with them. Grow it to 50, then 100 and so forth. Never rush for numbers. Most people worry when someone unfollows them. I myself one who get delighted when people unfollow me. Because I know, if someone unfollows me, he/she doesn’t take my tweets as relevant for them. Better let them go, than just keeping for the sake of numbers.
In summary, I believe social media is not about numbers. It’s not about the likes and tweets. It’s all about human relationships, only happening on a different platform. Social media is not about technology. Technology is only an enabler of social media. Stop the obsession for having more “likes” on Facebook or more followers on Twitter. Start talking to people; be nice to them on Facebook, Twitter etc. Never forget to give a genuine thank you for a re-tweet. It’s all about giving and getting. If everyone focuses only on getting; there won’t be anyone to do the giving. Just be human. Be real. That is what social media is all about for me.
Photo Credit: everydayfunnyfunny.com