I started in 2006 with nothing but a blog, a dream and not a clue as to what I was doing. But it was a crazy time for everyone online. It was still the early days of the social media boom. Everybody was kind of playing with the new platforms the way a kid plays with an Etch-a-Sketch — first with curious creativity, followed quickly by bafflement and irritation.
It was strange and new and it’s often still strange to me six years down the road.
But that is what makes this post so useful to you.
Nope. I’m the guy that learned social media the hard way, has alienated large groups of his followers just to test new strategies, and still makes mistakes every day.
Think of the following 7 lessons as hard-won social media lessons passed down from a grizzled old veteran.
1. No Really, Numbers Don’t Matter
You’ve probably heard it before, but it needs repeating: follower numbers don’t matter.
Over the years I’ve tested every method out there to boost followers on Twitter and Facebook and the only thing I learned is that a higher number of subscribers can just as easily mean more people not listening to you.
There was a time when I had Twitter followers into the tens of thousands, but once I stopped auto-following SPAMBots my numbers steadily dropped as marketers started to see me as dead weight. And with every passing years I’ve lost more as Twitter deleted those SPAM accounts by the handfulls.
So I can say with supreme confidence that while I may have significantly fewer followers on Twitter than I used to, those that I have are a much better, more responsive group of people.
2. Content Is So NOT King
If there’s one common trend I’ve encountered in every social media info course I’ve gone through, and it’s been more than a few, it’s that you should constantly feed your followers links to new content.
Just to go to Google Reader, they say, find articles related your to keywords and schedule them using HootSuite or Buffer. Ever wondered why Twitter seemed to be mostly populated by people sharing random junk? You now have your answer.
If you’ve gone through one of those Guru courses and are currently shotgunning random links out to your social media followers, stop it now.
Your followers don’t want content. They don’t want to just see random links.
Everything you share is an extension of you and your brand, so don’t share junk. Share what’s great, even if it means sharing less often.
3. It’s Not About You
Unless you are a celebrity, no one cares about following you on Twitter or Facebook.
No one cares that you’re a “social media expert” or a “personal development coach.”
And yet this is the predominant strategy entrepreneurs use to market on social media. They try to build a following around themselves, never getting that it’s not the people we care about, but the causes they stand up for.
Look at the thought leaders in your market that you follow on social media. Did you start following them because they said they were experts, or because they said what you wish you had said?
We don’t rally around people, we rally around the ideas that they represent. A leader is simply someone willing to stand up and say with courage what the rest of us are too afraid to.
4. You Just Plan The Parties
The most common perception of social media fame is that you’re like being the Pied Piper – you sound the call and your followers, well, they follow. And this is the most inaccurate image I can imagine.
You’re more like a party coordinator.
You have to bring them in, give them what they want, care for their needs, make sure everybody mingles and meets who they need to meet.
You aren’t the center of attention, but in the end everyone gets something different out of the experience and you take the ultimate credit for throwing a great party.
5. They Can Smell A Rat
I have spent the last six years testing my social media lists backwards and forwards and one thing I’ve learned is that followers can smell disingenuousness from a mile away – and they. Do. Not. Like it.
On multiple occasions I’ve tried fully automating my list by scheduling shared links ahead of time and what I found was very interesting.
My engagement went up, while my followers went down.
Followers loved the content I was sharing, but hated feeling like they were getting it from a robot.
I discovered that to maximize ReTweets and Likes, I had to share the best possible content AND do it in a personal way.
6. Social Media Is The Worst Sales Platform Ever
If you send out a Tweet with an offer and make 100 sales, it isn’t because Twitter is a magic selling machine. It’s because those 100 buyers knew and trusted you from weeks, months, or years of following your updates.
Going into social media with the notion that you’ll send a few Tweets and make a few sales is beyond nonsense.
But that’s not bad news because, in fact, social media is something much better: a permission platform.
Twitter allows you to gain contact permission from potential customers and nurture your relationships with them by slowly gaining greater and greater permissions. No, these might not be the people that buy from you, but there is plenty of non-monetary benefits to be had from a responsive audience.
7. The Medium Truly Doesn’t Matter
Is Twitter better than Facebook? Is Facebook better than LinkedIn?
It couldn’t matter less.
Would the Beatles have produced better songs by recording to digital than they did on Reel-to-Reel? Clearer? Sure. Better? Not a chance.
It truly doesn’t matter if you choose Twitter, Facebook, Google+, or a megaphone, so long as you’re not doing it poorly. I tell from experience that success or failure in any social medium doesn’t occur because of the tools you choose.
Think for a second about your blog.
Would you post just anything on it? Would you link out blindly just to have something to say? I hope not.
I hope you create and choose your blog content carefully because you know what your readers like and why they keep coming back.
The principal is the same for social media and yet thousands of entrepreneurs forget that and flood their followers with terrible sales pitches and crappy content.
If that’s you, don’t beat yourself up, I’m certainly proof that social media growing pains aren’t a nail in your coffin and users are usually pretty forgiving.
But now it’s time for me to turn it over to your war stories. What social media scars can you show?
Leave a comment below and tell us all about your hard-learned social media lessons
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