The marketing industry continues to chase its own tail trying to figure out what does and doesn’t work in the social media space. This is a classic case of analysis paralysis, where a simple human anecdote would more quickly produce the clearest answer.
I often discuss the paralysis by analysis problem as relates to email marketing: Forget all the models, the statistical regression and the 50 PhD’s you’re spending god-knows-what kind of money on to figure out what kind of email you’re going to send to people. Just step into your own shoes for once–as a fellow human being–and ask yourself, “Is this a message that I’d be happy to receive, or would I consider it garden variety spam?”–before clicking send. If you’re having trouble answering the question, don’t do it.
The same applies to marketing your company through social networks (at least in the B2B space, which is the type of marketing I profess to practice). I’ve been trying to earn my social media marketing stripes the good old-fashioned way: by leaping in head first and learning by doing.
From my POV, there are three key identities that you should be maintaining and representing to the best of your abilities as an online social networker, in order of importance:
- Professional Brand
With that in mind, here’s some food for naught on what you should–and more importantly perhaps, should not–be publishing on social media web sites:
Twitter is the best invention to happen to B2B PR and marketing professionals since the BCC line in email. And I am not saying that sarcastically. It is common knowledge to anyone who has visited the site that the vast majority of Tweets are nonsense, and a recent study shows that the vast majority of registered Twitter users have fewer than 10 followers.
The big secret that nobody seems to be talking about is that the less than 10% of us who have 100 or more Twitter followers are using the tool to great effect. I only have 201 followers at the moment, but these include many influential people who have several thousands more followers, and who often click-through to and ReTweet the links and content that I post.
Twitter has proven to be a highly effective mechanism for getting smart people to follow the narrative arc that I want them to be following, and I have traced time and again that folks are far more likely to click on the links that I post on Twitter compared to sites like LinkedIn, even though I have far more “connections” on that site (more than twice as many, actually).
Why is this happening? Because on Twitter we have created communities and have become accustomed to tapping into the knowledge of the collective on Twitter to advance ourselves as Employees and as Professional Brands. This is what we believe it’s for, have made it for, and actually use it for.
Unless you are Ashton Kutcher, and then again–especially if you are Ashton Kutcher–those of us who use Twitter for the professional service that it is have no use for your silly personal updates (just got out of the shower, just ate a salad, just got the high score on Pac Man, whatever). In fact, unless you keep updates like these reserved for novel occasions, we find them all completely useless and even worse, vapid. Unlike Facebook, anyone can “follow” you, not just your friends. In which case, you should operate under the assumption that Twitter is for professional use.
Verdict: Twitter is for maintaining your Employee and Professional Brand identities. Keep your Personal life out of there!
Facebook is the best thing that happened to the Olsen twins since Full House. It has NO value for B2B marketers. Want to let people know that your dog just pooped in your shoe or that your girlfriend just left you? Now here’s the place to do that–at length or in 140 characters or less. Facebook is also the most appropriate place to share pictures of your new tattoo, motorcycle, or way-cool Halloween costume.
As a result, Facebook has limited-to-zero value when it comes to B2B marketing (probably B2C too, but I’ll leave that to the experts). Step into those “human shoes” of yours again and imagine getting an invite from someone on Facebook to become a fan of the super-niche, high-tech company you work for (or any company really). Seriously, what’s the point? I’d say no, and so should, would, will you.
Verdict: Facebook is a Personal tool. Don’t waste time trying to market your Personal Brand or your company as an Employee here that can be better spent on sites like Twitter or LinkedIn.
On a positive note, Facebook is a great online destination to kick back and act like an idiot with relatively few consequences, assuming that floats your boat (and if you play your cards right, of course – e.g., don’t ever connect with your boss on Facebook, you idiot).
LinkedIn is all about your Personal Brand, a little about being an Employee, and is completely ImPersonal. What makes LinkedIn a lot different than Twitter is that there are a few walls protecting your garden compared to virtually no walls enclosing what you do and say on Twitter. Consequently, LinkedIn has had limited utility for PR and marketing people, especially when it comes to spreading the narrative arc of the companies that they currently represent.
LinkedIn is, however, a place where you can really make your Professional Brand shine by sharing your professional accomplishments and affiliating with industry networks in a way that you can’t so easily on Twitter.
Personal stuff on LinkedIn? You’d have to be out of your mind.
Verdict: LinkedIn shines when it comes to building your Personal Brand.
Blogging separates the Titans from the Twits. 140 characters are great, but 140,000 are much better. Ideally you are blogging both as an Employee and as a Personal Brand. As an employee, you should be producing intelligent content that tells the story of your company on your company’s web site. As a Personal Brand, you should be supplementing the story you are telling as an Employee, but also tell a functional story. What I mean by this is that your company blog is where you provide insight into your industry, and your personal blog is where you provide insight into your job. The two are intertwined, but still distinct when it comes down to it.
Once again, unless you are a celeb like Ashton–and, in that case, especially if you are–no one wants to read a blog about the deuce you dropped in the toilet this morning.
Verdict: Blog for your company as an Employee, and for yourself as a Personal Brand.
The Final Analysis: I am a true believer in the value of social media marketing, but not all social networking sites are created equally.
Twitter is King of social media when it comes to marketing your business–there, I said it. And it’s true.
But everyone needs to consume a balanced diet of social media marketing, and you’d be well advised to cover all your bases. Just keep in mind the opportunities and limitations uniquely presented by each social medium before you load your marketing horses into the gate.