I do know a few things though. I'm educated in the worlds of marketing, design, presenting, engagement, storytelling, and a little bit of technology (put that Info Systems degree to work!). All of this knowledge and experience has helped me mold a social media strategy that works for me.
I believe the most effective marketing techniques are those that don't market yourself at all. Especially over the last couple of years, many companies have found great success in what is sometimes called Content Marketing. It's more than just creating and distributing content, however. It's about sharing information, helping people, engaging with your audience, responding to their needs, and most of all CARING.
A wholehearted believe in this type of marketing has led to my social media rules for engagement. These have helped me engage with my target audience, spread brand awareness, and truly help others. This isn't the only blueprint for success, and there are many other ways to market yourself - many of which will probably drive more traffic to your site, grow your followers overnight, and help you build a database of emails you can spam - but these are rules that I like to live by. This is how I truly believe your audience wants to be treated. I know that because it's how I want to be treated as a consumer, and audience member, and a friend.
Never "Auto" Anything
This isn't all-encompassing, but it nearly is. Hardly anything I do on Twitter is automated. The key to effective engagement is to actually be there. When I receive an auto-DM (direct message), it feels disingenuous to me. You send the same thing to everyone who follows you, so you don't really care about me, personally. However, it puts a smile on my face when I get a real DM, with my name, thanking me for following. Especially if they note something specific about me, like "Thanks for the follow Jon. Looking forward to reading your presentation tips!" Social media is about building relationships, and few relationships can be auto-built.
The only automatic thing I approve of, and all of this is just my opinion, is scheduling tweets. Most nights I finish my blog posts at 1am EST (or is it EDT?). Many of my colleagues are asleep and only tweeting my blog post once at such a late hour will get little exposure. So I schedule my tweets to go out 4 times on the day it's posted, spread out 6 hours each. All of my quality followers follow enough that this won't clog up their stream, and gives them a better chance of seeing my tweet. I used to religiously be against this tactic, but it helps drive traffic and I'm not repetitively tweeting a link to my product. I believe these posts are all helpful and free of charge, so it's not rude to want to spread it.
Be as Human as Possible
I was on #brandchat recently where a question was posed about how human a brand should be, mostly regarding the use of faces vs. logos for Twitter avatars and the proper handling of multiple "tweeters" per account. Being human is one of the greatest marketing techniques there will ever be, and striving to be as human as possible can do wonders for your brand. It's not appropriate 100% of the time, but some brands choose to be human 0% of the time, and that's never appropriate.
There's no one formula for success in social media when it comes to humanizing a brand. There are valid arguments to use a logo instead of a face and to use just one Twitter account instead of many. But if you're on Twitter as a personal brand trying to connect with others, you will go very far if you act like a human. That means using a picture of your face as your Twitter avatar, being descriptive about yourself and your passions in your bio, @ replying people to try and engage them, especially if it's just to thank them for a ReTweet or to tell them how much you appreciated their recent article, and responding to all your blog comments, @ mentions, Facebook messages, and emails (it's okay if it takes a little while - just make sure it gets done).
Don't Let Your Social Media Presences Flatline
One thing I've certainly noticed over the last few years is that keeping the heart of my social media efforts beating is no small task. There are many different parts and they all need tending to. If you neglect one for too long it basically shrivels and dies - however, it never goes away which can be even worse (unless you make an effort to completely remove it). Many companies jumping onto the social media bandwagon, only to fall off shortly thereafter. During the first week they may post twice daily. Soon that becomes daily, then weekly, then monthly, then the cobwebs start to form in the corners of their blog or Facebook Fan Page. At this point consumers are coming across these pages and wondering what the heck happened. Did this company go under? Did the person tending to this get fired? Did they lose their passion? Were they only doing this because everyone else was?
First, just because a social media website was created doesn't mean you HAVE to join it. Nobody is putting a gun to your head to create a Facebook Fan Page, a Twitter account, and to author a blog. They can all certainly be useful, but only if you know you can commit the time to them. Second, make sure if you choose to create one that you will commit the time to it. Create a schedule to keep yourself on a deadline. Telling yourself that you'll write a post "when the inspiration hits" can lead to a lonely blog. Tell yourself you'll ask your fans 3 questions per week on your fan page, or you'll write 3 blog posts every Sunday (or before a certain time on Sunday) to be posted on three separate days per week. This isn't easy, and even I struggle with it sometimes, but without it you'll certainly fall off the wagon.
I'm a Gary Vaynerchuck fanboy. Although I'm not a fan of wine at all, I watch nearly all of his video blogs, watch his keynotes, read his book, and met him after he spoke at RJ Julia bookstore in Madison, CT. I've consumed a lot of @garyvee content and while I realize it's impossible to retain it all, I know I've learned and retained a good portion of it. As any presentation expert will tell you, "Forget two or three. You're lucky if your audience remembers just one point you made in your presentation." There's one piece of advice to become successful in business that Gary gave in the very first keynote of his that I ever watched, and that was to care. Not just to care, but to CARE. To go above and beyond what's expected of you as a brand, a business, and a person. Gary has nearly 1 million followers and gets thousands of emails per day, but if you @ reply him or email him, I bet you'll get a response (if you're patient). Try doing that to Ashton Kutcher or your favorite athlete on Twitter. Maybe they're more famous than Gary, but regardless, as a human being he can't scale. No matter who you are, 850k followers is too many to respond to them all (not to mention emails and blog comments) but he finds a way to reach almost everyone who reaches out to him. Heck, I've messaged fellow Xaverian alumnus and pro quarterback Matt Hasselbeck a few times on Twitter and never gotten a response, and he has 22k followers (that's 2.5% as many as Gary, if you're keeping score at home).
Truly caring about your customers, your audience, your followers, your fans, and your friends is so underrated. I've come across a few college students who have tweeted that they were working on a PowerPoint and I offered my help, free of charge. I do this for the sole reason that it would have been cool to get the help of a presentation designer when I was a college student who knew nothing about presentation design. It's a nice thing to do, and my parents always taught me to be nice. My paying customers come first and I don't spend all my time laboring for college students, but it's a better way to spend my time than watching reruns of the Soup. I truly believe doing things like that will come back to me somehow.
This isn't the only way. You can use many techniques, including black hat techniques, to grow and monetize your business or brand. But I believe that we as human beings have a responsibility to treat others as we want to be treated. I believe that following my rules of social media engagement will make this space a better one to be a part of.
What do you think?