The Introvert’s Guide to Twitter

Johnny Spence has been one of the most consistent and entertaining contributors to {grow} over the past year so it only makes sense that I feature our favorite dude in Barcelona during a week highlighting community voices …

Hello World. I’m an Introvert.

And I’ve been happily been using Twitter for about a year and a half. While my follower count won’t set the world on fire (maybe reheat my coffee instead), I’m rather weary of the notion of becoming the Twitter superstar.

Maybe it would be nice to one day have ten thousand followers spreading the Gospel of Johnny to every corner of the world but there’s one thing. Coming from an admitted introvert, this isn’t my style. I’m already sweating how to handle the nearly thousand I already have although I think I’m doing an OK job so far.

Still, I always use to have this feeling that, even after such a long time, I still never quite “got it.” Anybody, even good ol’ dad, can think of something to say in a brief sentence and let it rip. What makes the rest of the twitterverse, or just a little corner of it, really care and decide “Hey, I want to hear more” though?

Then it dawned on me (actually while I was just writing this sentence). Just keep doing what I’ve been doing. I probably don’t view Twitter as, say, the average twitterholic but I do see it as sort of a house party you’re always welcome to whenever you need a break from the toils of work. Introverts included.

That said, with such a gathering, too, comes my own take on the personalities I see on a daily basis at the biggest avatar party on earth. Keep in mind the introverted perspective here.

(Actual) Celebrities

You can’t see them, being surrounded by so many tweeps. Given their “accessibility,” however, I still tend to shy away from these folk, except for maybe @Alyssa_Milano. I wouldn’t mind giving her a grammar lesson or two but that’s a job for the publicists. I’ll just stick with my TMZ fix in the meantime and not fight through the mob.

Social Media Socialites

Well, they can neither do a 360 windmill jam nor light up the big screen but their word permeates the digital world like that leftover kung pao chicken sitting in the microwave on high. Don’t get me wrong, the Godins and Kawasakis out there can dish out a quip that briefly knocks the earth off its axis. I get the feeling, though, that they’re too busy commandeering a bedroom upstairs with a hijacked Mac to be bothered.

The Emcees

These happen to be the most social friendly and active users on Twitter that you can’t help but interact with even when you are not a marketer yourself (me). Far from the socialites but the chatty folks you would love to be around. It goes without saying but they might just be good at what they do.

(Just to be clear, those who promise you’ll make enough loot to be able to erase the national debt by next Friday do not count here. They already got turned back at the door and their DM’s deleted.)

The Minglers

These would be the rest of the Twitterverse, a real crowd from all walks of life with something to say, composed of friends, random hellos, long lost random hellos and those who will say hello to anyone.  In other words, the big crowd is in the living room and you found a quiet space in the kitchen to hang out with new and old friends.

I’ve admitted my antisocial view of Twitter but I don’t mind. I’m pretty content sitting in the kitchen (direct access to the fridge) with my followers who I enjoy a quip with day in and day out. Truthfully, though, I don’t know where I’d be without Twitter.  Anyway, just five simple rules have gotten me this far so why change them?

1. Be positive.
2. Don’t be a jerk (note: a more PG-13 word would suffice here).
3. Talk, strike up a conversation. You can disguise your avatar if you have to.
4. Be you and only you. People somehow like that.
5. Hang out in the blogs of your followers. It’s actually quieter there.

Eureka!

So let’s hear it. Twitter introverts of the world unite and tell me your stories in a comment below. If your last name is Godin or Kawasaki complaints are welcome too!

Johnny Spence is a freelance programmer of 8 years living out in Barcelona, Spain. Have a visit at his blog, or see what he is up to on Twitter.

Illustration: Damn Cool Pics

Build your audience like your life depended on it

Welcome to Community Week on {grow} as we feature thought-provoking, original thinking from our community members. First up is  Jamie Lee Wallace, who helped me with an outstanding ROI and measurement blog series last summer …

Your business’ survival depends on your ability to build, retain, and convert an audience. Sounds simple, but the marketplace is full of distractions and prospects can be a fickle bunch.

Today’s lesson comes straight from the streets. Not the mean streets of B2B Marketing, but the cobbled streets around Boston’s Faneuil Hall where I watched a couple pros demonstrate how to get the job done in under twenty minutes.  David and Tobin are street performers and they hustle. They have to capture the attention moving targets, turn them into fans, and get them to open their wallets.

Watch and learn, people.

Step 1: Build Your Inner Circle

Before the show started, the guys made a big deal setting up their “stage” (a red rope on the ground), and arranging all their props. The minute anyone got curious and paused, David or Tobin would engage them in light banter. No big sell, no big deal – just an acknowledgment, a smile, or a quick joke. Sometimes, they’d ask the passerby to lend a hand, thus making them part of the team, or “Inner Circle.” Nine times out of ten, these people stuck around for the show.

Lesson: Don’t wait until the curtain’s about to go up. Engage your audience immediately. Build your Inner Circle. These are the people who will be your first audience members.

Step 2: Create Excitement

Once the stage was set, the guys started warming up in earnest with a few flips. The fast movement caught the eye of a few more passersby, but they usually kept walking. Here’s where that Inner Circle came into play. The guys asked those of us who were lingering to “step right up.” They drew us in tight and close. No longer just a bunch of scattered individuals, we were now a cohesive group – an audience. Now they had us make some noise. David and Toby instructed us, in a conspiratorial whisper, to whoop and holler when they announced the beginning of the show. They were completely transparent about this, saying, “If you make a lot of noise, everyone will think something really exciting is about to happen, and they’ll all come running.”

Lesson: Use your Inner Circle to build a bigger audience through social proof, word-of-mouth, and testimonials. Be clear about wanting their help and make it easy for them to step up.

Step 3: Make the Audience Part of the Show

Audience rapport is critical to conversion. An audience is just a bunch of onlookers until you make them part of the experience. David and Tobin did this by “letting us in on the joke,” pulling people from the audience to assist or even be a “star,” and keeping their banter very personal and “localized.” They weren’t tossing out canned jokes, they were riffing on what was happening in the moment with the people who were in the audience.

Lesson: Create an interaction that is genuine, personal, and relevant. Don’t be afraid to let people participate. Build trust by listening closely and adapting based on what you hear.

Step 4: Ask for the Sale

You’ve created an audience and turned them into fans, now – and only now – can you ask for the sale. David and Tobin asked for our support while balanced some forty feet up in the air on a ladder that was held steady by four audience volunteers. They explained that street performing is how they make their living. They asked if we’d had a good time and what we thought the show was worth. They joked about how they’d never gotten a $20 tip before. Without pulling out the guilt card (too much), they presented their bid for compensation. Then they added the “dare” with the $20 comment. I gave them $10 – the most I’ve ever given a street performer.

Lesson: It pays to ask, and once you’ve established a good rapport, it’s much easier to make your case and get the results you want.

Bonus Tips

David and Tobin’s act leveraged two other important, Big Idea tactics: offering entertainment and giving it away for free. As Mark has said, people want to be entertained . (Granted, street performing is entertainment, but you get the idea.) The giving-it-away strategy is explained well in David Meerman Scott’s book, World Wide Rave. Sometimes, to make money, you have to put stuff out there with no strings attached.

So, there you have it. Four simple steps to build, retain, and convert your audience. Do you leverage any of these strategies in your marketing? What could you do more of?

This post was inspired by David Graham and Tobin Renwick of the “acro-juggling” act, “The Flash.” You can catch them doing their acrobatic-juggling-comedy thing from Nevada to Scotland to Australia.

Jamie Lee Wallace provides full-service and DIY marketing solutions to entrepreneurs, start-ups, and creative types. Visit her at www.SuddenlyMarketing.com.

Illustration: Acro juggling

Let’s hear from somebody new, shall we?

I was thinking … if {grow} is a community — which it certainly is — why am I always the center of attention?  I shouldn’t be.

I’m turning the tables and featuring some of the outstanding writing and ideas of the community.  It’s time to shine the spotlight on NEW VOICES on the social scene.  So I am going to try out “Community Week,” which will feature amazing guest posts from fresh new writers — some of our most dedicated thought-leaders who have been contributing to {grow}.

Actually the experiment is going to last two weeks but I thought it would be dumb to call it “Community Two Weeks” or “Community Half-Month.”  Consider it poetic license.

I challenged these relatively new bloggers to compose a post that ONLY THEY COULD WRITE — none of this “Five Twitter Tips” stuff.  And the result is really exciting and impressive!

In the next two weeks you’re going to hear from …

  • An introvert’s perspective of Twitter.
  • A woman who re-invented her career through the social web.
  • A young guy who applied social media guerrilla tactics to get his band into a music festival.
  • A new college grad so dedicated to improving her personal brand that she built a strategy to measure and improve it.
  • One of the web’s most noted entrepreneurs on how she is struggling to transition from “do-er” to business “leader.”

… And a whole lot more!

There are even a few posts I disagree with.  But the point is, the next two weeks will add to the depth, diversity and fun of {grow} because it’s not all about me.

I would like to ask a favor.  I’m going to be out of the country for a few weeks so during this little sabbatical, please support these newcomers as they enter the stage on {grow}.  Adding your comments and promoting their posts through tweets is a great way to show true appreciation.

Thanks.  You’ll hear from me again in two weeks so don’t enjoy this TOO much!  Ciao!

~ Mark

Small business? THIS is how to work the social web!

Over the past year, some of the most powerful marketing lessons I’ve learned haven’t come from a book, a guru or a webinar. They’ve come from Chandra Michaels.

Chandra is an Austin-based entrepreneur and artist who hasn’t just created an audience of customers, friends and followers for her Sugarluxe brand –  She’s created a MOVEMENT.

Chandra has skillfully used the social web to connect to fans around the globe with an amazing spirit of community, devotion, and authenticity.  In the difficult business world of art, she now receives about 40 percent of her total sales through Facebook and has turned up in the pages of leading magazines such as Life, Us, and InStyle. Her artwork has been featured in places as diverse as the MTV Awards to a permanent installation in San Francisco’s famous Hotel Des Arts.

I feature Chandra’s marketing style and success prominently as a case study in my college classes and now I want to introduce this visionary businesswoman and exceptional friend to the community on {grow}. If you’re an entrepreneur and want to learn how to leverage the social web as a marketing channel, pay close attention to one of my marketing heroes:

Chandra, what’s the recipe for your secret marketing sauce?  What would you tell others trying to emulate your success of igniting a movement?

Well, I’m convinced that you and I share the same secret ingredient.  A heaping spoonful of sugar!

Being kind to others, finding and sharing something you admire or appreciate in them, connecting with someone on a personal level — that’s at the core of who I am and how I do business.

It’s what drew me to you instantly because you have such a truly caring and captivating personality.  The way I’ve watched you connect with your readers, clients and students comes from a place of genuine concern, passion and a love for what you’re doing.   People are very smart.  They can spot a phony.  I think success, at least in part, comes from being real, risking being vulnerable, and reaching out to build lasting relationships with the people who believe in what you do.

As an entrepreneur, how do you specifically use the social web to fuel your business success?

First, and I can never say this enough, it’s about Quality over Quantity!

I don’t ever let myself get sidetracked by a desire to accumulate big numbers to impress people. The number of fans, followers and friends I have is essentially irrelevant to me.  What matters most is the quality of interaction and participation.  A lot of businesses simply don’t get that.

Word of mouth remains one of the MOST powerful ways to market. I’m very dependent on it.

Even though my collection is sold by major retailers, the lion’s share of money in these situations, goes to those entities. We have a multitude of revenue streams, but the only way for me to really make profit is to sell direct.

I view my visibility in the retail sector as getting paid to advertise. We make everything here locally (mostly in-house), the cost of goods is high and selling wholesale is not very beneficial to the bottom line.  My hope is that if someone discovers my work in a big box store, they are curious to know more about me.  Then, maybe they will search for the Sugarluxe name on Google, find our website, and if I’m really lucky they tell their friends about me too.  Knock on wood, it’s worked pretty well so far…

How has your marketing strategy evolved?

I learned a long time ago that I can’t just build it and they will come. It’s amazing how many people subscribe to this myth. But seriously, and as you already know Mark, it takes so much strategic planning and effort.

I write every single word on our website.  I work methodically to optimize my copy for good search engine placement. On our accessory lines, Sugarluxe is on page one, if not on the very top, for most our key search terms. And I’ve never paid for keyword advertising. Heck, I’ve never paid for any advertising. It’s time consuming, but I’m competing with so many choices out there. Small businesses MUST do this themselves or hire someone who can.

Also, I have to go where my buyers are.  When they were on MySpace, I was there. By the end of 2008, most had migrated to Facebook. I was reluctant to follow suit because it felt so much more personal than MySpace. Until that time, most clients and customers didn’t even know my real name. But I set up a business/fan page on Facebook last year and it quickly paid off.

Getting out from behind the comfort of my canvas has helped me to better understand the people who buy my work — so that I can continue to evolve as an artist. My participation in social media and (although inconsistently) writing on my blog has not only helped my business grow, it has helped me grow and learn as a person.

You told me that Twitter has been a challenge for you. What’s up with that?

Twitter’s cool – I use it occasionally, but I prefer Facebook. It feels like a real community to me. In my view, Twitter handed out what amounts to millions of virtual megaphones. Everyone is shouting into them at the same time, and because it’s so hard to hear, very few are able to really listen.

And getting people to listen is critical.

In order to tend to your life, business and art, you’ve taken big chunks of time away from your social web activities. What are some of your time management challenges, and when you step away, do you find it disrupts the momentum of your online community?

What a great question!

Everything about time management is a challenge for me. I don’t have a particularly healthy work/life balance yet. But I’m getting better.  And if I’m good at anything, it’s interviewing, hiring and training people. It’s part of what I did in my early corporate career.  So when I started hiring for Sugarluxe, I was experienced at finding the best and brightest candidates. Committed, passionate employees can make a huge difference.

In terms of stepping away from the web?

I worried about this very thing when I decided to take a little “social” break.  The amazing thing is … this month has been our very best month in the history of my company and it’s typically a slow time. But you’re right – for 6 months – the marketing part of my business has been on auto-pilot. I’ve been working like mad behind the scenes, but I had to retreat from the public eye.

I went through some personal turmoil and I just couldn’t give of myself for awhile. Going back to my earlier comments about being genuine … I can’t feign interest or happiness.   I felt empty for a little bit.   I wasn’t going to pretend to be something I was not.  And I was afraid my business would suffer for it.

But in fact, it did the exact opposite. It gained more momentum. Credit is entirely due to loyal friends and fans. They kept it alive for me so that I could recharge.  I’m so incredibly lucky that I’ve been able to cultivate this type of environment and surround myself with such amazing people.

To many of your fans, you’ve become more than an artist. What has it been like transitioning from a young, struggling artist to role model and a celebrity in your field?

I wish you could see me in person. You just made my cheeks so red.

When I was young, I always imagined I would be published as an author long before being published (or possbily even recognized) as an artist.  Not that I’m a great writer, but I have an overwhelming urge to tell people they’re not alone in their struggles.  It wasn’t until much later that I discovered I’m much better conveying my thoughts with images than I am through words alone.

Like anyone else who reads this, I’ve encountered some bad people. Their marks could have been indelible.  But I refuse to let those people have permanence in my life.

I want to focus on what’s good, what’s right, and what’s wonderful. I’m a sensitive, artsy type. I could get so down if I allowed myself to wallow in all that’s wrong with the world. Instead, my work is an ongoing study in optimism and its cumulative effects on life.

How I live is so basic. I try to see the glass half full. But I’m not so myopic that I can’t see pain and suffering. I try to be very open about my experiences — both good and bad. Many times I feel vulnerable and exposed. But it’s the risk I’m always willing to take if it means it could help someone else.

And as much as I hope to help others, the way I’ve benefited most in my business, is realizing how much they’ve helped me in return.

I was told by my grandmother that I have good features. If we allow for a little airbrushing, do you think I could be the next Sugarluxe model?

Your grandmother sounds like my kind of girl!  And since you clearly exemplify a desirable combination of beauty AND brains, I’d say you’re my perfect muse!

To learn more about Chandra and how she establishes her marketing movement, I highly recommend that you observer her in action on Twitter, Facebook and her blog at www.sugarluxe.com

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