Maybe using LESS social media is the path to online success

By Srinivas Rao, Contributing {grow} Columnist

Earlier this year as I was transitioning through phases of the blogger’s evolution and making the shift to entrepreneur, I decided to make a Twitter list of some of the most successful people online so I could study them  It’s an incredibly eye opening exercise that I recommend to anybody. What shocked me was to learn how little time some of the biggest names online were actually spending on social media. Here are a few of the lessons I learned:

Creating Lasting Value

Every tweet, status update and moment of brilliance you have on any social media platform has a shelf life of about an hour.  Nobody is going to dig through the archives of your tweets and Facebook updates.  This approach to social media is the path of least resistance. To make matters worse, you’re creating content on somebody else’s platform and not getting paid for it.

To make an impact on your business, community or tribe, it’s essential to create things that have lasting value.

  • Blog Posts:  When compared to a tweet or status update, a blog post has a significantly longer shelf life. Not only will it have a more powerful impact immediately upon creating it, but it has potential to be found in your archives years later.
  • Books:  While blog posts are great, it’s easy to get on a hamster wheel and create content without a purpose. To add to that not everybody will dig through several years of archived content.  A book gives you an opportunity to expose a reader to your entire body of work.  Mark Schaefer could write a series of amazing posts about how to use Twitter.  But a book like the Tao of Twitter will have a much bigger impact in the long run.
  • Videos/Podcasts: Podcasts, videos and any other sort of multimedia content arguably take a longer time to create than written content.  But the shelf life is fantastic, and the potential to repurpose it can make it a goldmine of value for your business and your customers.

Self Promotion is a Necessity

Self promotion gets a bad rap on the social web, but I think we have be to careful not to dismiss how essential it is to the sustainability of a real business. Free content is not going to keep your lights on or put food on the table. To make money you have to sell.

The typical launch sequence of most bloggers is to spend months working on a book, course or information product of some sort. It’s followed by an aggressive promotional effort that lasts a week or two, and most of the revenue is generated in those first few weeks. After that sales come in, but sporadically. There’s nothing wrong with having an ongoing promotion strategy for the work that gets you paid:

  • If you have a product, eBook or course that you created a while back, schedule a tweet once or twice a week letting people know about it.
  • If you have an email newsletter, don’t be afraid to let the people on your list know  about your services and products on a regular basis. If  you lose subscribers, don’t sweat it. You’re running a business not a charity.

The biggest brands continually make you aware of their products with one primary goal: to generate more sales. 

Having an End Game

Do a search for any social media advice and what you’ll find is an endless stream of articles about how to increase your traffic, how to get more fans/followers, or how to write better content.  But what nobody spends enough time talking about is the end game.  What’s the ultimate goal of your social media efforts?  If you have no idea why you’re doing something, there’s a high likelihood that you’re wasting your time.

If you’re not careful social media can become a giant time suck that has little impact on your business.  Are you so consumed by social media that you’ve started to confuse activity with accomplishment?

Srinivas Rao writes about the things you should have learned in school, but never did and his the host-co founder of BlogcastFM.  You can follow him on twitter @skooloflife

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  • Pavel Konoplenko

    Great article. I wholeheartedly agree that a focus on social media must complement longer-lasting accomplishments such as books and blogs. People get too enamored by social media and forget that it’s only part of marketing, part of strategy, and a very small part of life. Whether you’re a business brand or a personal one, doing a lot is always better than tweeting a lot.

  • Unless your existence has to do with the activity. If you wrote a book about Twitter but never use it, why should I buy your book?

  • Pavel Konoplenko

    Excellent point. It probably won’t be a very good book if I never use Twitter. However, that’s a very rare situation to come across. If I never use Twitter and that’s not part of who I am or things I do, I wouldn’t be the least interested to write a book on it. Conversely, it’s better/more valuable to write a book and never tweet about it, than to tweet about a book you never wrote. Although the former strategy won’t give you many sales, your credibility remains intact and the people who do come across the book will see you as a thought leader.

    Going back to your original point, your existence should be your activity.

  • I agree whole-heartedly. As I read your great piece two things came to mind for me.

    Begin with the end in mind.
    Have a goal and a plan and USE social media as part of that plan. Social media is not an end, its a means. Promotion, traffic driver, etc… All are PART of the plan to get you to your real goal.

    Content is King!
    And it has to be content with a longer shelf life than a tweet or a Facebook post.

    Thanks for reminding me to get back to my plan.

  • Srinivas,

    I don’t see why your shocked at how little successful people use Twitter. They really don’t need to use it grow their brand. They’ve already put in that leg work years before.

    From a local and small business standpoint, I don’t see a lot of business owners putting in a lot of effort into using social media. In fact they use it too little and without a plan like you mention is never good.

    When I sit down with owners and talk social media, they seem to have no plan how to effectively use it based on their schedule. They think if they blast out a few tweets every couple a days there rocking it.
    When the conversation turns to searching for people who might by from them, they looked stunned. It’s really easy to seek out and connect with potential customers. That’s really what Twitter is good for.
    Mark has talked about it a few times how much noise is on Twitter. With so many followers your window like you say is very limited to get your Tweet seen. The beauty in the platform is how easy it is to find potential customers. From there it’s about developing a relationship through conversations and opening up the sales funnel but not being pushy.

  • Srinivas, you are hammering the right nails here Sir!
    Everyone is big on starting, doing the getting of a list of names etc. What they don’t do is get the list to consume what they are selling.
    Attract the right person/s, engage them to purchase and then, then… the hardest part. Get the person/persons to consume, or use what you encouraged them to buy.
    Using social media is not the end in itself. Using social media to find, convert and then keep a customer who wants the things you sell is!! Everything that social media promises is found in using it for those purposes.
    Another thing…
    What is even more interesting in this post is your growing awareness of others. Successful others at that. You as I, look for the solutions to our condition and seek for the results that will help us. I admire from the sidelines the efforts you are making here.
    Instead of rushing into the channels and getting tied up serving the social media tools; I’ve tried to understand how they will help me achieve three things: find the customers who want the things I will sell them, be likeable enough and competent enough for them to trust and buy from me, and finally use all the channels to keep them coming back for more because I have a solid relationship with them.
    Whatever level of use in the social media channels I need to employ to achieve these things I will do, after that I won’t … Billy

  • Don’t forget the need to sustain your effort. Many people could be successful but give up when things get hard. You have to sustain your effort before you see the rewards that come from it.

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  • Without a doubt. If you expect to be a one hit wonder with social any of this,good luck. There’s no question that anybody who has accomplished anything of significance understands the importance of consistency. It plays a huge role in your ability to tip.

  • Bill,

    I think many of the problems are caused by lacking a true understanding of what it means to run a business. Even after getting an MBA, I didn’t understand what it meant to actually run a business. It took lots of experimentation and watching people to understand that you have to think like an entrepreneur and not a blogger. In my earliest days I confused activity with accomplishment. But that’s actually what most blogging courses teach”:

    1) Comment on blogs
    2) Tweet people’s stuff
    3) Participate in conversations

    While those things are relevant they are the means to an end. When people lose sight of the end they run in circles. Thanks for such a thoughtful comment.

  • Jordan

    You make a great point. The thing I think that causes it is that most people start out as bloggers rather than business owners. You run a local business (which assume means a physical presence?). So you come to this with a knowledge based and perspective that I’m guessing many content creators don’t. I agree that there’s tons of noise on twitter, which is why I focus on connecting with a core group of people. I couldn’t even you tell you the number of followers I have.

  • You nailed it. It’s a means, not an end. I think for a long time many people (myself included) have been treating it like an end. When you ask yourself what business you’re in and what’s the end goal you get much more clarity.

  • I think it’s because it has a low barrier to entry and tweeting all day can give you a false sense of productivity.

  • Ari,

    That’s a very fair point. You wouldn’t take advice on how to get rich from somebody who is poor. I think it’s a balancing act though. Even the people who have written books on twitter aren’t on it all day long.

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  • appreciate that! Watching always from the outfield.

  • Marja Ernst

    Just wondering about the author bio blurb at the end… “and his the host-co founder” – I think it probably is meant to say, “and is”?

    Don’t want to be nitpicky, but it stood out to me, and I thought you might like to know. 🙂

  • The objective has to be clear if you want social media to make any sense for you. very true but most of us are jumping because either we think we can make money from it from day one or since my competitor is out there. Some great thoughts shared by you.
    I also believe that social media is just one part and other mediums should never be over looked. thanks for sharing this cool post 🙂

  • There are many other strategies that could give you a lot traffic in your website. But we have to admit that using these social media can give you a large amount of traffic. With good, quality content and catchy words, i believe your marketing strategy is still gonna work. 🙂

  • Hi Srinivas

    I’m a bit late coming in here, but I have to say I do agree with some of our points.

    Tweets, posts etc can become lost in the abundance of Twitterland and the point you are trying to get across (selling your product/brand) can become totally lost.

    The past few months, I have had to revamp my social media management services (due to launch next week) because of the demand from my clients – More focus is being given to customer service and brand awareness. More and more corporate organizations are moving into social media as a way of customer service.

    The key is to build your followers with people or companies in your niche – Don’t start selling straight away as this will just cause your followers to ignore you. You need to build relationships, create lists of those people who you interact with, offer advise and support – GET CHATTING. Build trust with your fans and followers – Make them aware that you are there for them – Eventually the customers will come 🙂

    Thanks for a great post,

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