I hear a lot of startup pitches where the main marketing strategy is “to use social media to gain visibility”.
BUZZ! Sorry, you’re out of the game.
Virality is not a strategy. People don’t naturally step up to be advocates for your message. “Fanning” or “Following” is just a lazy-ass popularity contest which does not give you traction, especially if you are in the first stages of finding your early adopters.
It is harder than ever to be seen on social media. When I started on Facebook back in 2008, the number of users was relatively small, and the tools were crude. But today, everyone and their dog (literally) is on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumbler, Google+ and thousands of smaller sites. The social media companies have gotten wise to us freeloaders who want to leverage their systems to get free visibility, by filtering what people see (through algorithms like EdgeRank or through settings) and then charging to ensure your posts get seen by others. The trend will intensify as publicly traded social media platforms are under intense pressure to make money.
Second, it is harder than ever to be heard on social media. The noise level is deafening. And a lot of people say the same things: boring quotes, cutesy pictures, updates about their kids or their jogs or their food or their politics. You need to have a hook, an edge, something that makes you stand out. I seek out and subscribe to certain authors and thought leaders because of the quality of their posts, or their humor, or how they ask probing questions or share keen insights.
You have to be bold if you want to be noticed. Have a message that challenges the status quo. Don’t just say what people are saying. Say what people are thinking but don’t dare to say. This means stop passing on milquetoast feel-good quotes and cute pictures. Write stuff that makes people think.
Use your platform to weave a story, something that becomes a call to action. Not just to “like” or to RT, but to get out and do something. One of the early leaders I still follow on social media is NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen, who spoke of “mindcasting” – using the media to share ideas to seek out like-minded people to exchange with. Engagement then becomes more along the lines of participating in the discussion, contributing your point of view, inviting others to join in the conversation. I may be old-fashioned when it comes to social media, but I believe that discussion still beats sharing.
Social media is a powerful tool to seek out your early collaborators and build trust with them. Instead of chasing the metrics, craft a good message which will engage people who resonate with your vision, which will help build your tribe, and that is what will improve your metrics. It’s not about “growth hacking”, it’s about “growth nurturing”.
Express your message, engage your tribe, execute your promise. This is the formula to build momentum around your vision and your business.
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