The Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge is home to hundreds of birds in New York. On a walk there recently, I saw a seagull with an enormous clam in its beak. A few feet in front of me, the gull hovered above the trail. Then, the bird dropped the clam.
The gull flew to the ground, inspected the clam, picked it up, and flapping its impressive wings, climbed higher in the air. The bird opened its beak, releasing the clam.
The gull dropped the clam once more and failed again. Then, the bird changed its strategy. By gliding even higher in the air, the gull spotted a rock just ahead on the trail. It released the clam. Splat! The clam burst open and the gull enjoyed a tasty clam on the half shell lunch.
What does the seagull teach us about social media skills? A lot.
At first, the gull's instinct was to climb higher in the air, increasing the gravitational force when it dropped the clam. This is similar to our instincts when we amplify the volume of a marketing message because we're not getting the attention we want. The 'louder works better' assumption is not a realistic marketing communications strategy for the twenty-first century.
Each time the seagull flew higher in the air, more options came into view. The rock, the gull recognized, was the right platform tool for the job. Today's state of social media marketing zeitgeist makes every platform tool sound like the perfect solution for being seen and heard. But what we really need is to practice taking a bird's eye view on a regular basis, and always start with your audience in mind.
The 2017 Social Media Map from Overdrive Interactive provides a helpful bird's eye view. Notice the categories by function and topic. You can download this map for your own reference.
Social media platforms evolve quickly and are guided by the invisible hand of number crunchers, many of whom hold PhDs in the psychology of social media. Behavioral data, relating to search, discovery, and conversion to sales, is the holy grail. My point is not to comment that this is a good or bad development, it just is where we are in the evolution of our digital era.
My goal is to help you choose the appropriate platform tools to reach your audience and to scale your activities in order to achieve measurable results.
1. Record your habits. For one week, keep a social media journal. Which applications do you access most often and how do feel while you are using them. For example, do you feel relaxed on Facebook or agitated? For each application, what is your level of trust in terms of content veracity and security of your data? (rating scale of 1 to 5) For instance, do you consider LinkedIn more trustworthy than Google+? At the end of the week, review your journal and consider the value these social platforms contribute to your professional goals.
2. Listen to the voice of your target audience. Identify published authors in your field. In addition to reading reviews of their books, read the comments from book buyers on Amazon. Read the comment sections of their blogs or comment sections from the top blogs in your specific field. What's the tenor of the conversation? What are the hot button words and phrases? Before you can understand how search and discovery algorithms operate on a social media platform, you need to understand the language of your audience and their emotional connection to topics and brands.
3. Collect examples of the best social media practices from experts in social media. There is a difference between the subject experts in your field and the expertise of social marketers. Invest fifteen minutes per week reading articles in The Social Media Examiner. These practitioners answer to clients who expect results. Your goal is not to become an expert in social media. Rather, your goal is to understand how the experts think about social media platforms and the results these platforms deliver for their clientele. Then, adapt their best practices to your goals.
4. Learning comes from solid, written goals. Remember the seagull. The bird dropped the clam three times before it found the right platform tool. When it comes to social media skills, we are all learning and it is a continuous learning curve. With written goals, you have a baseline to evaluate your efforts objectively, allowing you to construct good questions for next steps.
5. Get outside and take a nature walk every day! No headphones. Walk. Listen to the sounds around you. Appreciate what it means to be part of something larger than yourself.
When you know how to keep social media in perspective, the world is not your oyster. The world is your clam.
Georgia O'Keeffe chose her friends carefully. She counted her true friends on one hand.
Considered a pioneer in the Modern Art movement, she was born on November 15, 1887. Two years later, Thomas Edison filed a patent for the electric lightbulb. O'Keeffe died in 1986, in the age of Post-modern artists. Just shy of her 100th birthday, she missed the beginning of the Digital Age and its widespread public adoption of the Internet. Much has changed. It is now 2016. Friendship remains the same. True friendship still takes time.
As creators, our challenge is to understand how the spectrum of online friendship unfolds when we use social networking tools.
The other day, a young actor told me her agent said she needed more "friends and followers" on her social media platforms. As if this "social proof" matters more than her gifts and talent. What troubles me about this agent's comment is that he provided no context for her about what "more friends and followers" even means.
Think about it. It takes less than one-tenth of one second to "like" something. Consider the Facebook, Twitter, Instagram posts you've "liked" today. How many? What do you remember about them? What's different in your life as a result of all of the "liking" activity.
To achieve more: you need only to program social algorithms to engage with other social algorithms. Achieving more has nothing to do with your talent.
To achieve real: you need to consider your audience in the context of the Spectrum of Online Friendship. The content your create, your engagement style, your genuine interest in your audience amplifies your talent. This is at the heart of a brand strategy, one that builds the career you envision for your future.
Actual "social proof," as a marketing metric, is measured by the number of brand advocates you have on your social platforms (not total number of friends or followers). Brand advocates promote you by sharing your content with their friends. Your talent resonates and means something special to them. They care about your success.
Developed by Mike Arauz, digital market expert, the spectrum of online friendship is a tool for developing a mindful, marketing practice. Your objective is to cultivate relationships over time for lasting value. The first step is to evaluate your own social behavior. Consider your engagement with people and/or brands that mean something to you. Find your behavior on the spectrum. Where are you a brand advocate?
Next, use the analytics from your social media platforms. Look at your friends, followers, subscribers. What is the quality of their interaction with you? For each platform, where is your audience on this scale? How many brand advocates do you have? Notice where you have opportunities to create or curate types of content your audience will find valuable.
One of the biggest mistakes people make is to "buy" friends and followers. You cannot buy trust. Trust must be earned through consistent social listening and creating and/or curating the kinds of stories, moments, resources that affirm your connections.
Circling this post back to Georgia O'Keeffe, I think Charlotte Cowles interview with Juan Hamilton in Harper's Bazaar provides a good bit on insight into the artist and her approach to friendship. Check it out. Exclusive: Georgia O'Keeffe's Younger Man.
And, as always, please share your comments on this post!
When writers ask how to create a brand strategy, I share with them what many a wise marketer has shared with me: "Your brand is what other people say it is." In other words, people trust their friends and acquaintances far more than they trust clever slogans. Word of mouth is the most powerful form of communication we have. The key with brand development is to focus on what people say consistently about you.
So what do people say about you? Consider the compliments as well as the questions put to you at events. As part of our human nature, we take a lot of our knowledge and experience for granted. The first step of your strategy is to relax and put yourself in the shoes of the audience.
Consider the example of Phillippe Petit, the high-wire artist who walked a tightrope stretched between the Twin Towers in Manhattan in 1974. The crowd stood beneath his feet, staring up in hushed Awe. He exemplifies what we call in coaching "unconscious competence." What appears to be Petit's instinct is really the result of thousands of hours of practice until the moves became unconscious to him. In fact, if you watch the documentary about him, you'll see that in the very beginning he fell off a lot of French laundry lines in his hometown.
When you teach a workshop or give a reading, the audience experiences you at your practiced best. They aspire to be in your position. So, the key to developing your brand strategy is to meet your audience where they are. A treasure trove of great content is there for you to use for your own brand and platform building, but you need to relax and allow it to come to the surface. With your beginner's mind, answer the following six questions.
The question you might be thinking is: what do I do with this information? At least, I hope this is your question because it is the topic of a future post.
The answer depends on your style of working and your methods of organization. So before I launch into suggestions, I'd like to hear from you first. Post your organizational tips, questions, and thoughts in the comment section below.
Let me know how I can help you walk the walk to develop your brand!
One of the unwritten rules of growing up on a farm is not to name the animals. After you name a chicken, pig, calf, or goat, you'll never be able to slaughter it for food. Naming creates a relationship, a sense of intimacy.
Peanuts, a Black Angus calf I named after he was rejected (within minutes of his birth) by his mother, wobbled against my leg for balance. From that moment, we were in an relationship. Twice each day, I mixed gigantic baby bottles of calf-manna (powdered milk) and walked to his pen to feed him. After he ate, I let him out of the pen. That summer, he followed me around the farm while I did chores. We were pals. He trusted me.
A year later when Peanuts was an adult steer, Dad scheduled him for our annual livestock drop off at the butcher. I took a stand. "We are NOT eating Peanuts."
Dad shrugged and said "fine by me." He chose a brown steer that I had not named and put him in the stock trailer instead of Peanuts.
Peanuts lived happily ever after grazing in the pasture.
The following week, as usual, we had sirloin steaks on the grill for the fourth of July. Year after year, steer after steer.
Recently, I thought about Peanuts when I read Jesse Weaver's article about the business models of social media companies. Weaver is the director of product design at Gaia.com. In Weaver's discussion about how the free Web is eating itself, he made a keen observation about "hooking" people on content and using the word "user." Weaver writes, "the only other people I know who call their customers users are drug dealers."
I stopped reading to consider this.
Is this what we do when we create content for engaging with our audiences? Are we trying to get people "hooked" in order to move them through a sales funnel because we need as many "users" as we can get in order to grow our platforms? To me, this approach feels similar to a livestock funnel: year after year, steer after steer.
As creators, we have a responsibility to model respect in our writing, art, business. Once you make the decision to eliminate the term "user," when thinking about your ideal reader or customer, your work finds a deeper level of meaning. You begin to engage with a "persona," a fictional composite of your ideal reader, viewer, or client.
Before I share my strategy for doing so, I am curious to learn if you created one or more personas to describe your audience. How is the reader persona and effective tool for you? If you have not created a reader persona, what are your immediate questions? Send them to me and I will incorporate them into my next post on this topic.
Please post in the Comments section.