Twitter has been around since March 16, 2006 and, Ashton Kutcher and Ellen Degeneres aren't the only ones to have leveraged this tool to gain massive exposure. In the digital content world there are a number of authorities that were early adopters and have built significant networks on Twitter -- and other platforms. Earlier this year, Twitter unveiled a tool that would allow audiences to find the first tweets of, well, anyone. But a lot has been learned since those first tweets, and we decided to ask some industry influencers what they've learned.
Christopher Tompkins (@chrisgoagency), CEO of The Go! Agency, an online marketing firm in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area, says his experiences with social media extend back to the days when Facebook was a proprietary social media tool used by schools when he was working for a music college in London. Tompkins and other early adopters have seen a lot of change in the social media space since then-including the introduction of Twitter. Initially, he says, social media was used like email blasts. Then, he says, actual discussions started to take place. Visual images became more prevalent. Today, says Tompkins, video is emerging as a powerful way to connect with audiences. He says, "Moving forward there is going to be a need to bring your message to life with a combination of all of these together, rather than just focusing on one."
The same is true of the social media platforms themselves. Not all will, or do, meet all needs. The first step toward success, therefore, is clearly understanding your goals and objectives-and your audience. Beyond that, there are a number of best practices that early adopters recommend.
Leverage the Competition
Tompkins advises content marketers to conduct a competitive analysis both to determine how they're positioned relative to competitors, and also to learn from them. "It's a great way of learning the tricks of the trade from somebody who's doing it, even if they are competitors," he says. Importantly, he adds, the basics of marketing still apply. "When they get into social media, a lot of people just forget everything they learned about marketing. Your message hasn't change; only the delivery mechanisms have."
Own Your Audience
Long before content marketing emerged as a major force for advertisers in every field, Joe Pulizzi (@JoePulizzi) saw opportunity. He founded the Content Marketing Institute (CMI), originally named Junta42, in 2007, the same year he tweeted his first tweet on December 11.
One major misstep that Pulizzi says he sees people often make is "building their content strategy on rented land." In other words, if all of your critical connections reside on Facebook, Twitter or some other platform, they could disappear at any time. The real goal, says Pulizzi, is to use these tools to drive people to a platform that you own. "The Twitters and the Facebooks of the world own those connections, not you-don't give them all the power," he says.
Pulizzi also strongly recommends creating an influencer strategy. Based on your goals, define who the key influencers are in your space, build a list of them and begin attempting to make connections. "I'm going to send them traffic and I'm going to do it on a regular basis so that they know who we are and we can build a relationships with them," he says.
"When we target influencers we really think about what their pain points are and what they want-and we try to get them those things." The result, he says, is that these targeted influencers become a marketing engine for you.
Peggy Anne Salz (@peggyanne) is founder and lead analyst with MobileGroove and the lead author of The Everything Guide to Mobile Apps (Adams Media, 2013). Success through social media, says Salz, is not about "just having your space and broadcasting your message." It's about understanding and, consequently, appealing to your audience.
What works to build audience? Understanding your audience. "It's a two-way conversation," she says. Or, at least it should be. "My number one piece of advice would be, don't just talk-listen," she says. Tools like Hootsuite can simplify that process, she says, allowing users to manage multiple social media accounts in one spot.
Finally, says Tompkins: "What really works is putting in a consistent effort every day, whether it's five minutes or five hours." Seems simple, but it's an important point. As these social media aficionados have found, if you want to engage followers, you need to be engaged yourself.
Pulizzi agrees. "You need a consistent publishing program and the majority of that content should come from your influencer base."
Be careful, though, to "not put all of your eggs into one basket," Pulizzi cautions. "I would look at all of your distribution just like a stock portfolio." That portfolio might include email, print, paid, and social. But don't become overly reliant on any one distribution channel.
Understanding your audience, providing them information that is valuable to them, including information from your identified influencers, and maintaining a consistent presence. Do those four things and you'll not only see your audience grow, you'll see it grow in meaningful ways aligned with your strategic goals and objectives.