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Mark Schaefer is the author of two best-selling books on social media and the opportunities and challenges present for brands and individuals online.
This is part two of our interview with him. You can find part one here.
You travel a lot. Are there geographical barriers you see across social platforms?
Yes, and I think that that is pretty well documented. I think that it would be a mistake to think that anything that works well in one country is going to translate to another country. I mean Facebook seems to be gaining some measure of ubiquity in all areas of the world.
Twitter is actually growing very quickly internationally and so is LinkedIn, but I think these things are used in different ways and we need to acknowledge that.
I was talking with someone who was creating an application that evaluated the Twitter stream and they told me that they had to make regional adjustments because people were using Twitter differently.
In Indonesia specifically he told me, they were using Twitter so much, that they thought it was spam. The rate was similar to SMS traffic. They were using it like text messaging. So, you know, they had to adjust the algorithm to account for frequency and regional differences, and I think that is really the new work. It’s along the lines of platforms.
Influence might show up differently on Facebook than it does on YouTube. To go even further, within the platforms, it might show up differently in the UK than it does in America. I do think that these influence measurement initiatives will fragment along geographic lines, and I wrote about it in the book.
I mean who is to say there won’t be some sort of influence measure for teenagers specifically…or Italians…or whoever you want to look at.
YouTube in particular seems to be a major search/discovery destination for the teenage audience...
Actually, Twitter and Instagram are really catching on with that population. I just looked at some data that showed, I think between the ages of 14 and 24 – the use of Twitter has doubled in less than two years. One of the reasons, is that Facebook is gentrifing.
The fastest growing population on Facebook is women over 50. So teenagers maybe think Twitter is cool now.
Do you make a point of trying out all these channels and platforms?
Uhm…I am not a real tech-oreinted person. So I don’t enjoy spending a lot of time on it. I consider myself a fast follower, rather than an early adopter.
As a business owner, and as an educator, I spend most of my time creating content, and that also means I don’t have a lot of time to try new things even if I wanted to. I do think that people will begin to focus, and really stay on the platforms that they enjoy the most.
It will be impossible to keep up with 15 or 20 different social media personas, so people will find two or four that they are comfortable with, and that is where their presence will be.
How was Twitter valuable for you as both an information discovery tool, and as a PR tool?
I am a pretty conservative person. Not prone to a lot of flowery adjectives. But I think it’s fair to say that Twitter has changed my life.
Twitter is networking on steroids. And it’s also, as you say, a very powerful educational resource. For examples a few months ago The Economist had a special section on social media…about 17 pages long.
I love The Economist so I read it right away and realised that 95% of the information in this brand new article, I already knew. This wasn’t because they did a bad job, it’s because I’ve done a good job surrounding myself with people on Twitter who are the brightest and most forward thinking who are giving me links to new ideas on a daily basis.
The education portion and news contribution importance of Twitter is often overlooked. You know, people look at “How are we going to market. How are we going to increase sales?” It is also an amazing tool for education, learning, and business intelligence.
Just by having a passive presence, you can have a very valuable tool. And of course, it’s a very powerful way to make connections. The reason I am sitting with you here in London is because of one simple tweet.
An entrepreneur and business leader in Wales sent me an email with the subject line reading “Your booked changed my life” So that got my attention. He proceeded to inform me on his great business and previously great life, and how when he read the book ‘The Tao of Twitter’ and he followed the ideas exactly, and immediately things started to happen. Business and personal. To the extent where he was able to find resources for his special needs child that he didn’t know existed through his new Twitter contacts.
I was moved, and I wrote him back via Twitter, and I suggested he bring all these people he has connected with together for a social media conference in Whales. So he said “I’ll do it!” And then he created this amazing conference, and invited me over to speak. That increased my connections here in London, and that was all from just one tweet!
That’s the great thing about Twitter and business. Business people are conditioned to have a plan, and to have structure. But there is also this majestic, random synergy about Twitter, that sometimes you just don’t know what’s going to happen. You don’t know where it’s going to lead, but if you follow the path I created in the book it does create business benefits.
Are there some tips you can give our blog readers on getting our content noticed more?
I think that there are three main points: Targeted Connections, Meaningful Content and Authentic Helpfulness.
You can’t just have one. You really have to have all three in order to be successful. Not just on Twitter, but in social media in general.
Most people get the content part. You have to have a posting source. Be it a blog, or a Twitter presence. But, it’s getting increasingly difficult to cut through this information dense world and get the eyeballs to your content.
So what I say is to create content that is RITE: Relevant, Interesting, Timely and Entertaining. The entertainment part is becoming more and more important, and more of a challenge, because most businesses aren’t sitting around thinking “How can we be more entertaining today?”
But if you think about the content that you as a person like to share, there is probably an element of fun to it. Or a unique or startling aspect. What companies need to understand is that behind every social media success story, there is a content strategy, and a network strategy. So, you can’t just create content. It has to move. It has to be shared.
All the academic research points towards that people don’t share, instinctively, they hesitate. So this is a difficult thing, to get them to push that retweet/like/publish button. Individuals and businesses need to go out and systematically find people who are interested in what you do. Find people who would be excited by your content.
Being authentically helpful is the final piece, and it’s very important because people are sick of being advertised to. They are sick of being marketed to. So the content can’t be salesy. People are attuned to skip right through the ads and identify what is an ad, but they will sit down and spend 30 minutes with a great story. They will spend their own time with something that will help them make money or save money for instance.
To save time, or just overall happiness. So if you make sure your content has a utility in these areas, that is going to be a winning strategy.