One Tuesday in spring 2008, Twitter users logged into their accounts to discover all their followers were gone. So were the people they were following. Instead of being part of one big Twitter party, everyone was alone in the virtual Twitterverse.
What happened? Twitter’s server crashed and deleted everyone’s followers. For Twitter addicts this was a shock. Twitter without followers and people to follow is kind of like walking down the street talking to yourself.
For people you knew well, it was easy to refollow them. And because many people were without a twitter tribe, in the days immediately following the crash, many people were quick to follow anyone who started to follow them. But for a small business using Twitter as a marketing tool, this should have been a serious wake-up call. When you lose your followers, you lose your biggest marketing asset.
Yes, your raving fans will seek you out and refollow, but what about people just getting to know you? Maybe they ran across you by accident or by referral and are following you out of curiosity but haven’t had the time to get to know you well enough to hunt you down? They’re lost to you, maybe forever.
And it’s not just technology errors you need to worry about. Remember both Facebook and LinkedIn will freeze or cancel your account for breaking their written and unwritten rules around invitations and promoting your business.
But that’s not all.
While Facebook and LinkedIn are selling advertising and other business services as a revenue generating model, both are closed mouthed about how their revenue stream is going. And Twitter doesn’t appear to have any revenue generating model yet.
So the question is, if one or more of these services were to disappear, what would that do to your marketing efforts? I think this is an important question for any marketing strategy, not just for social media. What it really comes down to, is you shouldn’t be dependent on only one marketing tool – you shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket. You need to have a comprehensive marketing plan that uses a variety of tools. This way if one disappears or stops working, you don’t lose all your momentum.
Does this mean you should scale back on your social media marketing? No! If you are getting results, don’t give up on social media out of fear. Particularly in this economic climate, you don’t want to slow down on any marketing strategy that is working. What I’m suggesting is that while your number one goal with social media should be to build relationships with people, you need to have a secondary goal in mind. And that goal is to get people off the social media site and onto your own site, onto your own mailing list – a list you control.
With LinkedIn, you can download your list of contacts as a CSV file which can be imported into Excel and many contact management software programs. However, you can’t do that with Facebook and Twitter. Therefore you need to find ways to get people to visit your site and give you their contact information.
Getting people to move from social media to your own sites is not something that can happen over night. But if you give people time to get to know you, like you and trust you, eventually you can persuade them to join your own list. And it will be a much more valuable list because they’ve already been pre sold.
To do this, think of ways to get your followers to interact with you and your website. If you have a blog, Tweet new about articles on your site that add to the conversation or answer people’s questions. If you are truly adding value and not just shamelessly social spamming you’ll get new traffic as a result.
Offer free bonuses in exchange for joining your mailing list. I’ve had great success with free teleseminars where I interview an expert and promote the event on social media. The key is to make sure you’re promoting the freebee in such a way as to not break the rules of the site and making sure this free offer is of value to your audience.
For example, posting a promotion to the Answers section on LinkedIn may get you flagged and have your post removed. However, asking for help coming up with questions to ask your expert on the next teleseminar will be more likely to be perceived as playing by the rules.
Your number one goal on social media should still be getting to know people and giving them a chance to get to know you. Just keep in the back of your mind that your secondary goal should always be to get people to visit your own site.