Monday, November 17, 2008

Social media is a lotta damned work

Whenever I speak at an event about blogging and social media, I always like to point out how these tools are wonderful ways to let companies connect with their customers, when properly positioned.

But eventually, there's always a few questions about how much traffic you can drive to your blog through SM, like what about Digg? Or Facebook? How important is it to have the right keywords targeted?

Let me tell you that social sites can be a wonderful way to draw attention to your blog/site. For example, I now have about 2,300 people following me on Twitter. When I go to Twitter and link to a post I've written here, I can expect to get 50-100 referrals from linking to it on Twitter. If other Twitter users retweet it, that figure can quickly balloon to several hundred visitors for the day.

So on average, every time I go to Twitter and link to one of my blog posts, my blog gets an extra 100+ visitors. Sounds good, right?

Now for the 'rest' of the story.

It's taken me about 20 months to gain 2,300 followers. In March of this year, I had been on Twitter for a year, and had about 500 followers. So the majority of my followers didn't come till I had been active on Twitter for over a year.

In addition to 2,300 followers, I've now left over 9,700 tweets. According to TweetStats, over 75% of those tweets have been replies to other Twitter members. And according to TweetBurner, only about 10% of the sites/blog posts I link to, are my own.

So this means that the majority of the time I spend on Twitter is used talking to other members, and when I do share links on Twitter, only about 10% of them are my own.

If my main goal for using Twitter was to drive traffic to my blog, I would have quit using Twitter within a few weeks. There's just too much damned work involved if your only goal is to draw attention to yourself. And if I shifted my usage and started only promoting my blog posts, my number of followers would fall off a cliff, because that's not why people are following me.

So if you are a company that's considering joining the social media waters, please make sure you understand this:

Social media is a lotta damned work, and if you're only interested in using the space to promote yourself, you'll quit before you see the results you want.

Why do I stick with Twitter? Because I love interacting with other people there. I love sharing links with my followers. Do I love linking to my blog posts and seeing my traffic here spike? You better believe I do. But what REALLY makes my day is when I ask my followers to follow one of my friends, and that person DMs me a few minutes later to say 'Thank you SO much asking everyone to follow me, I just added 40 followers!'

THAT makes my day. And if you want to effectively use social media, it had better be what makes your day as well. It's not about you, it's about loving the ability that these tools give you to connect with other people, and to share valuable content with them. Why does Twitter work so well for ComcastCares? Because Frank already loved connecting with Comcast customers and solving their customer service problems. Twitter just gave him a new way to do that.

Why does social media work for Masi's Brand Manager Tim Jackson? Because Tim is a people person, and discovered that blogs and social media gave him a new way to connect with his customers and retailers. Which is what he was already doing, but social media gave him a more effective way to connect with others.

Social media is a lotta damned work. But if you want to use these tools as a way to connect with other people, that lotta work is worth every second.

Pic via Flickr user .hln.

UPDATE: This post was partially inspired by this one from Amber. She nails it, there are no shortcuts to successfully using social media.


Anonymous said...

No doubt about it, Mack. I appreciate the relationships I build on Twitter and other networks, not so much the traffic (though it's nice). Some companies will be hard pressed to understand that its more about relationships and intangible aspects of SM rather than the numbers.

Time & hard work. It's tough going but if you enjoy connecting with people, you won't notice the time as much.

Anonymous said...

It is a lot of work. And -- I know I say this all the time -- (broken record) but it's just as critical to listen as it is to talk. In other words, hearing feedback from your customers and broader market is more crucial than pimping your blog posts. How can you measure that? (/broken record)

Tim Jackson said...

Yup! It IS a lot of work. But the reward is in watching the seeds you plant through relationships grow later.

Here's a good one; I got an email tonight from a bike-themed bar in Tokyo. As they put it; "we love what you do", referring to the bikes and the blogging/ SM work I do. I do no business with this bar- since it isn't a bike shop. But, dig this; they do make and sell their own line of bikes, similar to several of mine/ Masi. They just wanted to make sure I knew of their new bar so that I could stop by and have a beer the next time I am in Tokyo. 100% because of the "work" I do with SM.

What does that mean for Masi Bicycles? Well, it means that a bar/ bike brand in Tokyo is saying and/or thinking good things about the brand and potentially helping my brand sell in a very, very competitive Japanese market.

It's been almost 4 years since I started blogging and I intend to keep doing it until they fire me. I've had a couple people tell me they bought our bikes because of our magazine ads, but I have had countless people say they bought a bike because of reading the blog.

Do the math.

Yvonne said...

We always make sure people we talk to about social media understand that part of the 'work' is community building. So, the writing of your blog or Twitter post, is only half. The other half is visiting other blogs and Twitterers and commenting or answering their questions.

My goal on both my blog and Twitter is to offer whatever advice or expertise I can to newbies hoping to make a go of doing business online.

I do post links to my blog, but usually I'm supporting the other writers there. And, I post links to relevant content on client blogs. ALWAYS want to link to relevant content.

A few folks have said I give away too much...but I disagree. I get back far more than I can ever give, in emails, responses, and referrals. My community building brings in over 70% of my business.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely, Just as Seth Godin says in his book Tribes, your sole desire for leading a Tribe cannot be for the money, or the glory, it has to be for the greater good of the community, which i turn sometimes leads to the money and the glory aspects.

Doing things for the RIGHT reasons, is always the better decision, than do something just for the money it provides! This may be a lot of work, but man, the payoff comes in more ways than one- like you said you DO get more readers for your blog, AND you get the chance to help a fellow twitterer/blogger, AND you are building a community or ecosystem. Very nice payoffs don't ya think?!

Anonymous said...

Yes, Social Media interaction is quite a bit of work. I enjoy the interaction between people and family members on Twitter and Rejaw. I've seen it from a business point of view and personal. The personal outweighed the business use. Thanks for the article. Gwen Sutton

Anonymous said...

This is a fantastic post Mack.

Here's an interesting nugget - I started using Twitter for the sole purpose of being able to update my blog in my Twitter widget. I wanted my readers to know what Benjamin (my son) and I were up to at any given moment.

So I ventured into Twitter to improve my reader experience on my blog. Now, just six months later, I am creeping up on 500 followers.

And, I am HOOKED on Twitter because I love communicating with readers and friends. So... there are multiple reasons to use Twitter and I think viewing it as a way to enhance your website, add more personalization to your blog, is a good way to get clients into the idea and committed to it in the long run.

P.S. Follow me @mssinglemama if you like!

Mack Collier said...

Guys thanks for the comments. Two points really stood out to me:

First, Tim said this: "It's been almost 4 years since I started blogging and I intend to keep doing it until they fire me. I've had a couple people tell me they bought our bikes because of our magazine ads, but I have had countless people say they bought a bike because of reading the blog.

Do the math."

That might go in my next blogging presentation ;) This is another point; unless you are the one actually using SM, it's tough to realize how much work is involved, AND it's tough to relay to your clueless CEO/CMO how important interacting with your customers via SM really is.

And I also noticed this point from SingleMama:

"Here's an interesting nugget - I started using Twitter for the sole purpose of being able to update my blog in my Twitter widget. I wanted my readers to know what Benjamin (my son) and I were up to at any given moment."

That makes PERFECT sense! I purposely don't have the Twitter widget on here because I know that most of the time I am in the middle of a conversation with someone, and if that pops up here, it would likely confuse the hell outta my readers, and likely be completely off-topic. But in your case Alaina, it makes perfect sense!

Tim Jackson said...

Mack, as you and I have talked about, but not everybody else knows; the success of my blog has not gone totally unnoticed by my bosses in the US or in Taiwan. In fact, because of that success, when we relaunched all of the new company websites for all brands, my boss mandated that each of the sites have a blog component. To take it a step further, the home page for all of our sites is the blog for that brand.

Again- do the math.

Anonymous said...

It is a lot of work, but it is more about personal enjoyment for me. I do enjoy the opportunist to brand and to share my thoughts, but I really enjoy the new personal relationships most.

Anonymous said...

Great topic. “Social Media is Lotta damned work”. First, I laughed, thinking “isn’t that the truth”, but then continued to read and found your canter on the topic refreshing.

There are many great blogs writing about etiquette, what to do, what not to do, networking strategies, tips, applications and other services to engage in social media, but few so openly discuss the true time commitment involved.

I really enjoyed you canter on the topic and referenced in a post of my own. Thanks!

Joe said...

Mack, if you're inclined, I'd really be interested in your take on a blog I wrote about following people on Twitter.

In essence, I found there was so much noise even following 250 that I didn't end up seeing the Tweets from people I *really* wanted to follow.

Interested in your perspective or comment. The post is at

Joe Hage

P.S. How do you like the Vizu widget? I'm looking to add a polling feature on a few sites I work with.