Tom Schmitz // Dec 2 2009
I’m going to tell you a secret that people in social media marketing and social media optimization don’t like to talk about. Fame begets fame. If you’re a celebrity or popular brand then social media will be particularly easy for you.
For those of us who are celebrities only in our own minds, you and I will have to work a bit harder to succeed with all this social media stuff. That’s okay. Social media marketing is eminently doable. You just have to smash a few popular preconceptions then roll-up your sleeves.
Social media is not new. Facebook and Twitter opened to public registrations in 2006. StumbleUpon was created in 2001, MySpace in 2003, Digg in 2004.
It’s not too late either. People, brands and companies that nobody ever heard of are making names for themselves all the time. Social media marketing and social media optimization are about creating original, compelling and link-bait worthy content and about networking with others. If you can do that you can become an Internet success story.
So what’s changed? If social media has been around for so long, why now?
Social Media is more accessible. In particular, sophisticated Twitter/Facebook/ LinkedIn/MySpace desktop clients and smartphone apps made group messaging more addictive than ever.
Search engines are smarter. They’ve diminished or depreciated easy to acquire links like those from link-trades, free directories, article banks and press releases. It’s harder to buy text links under the radar or operate automated link building schemes without getting caught. You must earn high search engine rankings. Gasp! (BTW, diminished means ‘still useful, but not as powerful as in years past.’)
Okay, the Internet landscape has changed, but it cannot be all that bad, right? Barnes & Noble has an ecommerce shelf filled with books about how to promote your business on Twitter. On Google I can find endless case studies filled with the likes of Dell, Comcast, Oprah, Ashton Kutcher, Neil Gaiman, CNN, Guy Kawasaki, Gary Vaynerchuk and Chris Brogan. When I look at their Twitter profiles I see thousands, hundreds of thousands and even millions of followers. I don’t need a million followers. I just need a small fraction of that and I’ll be set!
I’m going to burst your bubble.
What all of the case studies omit is that these people brought large fan bases with them. They asked their enthusiasts to follow them. On their blogs and videos and television shows they passed the news, “I’m on Twitter. Follow me.” People who were never on Twitter emigrated. Fans already on Twitter quickly followed.
You’re not going to have 100,000 followers or 10,000 followers or – chances are – even 1,000 followers out of the gate. You’ll probably have to work just to get to 100 legitimate Twitter followers. It’s no different on Facebook or any other social media networking website.
Here’s what will happen. Getting your first 100 followers will be harder than getting your first 500 followers. Getting those 500 will be harder than getting to 1,000. Getting to 1,000 will be harder than getting to 5,000…maybe. It’s going to level off at some point, that’s life, but you’ll always be able to grow your popularity by working harder and reinventing yourself.
Building social media popularity is like spinning a flywheel. It’s nearly impossible to make it budge. It requires great effort to make that first revolution. The second time around becomes a bit easier, but it’s still tough going. Eventually though, you’ll get the flywheel spinning smoothly and quickly. Once this happens just a fraction of the effort will keep it going. In fact, a fast spinning flywheel can be difficult to stop.
Social media marketing and social media optimization are like that flywheel. It’s tough to begin. You’ll need to invest plenty of time and effort.
What about the famous? Their flywheel is already spinning. They began working on it a long time ago.
For you and your brand it may be quite awhile before you profit. But keep at it. Make a legitimate long-term effort. Swear-off just getting by. Then, at some point, your flywheel will spin swiftly too and the engine of success will be operating and at your disposal.