Social media is the great equalizer. It provides unprecedented access to the smallest of players and gives them the ability to sound off, connect and drive business. It turns anyone with a smartphone, computer and Internet access a marketer. The only question is the one that most can’t answer; how do I actually do it?
The answer isn’t complicated when you get down to the nuts and bolts of using social media. Take Twitter. I was interviewed by CNN two weeks ago and the producer for the segment asked me about my new book and some other things related to my background. He told me about his own current book project and I shared some insights into what he might do to be successful in launching it. “Sho,” which is his real name, tweeted me shortly after I left and thanked me for the advice I provided. He didn’t email me, but instead found my Twitter handle and sent me a direct message.
Since that encounter a couple of weeks ago, we have been having an ongoing conversation on Twitter. He doesn’t have my cell phone, yet we can text back and forth in real time just as you would do with a real text message on the phone — one on one, but also one on one to many. That’s the beauty of Twitter. My 3,000-plus followers are able to see the conversations I’m having, since they are public, but they can just as easily be private messages. I just choose to make them public.
That’s a one-on-one example from somebody who actually met me. What about someone whom I’ve never met? Use a hashtag (#) to find people based on information they have shared on Twitter. For instance, let’s say you are looking to connect with people who are well versed about Hanoi in Vietnam. You could simply input #Hanoi on Twitter and the most recent posts from people who have used that hashtag show up. I did this myself on my last trip there a year and half ago.
Indeed, I discovered many different individuals who knew about specific destinations and started to have one-on-one conversations with them. I was literally able to “find” people based on the conversations they were having about a place I was interested in. They were able to provide insights and ideas for a trip that was going to take place, and I had never even met them. That’s the power of Twitter and another reason why you should be on it.
At its roots, Twitter is a personalized search engine that returns results based on that # symbol. Instead of a web page, you get someone’s musings or thoughts or shared information. A lot of it is junk, but then again so is much of the web in general. By searching based on your criteria, you can bypass that junk and get to the conversations that matter.
Creating a conversation is what social media is all about. My “aha” moment with Twitter came when I associated its platform with texting. It was like, “duh, now I get it.”
It used to cost tens of millions of dollars to build a brand or get noticed, but social media platforms have changed the game. You can now effectively build a brand with little to no investment, other than your time. Understanding only comes with experimentation. It’s time to step into the social media laboratory.