Strong Opinions @marksbirch

Random thoughts from a NYC entrepreneur and investor about start-ups, technology and the people that make it all happen. Also find time for good tunes and good food.
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It is not important and you are missing the point.  I hear this frequently by people that have a genuine interest in social media either their “personal brand” or their businesses.  They talk about getting followers and writing witty posts and trying to get viral.  The problem is that they are focusing on the tools, not the voice.

The voice is who you are as a person in real life.  It affects everything around you, from your relationships to your circumstances to your ventures.  If you own a business, the culture is very much a part of your voice and will reflect that in the people you hire, your dealings with customers and the ways you reach out to the marketplace.  Fred Wilson wrote a brief post on voice when talking about how Tumblr has fun with its users.  You cannot hide your voice or change your voice as it is innate to who you are, partly by genes and partly by upbringing.

So when you are asking how to get good at things like Twitter or Facebook or other social media tools, you are skipping over what is most important.  It is like reading most celebrity Twitter accounts where you just feel that most have outsourced their tweets to a PR management firm.  The conversation feels empty and devoid of authenticity.

You need to first understand what your voice is.  Tools and tactics are going to be ineffective and eventually short-lived if there is a mismatch between what is said online versus who you are.  The social webs are awash in a sea of abandoned social media accounts.

Once you are able to identify what your voice is, then you can make the most of the social web.  Here are a few things to keep in perspective if you plan to be involved in social media for the long haul:

  • It takes a while to get your voice right – You will probably post a lot of nonsense in the beginning, and that is fine as no one is really listening.  Just have fun with it and over time things will become more natural and more interesting.
  • Do not force content – If you do not have anything to say, do not push it or go on a mad search for something meaningful to post.  Frequency does matter, but so does quality and consistency of voice.
  • Be committed to a content strategy – Have a plan for topics to talk about in advance, then block out some time on a daily basis to post and engage in conversations.  Regular posting helps develop your voice and build a following.
  • Do not take it so seriously – This is not your businesses and it is not your entire being so have fun with it as another means to communicate with others and engage with customers, fans, etc.  If you happen to offend or annoy someone, just move on (unless of course it is a major customer service goof or visible offline incident).
  • Ignore follower counts – Focusing on numbers is an irrelevant metric.  There are ways to pump up your numbers artificially, but these are as hollow as SEO tactics that simply dump people to your website.  You get “eyeballs” but no one stays to listen or buy.
  • Connect with influential people – By their standing, they are hard to connect with, but try to build up a conversation online with these individuals.  Others will eventually notice and eventually check out what you are saying.
  • Talk with your peeps – Social media works best as an online college café where everyone comes to chat and discuss and listen and learn.  Engage with your followers and follow their conversations then eventually they  will become fans of your voice.

Remember to just keep it real and use your own voice, then you can get "good at Twitter".