Carving out your social media niche

OK, this is kind of for my big brother. I suggested he get stuck into social media around his karaoke business. He’s easily the most knowledgable person I know when it comes to music, is a proper enthusiast and, most importantly, is a genuine people person.

So, if I need to get some stuff together to explain to him how to get himself set up then I figure that it’s worth sharing. Not just for those of my readership who are in the karaoke business (you know who you are), but it could be used as a blueprint for any number of similar business models, or even hobbys.

Where to start

Lesson number 1, don’t jump in feet first.

The temptation is to immediately sign up to Twitter and start punting out links to your favourite resources, venues, tips, videos or whatever. Try and resist. You need first of all to establish a base.

Now, this base, where it is and what it looks like, depends a lot on your goal. If you want to establish a network of karaoke DJs and give them a place to share their tips and info then you might be tempted to set out your stall on Facebook. That’s fine insofar as it does allow you the tools to manage the group but be warned that you are essentially locking out those who don’t use Facebook. Use it, but only use it as part of your arsenal.

I’m assuming that my bro’s goal is primarily to share his knowledge and experience. That’s why I’m recommending he set up a blog. This is the best and simplest way to establish a platform for getting your content online.

Setting up your blog

Blogging tools: WordPress, Blogger

This blog uses WordPress but Blogger is good to. Use one of the available templates to set yourself up. Add a couple of pages, in particular one about yourself and what the site is about.

This is important: choose a good title. Don’t call it after your obscure nickname as this doesn’t mean anything to anyone outside of your own social circle. Call it something with karaoke in the title for a start and remember that’s how you’re going to be listed everywhere. It also helps people find you if they are looking for karaoke stuff on search engines.

Use the blog to talk about karaoke related things. Maybe think competitions, song databases, tips, equipment etc. There will be more but you’re the expert. Essentially, put yourself in the position of a punter looking for a good source of information for the karaoke stuff that you’re interested in. List the things that you come up with and you’ll have a handy starter list of things to blog about. Intersperse this list with occasional updates, maybe telling stories from the weekend or musings about what you’d like to see.

This blog is your home on the web, make sure it’s got everything here that you want to share. Once it gets going you can add all manner of other things here but we’ll worry about that later.

Make some noise

Next thing you’ll want to do is tell people where to find this great content. You’re going to want to start networking and the best tools for that are Facebook and Twitter.

Now you may already have a Facebook account and you may want to use that to start inviting people to become your friend but it’ll soon get difficult to differentiate real friends from virtual ones. Instead, you want to set up a fan page. This will separate you from your karaoke persona.

*note* Facebook no longer uses the terminology of fan but it’s much the same still.

Use this page to send people to so you can interact with them. Set up links from your blog to here. Encourage people to sign up. When they do you can start to stimulate discussions around great songs or best pubs, whatever. Get enough people and the community will begin to run itself but it’s a long process.

Twitter is a bit more interactive. Sign up there and spend your first wee while using the search facility to find other people who are talking about karaoke, or about the venues you work at, or maybe competitions you know about or even websites you visit. When you find these people follow them. A few of them will follow you back and very quickly you’re going to want to start tweeting.

What you tweet about is a complicated beast. Twitter is a fast moving stream of status updates, it’s not somewhere to post something for posterity (that’s why you’ve got your blog). It’s more about asserting your personality. The WRONG way to use Twitter is to simply broadcast links to your blog or messages about where you’re next performing. People will very quickly stop following you because they didn’t come here for a sales pitch.

The RIGHT way to use Twitter is to put a bit of yourself into it. Tweet about what you’re doing that day, but make it interesting, make it funny, profound, whatever your thing is, just make it a bit less bland. Alongside this, tweet the things that you are finding online as well which you want to share. Videos from YouTube, photos from a great night on Flickr as well as links to the best websites and news stories of interest to you. Only when you have that mix right can you throw in the marketing messages, if you want to do that at all. Also, don’t forget to refer them to your Facebook group.

Don’t stop there though, the beauty of Twitter is how simple it is to engage with the people you are following. Make sure you take the time to take part in conversations that are already happening. It helps people become more aware of you and also builds a bit of trust as they will more readily believe that you are serious about what you do. If someone says something you like, retweet it so that it can be seen by other people. Share the knowledge and your network will begin to grow as followers find you and start to listen.

Put the work in

Don’t underestimate what’s involved in all of the above. In order to make it a success you will have to constantly be visible and active. Tweet as least 2 or 3 times a day. Blog at least once a week and spend time on Facebook keeping things moving.

Keep your eyes and ears open and think social. You’ll be amazed at the amount of stuff will happen to you in the course of a normal day which has relevance and which people will find interesting if you can relate it to your karaoke theme.

If you have an iPhone, great. use it to gain access to all these things while away from your computer. If you don’t then don’t despair, there are ways of bringing most phones now into the modern world. Installing some Java apps will help you out. I use Snaptu and it has good Twitter and Facebook clients. Try it out.

Other social networks

Aside from the above there are other ways to get yourself noticed. You’ll be on YouTube a lot in your profession so make sure that aside from sharing the videos you find useful, you comment on other people’s videos. If you remember to include the link to your blog and some relevant details in your profile then this is a neat little way of letting people find your base.

Find other people’s blogs. You are almost certainly not alone, find the people who are already talking about this stuff and comment on what they are saying. Again, make sure you take the time to add your link to the profile when you add the comments and, again, there’s another way for interested parties to find their way to you. Do make sure you keep it relevant though, comments along the lines of “great post” or “keep up the good work” just make you look like you’re spamming.

And there you have it

That’s all you have to do bro and before long you find yourself part of a bustling karaoke community, one that helps everyone by sharing the knowledge. You may even be able to make a few small pennies from advertising as well if you get enough traffic. But that would be another blog post.

Good luck.

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Trying something different

Are you tired of doing the same thing every time? You’ve absorbed all the knowledge and you know the right thing to do. A problem comes up, you’ve seen it before and you tackle it the way you always did. Problem solved. Or is it?

Whenever you solve a problem by doing what you always did you create a little bit of apathy. You take a little less care in what you’re doing and what you don’t notice is that the root of the problem is shifting each time it arises. This fluctuation is down to external pressures. Technology moves on, people change, paradigms shift. Before long you find yourself doing what you always did but not getting what you always got. Then, suddenly you’re behind the curve. You look down and there are all the ninjas swarming past. You’re old and can no longer cut it.

This is not a new thing, it’s not borne of modern technology. Just as the move to a web where content is user-generated and easily shared has changed our world, the change from hunting to farming changed the world for our ancestors.

It does happen a hell of a lot faster now though, Sometimes from day-to-day.

So what’s my point? Don’t keep doing what you did last time. Try and stay fresh. Look at each problem as a NEW problem, regardless of how similar it is to the last. Ask yourself, did you learn anything yesterday that might help you do it differently? Have a look at how your peers have tackled similar problems. Try something different.

It’s people who are constantly pushing the envelope and coming at things from different angles who shape our world. I love Twitter but it wouldn’t exist if someone hadn’t decided that blogging was getting tired. So micro-blogging was invented and in turn it has given old school blogs a shot in the arm changing the digital landscape vastly. That’s got to be a good thing right?

So, here’s what I’m trying to do: every time I see an issue that needs to be resolved I’m trying something different.

This blog post is in a different style to my others. I’m hoping that it might interest some people but I don’t know. I hadn’t blogged for a few days and I could easily have just chosen a current event in the social media world to pontificate about. Maybe #ashtag or the death of free Ninging but I couldn’t see how I’d do it much justice given the noise that’s already out there.

So there you have it. Waffle now complete.

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Tell them what you really think – it’s all about the opinions

I’ve been doing a bit more pruning recently of those people who I am following on Twitter. I’ m always in the process of promoting my personal brand and part of that is finding people who sound interesting and following them for a bit to see if you can find some common ground to start a conversation. During this “honeymoon” period, the thing that I’m finding turns me off the most is the distinct lack of OPINIONS.

It’s an estimate and not really based on much but I’d say a good 90% of people that I follow for a bit appear to be completely bereft of an opinion of their own. All they ever do is retweet Mashable links or Chris Brogan‘s latest musings. Never do they stray into the territory of actually saying what they THINK about anything.

I think I know why this is. It’s because they are afraid of alienating themselves. They don’t want to form an opinion of their own because they’re afraid that the popular consensus won’t back them up and then where would they be?

I worry about this attitude.

I worry that there are so many people out there who would rather homogenise themselves than actually try to find some meaning in amongst all the noise that permeates the social media universe. I worry on their behalf, I honestly think their life would be enhanced if they got that little electric buzz that comes from actually disagreeing with someone. It would make them more interesting and, as a result, they wouldn’t get binned the next time I do a spring clean.

For me, it’s all about opinions.

You can’t call yourself a guru or a ninja or whatever the latest badge is when all you’ve done is ingest the wisdom of others. You have to use that knowledge to try to make sense of the world as you see it. That’s all an opinion is.

The birth of the iPad has thrown up a good example. While most people have got on the Apple-is-Good train, the real influencers are actually divided on it’s worth. Jeff Jarvis believes it’s a step backwards to the bad old days of closed systems being controlled by “the man”. While over at Scobleizer, Robert Scoble is quite happy with it as he doesn’t see it as a replacement for what he’s already got. See, that’s two people who are almost certainly on your following list who don’t share the same opinion. Isn’t that interesting? I think so. Take the hint.

I have opinions about pretty much everything and I love to get them out there. My latest opinions, for anyone who cares are:

Promoted Tweets – I am well used to ignoring the sponsored links in Google and am quite happy to do this is Twitter providing they don’t pollute my stream with any more than one at a time. I have no grudge against Twitter for monetising their business and I hope it works out for them I do however have my doubts as to how much money they will make from click throughs given that the intent to actually do something is not nearly as strong in a Twitter search as it is in a Google one. Having said that though, from an advertiser’s point of view there’s nothing wrong with promoting yourself simply for the visibility factor alone.

#stuartmaclennan – I think he was exceptionally foolish for a very long time as he laboured under the impression that being sexist, homophobic, slanderous and generally unpleasant was a reasonable way to present himself to a voting public. I fly in the face of the general consensus on Twitter that he shouldn’t have been sacked and his right to free speech should have been upheld because I know that the Twitter vote won’t amount to much on election day.

Marmite – hate it!

If you’re serious about your own personal brand, I guarantee you that you will attract more attention and, dare I say it, have a bit more fun, if you begin to think about things more and let others know where you’ve decided to stand. You won’t necessarily become the next Brian Solis but you might just stay on my list.

Is social media consultancy worth paying for?

Yesterday I was drawn into a discussion on the value of social media consultancy. I came across a conversation which suggested that people should not be paying “so called” social media consultants to provide a service around tools which are free, specifically social networking sites.

It may well be a fair point, the sites are all free to use after all so why pay someone to use them for you?

Well, I can think of plenty of reasons

Not least of which is that it’s nothing new to pay someone for a service that you don’t have the time or the will to do for yourself. Cleaner, taxi driver, nanny, PA, website designer, kitchen fitter…the list is probably without end. We pay these people for their time which allows us, in turn, the time to do whatever it is that we do best. We also pay them for their skill and experience, knowing that, in most cases, they will do a much better job than us.

I can only speak of my own practise when it comes to social media “consultancy” but I firmly believe that my skills and experience make me worth paying for. I’m not setting up a twitter account for you and telling to you to tweet before holding out my cap. In fact, I’m kind of assuming that you’re willing to at least make that step for yourself because from that point on you’re going to be using it a lot more.

What do I do?

What I offer clients is an analysis of their communications and marketing efforts. From there I can then advise as to what I feel would best suit them in terms of improving their visibility online.

I spend time learning about their business, then I spend time learning about their clients. I then spend more time thinking about how they might be better engaged in conversation. I set up search feeds to listen to the conversations, after which I draw up plans for how best to join them.

I help them improve their websites to include more relevant and up-to-date content. I edit their blogs for them. I hold their hands and I prompt them, I reassure them and keep their best interests at the heart of my own. I represent them to other clients. I pitch them ideas to help them tie online and offline together. I travel in buses, taxis and trains to meet them in cafes and talk to them about improving what they do.

And, as if that’s not enough, I then come on here and blog about how I’m doing it.

I do all of the above very well

I do it very well because I have 15 years experience of  digital communications. You seriously can’t underestimate that when you’re poised to press send on an email campaign which is going to roll out to 50,000 people. I’ve worked for an enormous cross section of clients and understand the marketplace online for anything from whisky to community food initiatives. I also love what I do.

Now, believe it or not, all of this “so called” stuff takes up a lot of time. My time which I’m spending to improve business for my clients. I’m not embarrassed to admit that I prefer to be compensated for that.

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