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Secrets to human networking in cyberspace

| Posted in category Facebook Google Plus Social Media Twitter

Take 3 social media dudes – A, B and C. Dude A has got 1,000 followers, dude B has around 3000 and dude named C has a whopping 35,000 followers. Who is more important? Surely it's the cool mister C?


Photo credit: Garry Knight via Flickr

If you really dig social media, or just happened to read my social media 101 mashup, you know that the answer is not that simple. It depends on how real those ABCs are. Let me explain.

Ways of doing social

As with SEO, there are several ways to do work on social media:

  • Doing stuff by hand

Which I kind of like, especially if you are a beginner - this way you really get to know the social network's ins and outs and get a feel for it.

  • Using light tools

If you manage multiple social networks at a time, it's a struggle to really "be there" during your audience's social peak times. Things like Tweet Deck and Buffer help me with that, filling in for me on social media when I am offline or busy doing other stuff.

  • Using heavy machinery

With tools like TweetAttacks, TweetAdder and TweetBuddy, you don't have to "babysit" your social media accounts as much. You get followers quickly, you send out promotional auto-DM's  - seems like a win-win all around. But, aside from engagement issues (you won't see much of it), and especially in light of the recent legal battles the above toolmakers are going through, this route is hardly your best bet.

Like Justin, I am on social media for the sake of making great connections. Why inflate follower count with faceless, careless spam? Many will disagree with me on this, but, if you do want engagement and connections out of social media, I'm happy to share with you my "plan of attack".

The strategy is based on my experience with 4 social networks:

*Though I often use Twitter screenshots and examples, the tips below apply to all social networks.

There is a reason why I mentioned both brand and personal pages, and it's not self-promotion. People need reassurance that there is a real human being behind a brand, that somebody truly cares to help them solve a problem, that the brand page is open socially 24/7 and not just 9 to 5, Monday through Friday.

In fact, lots of truly engaged followers will know both the name and the face behind the brand. More than that, if a customer is angry, fixing the problem and apologizing personally usually takes care of most of the problems. Just compare

"we are sorry"


"I am sorry. Tanya"

Which one is more convincing - the faceless collective apology or a sincere first-person repentance?

Who am I looking for?

An important question to ask before you go social. Here is how I broke people down for Link-Assistant.Com before I started:

  • online folks promoting their own sites or blogs
  • and the big guys like SEO consultants and agencies for whom website promotion is a business

(The division is a bit more complex than that but I won't go into the nitty-gritty here.)

So, ideally, we want to follow both types of audiences sharing content that appeals to each group. Hence, we create and curate content related to blogging, social media, SEO, search engine news and analysis, and advanced SEO tricks.

Then there are power bloggers and social media influencers who we learn from, who help us with newsjacking, help us spot trends, broadcast our content and help us spur discussions on SEO. Engaging with journalists for better PR coverage for your business is another interesting topic worth exploring. Needless to say, there's more to it than a mere "here is my press release draft, please publish it on Mashable".

Who is your audience, do you know? Answer this question before getting into social media.

But, most importantly, keep in mind that behind all the sites, brand pages and blogs are people – human beings like you and I with families, hobbies and life offline. And I am both excited and obsessed with meeting new people on the Web, for business and for geek fun. Here are some of my secret methods :)

Reverse-engineer profile links

If a Twitter profile bio has some more handles in it, I click and if I like what I see I certainly follow. If the bio has a LinkedIn profile link, I click through, and if all looks legit, I send an invite with a sincere, personalized message instead of "I would like to add you to my professional network". If you read that person's blog or tried their product (which I suggest that you do), even better - tell the person all about it. If a person links out to their Google plus page via Twitter, I add them to my circles.

Find people through posts and articles

If a good blogger I know praises someone in an article, I will definitely do a Google search on the person, visit that person's blog and find them on social media.  I've noticed that many successful bloggers drop referrals left and right, and I don't mean cheesy affiliate links. I mean bloggers talking about their friends, brands, products and people they admire. I want to meet those people! That's how I found out about Srini Rao – he was mentioned in so many blog posts that I just couldn't ignore his blog any longer.

Tweet authors, not just brands

Take a look at any Search Engine Watch article. The way their content is optimized for Twitter text is superb. Hope you will optimize your blog the same way. Just look - everything is ready for a beautiful tweet:

Article title + by @Author’sTwitter + custom shortened domain ( + via @sewatch. Like so:

Best thing is that I don't have to look up the author's Twitter handle to give him/her credit and due acknowledgement, something I always do when I tweet. Search Engine Watch is a medium. The author is a person. Think about that.

Hashtags and people mashups

Think of it this way: each @mention is not only a way to acknowledge people you already know but also a way to broadcast brand awareness across multiple audiences. In general, the more people you mention on social media, the better. That's why I love people mashups like #FollowFriday or #FF - a Friday tweet featuring your favorite Twitter folks. Here's an example of one of the #FF tweets I did featuring SEO folks we like:

But #FF's are far from only ways to attract followers. You can say collective thanks to people for taking part in your survey, for mentioning or retweeting your post etc. I feature marketing folks on #MarketerMonday tweets. People also come up with custom hi-fives and shout outs saying hi to new followers and acknowledging people in their network. Sky is the limit, really. I don’t do hashtag shouts every day, but my goal is to do it at least twice a week.

Find content, cc people

If you found an article that you know someone will enjoy reading, tweet it directly, or, better yet, send a tweet to your audience with a cc of the person you wanted to share it with. Just started doing that recently and am loving it.

Meet new people through quotes

We think we know who our audience is but since assumptions threaten to make an ass out of you an me (ass+u+me), it’s always good to experiment :)

Take our SEO PowerSuite tools as an example - they are used  by so many different of people! We gave away licenses to parents raising money for a sick child. People use the tools to promote their personal blogs on pretty much any topic you can think of. Our clients' sites sell anything from flowers to agricultural combines. 380 thousand users - you never know what may push their buttons and compel them to connect with the Link-Assistant.Com brand. For this purpose, I use quotes. They appeal to many audiences and help increase engagement.

My rule of thumb is to send at least one quote per day. (You are welcome to retweet and cc people while quoting - increases exposure.)

Ask questions, voice opinions

Non-link questions and status updates work wonders as well.  So do non-link opinions and value statements. I mean, who wants boring regurgitated content from Mashable and Techcrunch, without an opinion at that? Do tweet big name publishers by all means but bother to add your own voice - Loved it! Must-read! What a great article on startups - say something. And, of course, share content that lights fires, shifts paradigms and inspires.

Random acts of kindness

I do think that helping others "just because" is what social networks are truly for. Utilize that power and when someone needs help, do help - sometimes it only takes a tweet to save a life. So, whether you give stuff away for charity or simply want to donate a tweet for a good cause, why not do it?

Guest blogging and joint ventures

If you are sponsoring a contest together with other folks in the industry, why not spend extra time promoting it? Write a Press Release or a post on your blog, share the news with your community, or simply invite your partners to guest post on your blog to make your connection last beyond the contest. I sure hope you add them on to your social networks and turn this human network into long-lasting business.

Follow people in comments

I recently read a great post by Joe Hall and shared it on Twitter. With blogs like that, the comment section alone is a post in and of itself, full of inspiring ideas and insights rarely voiced on your typical SEO blog. Needless to say, I followed them all on Twitter (minus spammers).

Share hobbies and be yourself

Nothing works better than being your true self on Twitter. Why not share that inspiring post you just read?  If you are into music, share your best finds with the world, mention the musician's Twitter handle too - they'd love to know that someone appreciates their work. If you are into mountain biking, go ahead and share a pic from your last race. Liz Strauss always shares Instagram pictures of her native Chicago and new cities she travels to.

I know lots of Twitter people who post their bike ride itineraries and miles run. If it's your personal account, why not do it? Met plenty of tech guys on Twitter who are crazy about dogs just like me.

Be #ORS - Open, random, supportive

If you haven't watched Thomas Power's TEDx talk on The Future of Social Networks, do. He talks of the need for people and organizations to shift from institutional thinking to network thinking. In other words, quit acting like a closed, selective, and controlling corporation. Instead, be an open, random and supportive person. Google #ORS now before your competitors do - "big picture" social media thinking is right here, one click away.

Weave those tips into your social media strategy and I swear that you will never be forgotten or treated as just another faceless online marketer tweeting and retweeting "the noise". You will be treated for who you really are: a human being with a good heart, diverse interests, hobbies and opinions. Let your beautiful self shine through and people will come. Can't tell you how many times I started talking weather and ended up talking business in the end.

Have you used any of these social networking strategies? Which one is your favorite and why? Share your ideas with me, and, who knows, Tanya and Link-Assistant.Com may soon stalk you on social media 😉



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