Rebecca Caroe on Social Media In Business
If people don't know you're there, your great idea or product is never going to take off! Rebecca Caroe, a new business development expert specialising in using social media to find new customers and grow your online following, shares some tips and techniques on how to build an online presence that matters. [see full transcript]
Transcription of Interview with Rebecca Caroe [RC] by Julian Darley [JD] (2013-02-03)
JD: Welcome to the Ruthless Guide. I’m Julian Darley and my guest today is Rebecca Caroe, a new business development expert specialising in using social media to find new customers. The topic for ruthless dissection today is using social media in business.
JD: Q1. How should someone who is serious about gaining a more engaged online following start off? [0:21]
RC: My first observation is that most businesses go on to social media with a business objective and that's a really important first step [to ask] - why are you there? For many of my clients the reason is that their customers and their prospective customers are on social media.
As an aside, this also helps them choose which channels are appropriate - many people ask should we be on Facebook or be on G+ and the answer is find out whether these are places where your prospective customers are because if they are, then yes, there will be a benefit to your being there.
Now, in order to find out what you should be saying that is attractive and interesting, it does help if you actually know your topic or subject area. Whatever it is that your business does you are almost certainly an expert in so don't feel overwhelmed by the requirement to have 10,000 hours of experience in order to become an expert - you genuinely know your business well and have the confidence that you can talk with authority about your subject before launching big-time into social media.
We usually recommend that people spend a few weeks watching and learning and tracking conversations and themes of conversations to get a sense of what is already being talked about in their area of expertise. This can take the form of finding popular people who are already in that space.
Take a client of mine who is in the food industry, they supply New Zealand lamb. For them we started researching people who wrote using the word recipe and then also using the word lamb, and those were quite simple searches. We started to independently note down the names of the bloggers and the tweeters and the Facebook users who are talking about these things. And the second step was just follow the ones who themselves have large followings already. The logic here is they are probably saying popular things said, successful things, and have built up a following and therefore this gives you a clue as to what tone the dialogue takes things they actually talk about and what topics seemed to resonate. You can find out something that is resonating if it gets a lot of comments, or on twitter, if it gets a lot of retweets, you tend to see the same thing coming up in your search screen, over and over again, if it's getting re-tweeted.
So that's the first step. The second step is to is to create an account for yourself with a memorable name (if you can) and then to start following these popular people. Not all of them will automatically follow you back, but the second step in following up in building a followership for yourself is twofold:
Firstly, commit to writing one thing that is original on one social network once-a-day – this should probably take you 10 to 15 min when you first start doing it. That might be just an announcement about an interesting problem or question a customer has put to you.
The second thing is to build followers by re-tweeting things that other people have said that you genuinely think are interesting – there's no need to be sycophantic – look at what they're writing, and if what they say seems to be helpful or to give insight, or would be beneficial to your followers then re-tweet it or share it or G+ it or give thumbs up or whatever the correct term is for the different social networks. One word of warning here, if the person has put the URL link into their post, always, always check it out first. Spammers add links all the time, and you don't want to unwittingly be promoting something that is inappropriate to your followers. So those are the first two steps that I would recommend.
JD: Q2. It’s easy to check how many followers someone has on twitter but is it possible to tell how engaged those followers are - how actively they really follow someone. [4:11]
RC: My quick answer is it's reasonably hard to find that out unless you can get a dialogue going with the person with the large following. My recommendation for people starting out is actually not to start there. The key thing about social media is that you don't own the platform that these dialogues are taking place on, and therefore it's really important that you have an independent place, usually a website, to which you can direct readers.
I think social media as a signposting service and every business should be using it only to drive conversations back towards their websites. It doesn't mean you shouldn't encourage comments and shares and things within the social media page, but remember they are secondary to your own property, which is your website.
JD: Q3. How do you get people interested in your social media output? [5:00]
RC: In order to get people interested in what you're saying, we've already talked about having something interesting to say once per day. It's really helpful if some of those things are URLs that point back to your website where the topic is amplified or explained further, this will begin to show people that you're three-dimensional and that you've got more to say than just 140 characters for example. So as an example I might find you as an interesting person, Julian online and choose to follow you, and then you might follow me back.
Another tactic, I would then always then go as part of my 15 minutes on social media every day, I would go and look at your profile, what you say about yourself, and you might have one or possibly two URLs in your profile talking about what you do, I would go and look at those websites. And also look back through your recent history of tweets, so that I get a sense of what you talk about.
If I see any overlaps between what you do and what I do, I would then write you a direct message, which of course I can do privately or publicly – I choose to do that publicly often, because I think it is then helpful to my other followers to see what I'm saying, but you can do it privately if you're both following each other. That's obviously equally acceptable, but it doesn't help you in terms of publicity.
In that direct message I will say something like: thanks for following, Julian. Have you read our article on fundraising for movies and put the URL in so that if you see that message you might be tempted to go and look at it. Look at our website.
And see what we've written. You may or may not find that information helpful. And then of course that's where the high-quality content is an important aspect of social media, because it shows that this twitter account or this Facebook page is managed by a real person, that they write individual messages and they are encouraging people to begin forming relationships that may lead to dialogue, which may lead to a form of engagement that you describe.
Now the second thing to describe is don't experiment like this with someone with a big following with big follower numbers in the beginning. Start with people who have got a smallish follower numbers, quite similar to your own, because then you will build up confidence and you will be able to experiment with what sorts of things they react well to and what sort of things they ignore and it will give you a sense of what is going to interest the audience.
I don't usually advise people to be shocking or outrageous in terms of their messages, because unless you are genuinely shocking and outrageous brand, it’s quite hard to follow through and it may not match up with the rest of your business profile or personality. But you will find that people do begin to visit your website and you will get more visitors and hopefully you will get more visitors who browse several pages in your website and then they may notice your tweets, your Facebook updates more often.
That persistent and diligent strategy is for me the best one to build an audience and it does take a long time to do it. And yet we have a client who we've been working on doing this since June last year and now twitter is the third largest source of incoming links to their website and their online shop, so it is paying off, but we do spend about 8 to 10 hours per month on promoting them on Twitter and Facebook.
JD: Q4. Is it true that unless you do something outrageous or crazy, it’s very difficult to achieve a huge following overnight? [8:32]
RC: It is possible to do, but the ways of going about it if you are a complete unknown in the industry are pretty much defined by whether or not you can get the attention of people with large followings and whether or not they are interested in what you say.
Having said, interviewing someone for your blog, recording a video interview or an audio interview with them, which you can republish is a really great way to start, because you interview me and you then say hey Rebecca, the interview’s up, and then what happens is that, you publish it and I share it with my followers saying, hey, listen to me talking to Julian, here's what we said in the podcast.
Now, you can't pester lots of famous people all the time and you need to consider an exchange of value when you approach them so it's not just like an A list movie star whose photograph you want, and they're prepared to give autographs probably quite a lot of the time, but quite probably also not when they're being a private person during their private life. You have to consider, if you're a business, what can you offer to this person or that other business that they might value in exchange. And certainly sharing messages which overlap between your two audiences is a very good way to start.
JD: Q5. And to finish up for today, have you found any social media techniques recently that you think are particularly useful or interesting? [10:00]
RC: In terms of business to business I am definitely finding that if you have a new idea, it may not get adopted immediately, but if you are persistent, you can have success. One of my clients is trying to persuade other retailers in the same space who are not necessarily direct competitors, but who are selling to a similar audience, to do joint ventures with them. Now, the first suggestion that they made was, ‘we will email our list about you if you will reciprocate’, and they got one reply out of about nine or ten people that they approached.
They are now moving on to repeat that exact same offer four months later to the same list and what we're finding is that more of them are prepared to consider it, because this time we can say, oh, so-and-so took up our offer, go and see what they've got to say about whether or not it was successful. So you get some independent authority.
Also thinking up some new things for this particular audience, one of the things we've worked out is how to create a page on which a large large number of brands and Facebook profiles are aggregated. So someone who's interested in this subject matter, as it happens it's the sport of rowing, can go to a single place and see updates from a very wide number of organisations around the world who all write about rowing.
Because Facebook runs the Edgerank algorithm you don't actually see the updates from every single business page that you like because Facebook filters them out, depending on whether Facebook thinks they are of interest to you. Personally, I find this deeply annoying, so this is a little work around for that. If any of the audience want to find out how to do it, get in touch - I'll put my contact details at the end of this and we’ll show them how to do it for themselves.
The message is: keep innovating and be persistent. Don't worry about putting out a broadly similar message to the same audience several times over a period [of time]. If they don't tell you to get lost immediately and unsubscribe, the chances are, they have at least read your message and they may be thinking about it and when you come back a second or third time, they may be a little more willing to consider it.
JD: Thank you Rebecca. That was Rebecca Caroe, a new business development expert specialising in using social media to find new customers on the Ruthless Guide discussing social media in business with me, Julian Darley. Please sign up to ruthlessguide.com to hear news of more discussions and dissections.