N.B This is the unedited transcript of the interview.
Can you introduce yourself?
Sure. My name is Tamar Weinberg. I am a social media enthusiast, digital marketing strategist, and the author of a book called The New Community Rules: Marketing on the Social Web. It is like a primer to social media. It's not so much theoretical. It's really just getting the nitty gritty, getting your hands dirty in social media.
Let's talk about a new startup, an unknown startup that wants to launch and get as much attention as possible using social media, using Twitter, using Facebook. Let's talk about Twitter first. What's the best way to get attention on Twitter?
What kind of audience does your startup serve? Is it enthusiasts of Apple products? Is it enthusiasts of subways? Trains? Is it people who like horseback riding? The first thing you would want to do on something like Twitter is to find who is actually using Twitter and which enthusiasts are blogging or posting on Twitter about horseback riding or trains or Apple? Start building bridges with them, building relationships with them to provide them with something of value. That's where the altruism comes in.
Offering value, could that be giving them a free product, free month of using your service, for example, or is it more than that? Define offering value.
That's actually a very good question. Social media, I have to say, a lot of people follow brands, especially on social media, because they want freebies. They want discounts. They want promotions that will give essentially, render a product cheaper or free. Offering value, you can have an intrinsic incentive, if you will, but in social media it doesn't have to be that way.
I've noticed that, for example, I'm working with a brand, again not a startup, but I'm working with a brand that's selling real estate in a foreign country. How do you offer value? What, are you going to give a free house away? You can't do that, so what do you do for that kind of visibility?
You don't necessarily have to focus exclusively on obviously free products. You can't always do this. If you're building a product that's $700, you can't recoup your cost by giving away freebies all the time, so when we're talking about offering value, there's 2 elements to that.
Number 1 is building the relationship's element, which I talked about, but it's not just building the relationships, but it's empowering those users. You're offering value to one user that you might want to reach out to. For example, let's say that your product is you have a new Windows fan startup; you're some sort of forum, if you will, totally hypothetical here. You notice that there are a lot of Microsoft Windows bloggers that are sharing some really great content, and you notice that they're on Twitter, so you can start retweeting those people's tweets because they'll feel very good about themselves.
How do people get your attention?
I mean, I got to say that the person who tweeted to me yesterday about the new branding tool for small businesses captured my attention but not in the right way. I don't think you can focus exclusively on Twitter for something like this. I mean, I think Twitter is an important tool, but it's not the means to the end.
What you need to do is not necessarily focus just on one social network, and I think a lot of companies have their eggs in one basket, or just in two, Twitter and Facebook. I think that it's also important to start networking. If you can find out when these people are actually meeting. Like for example, they're in New York City and they're at a networking event, try to meet them. I think it's really important to build those face-to-face relationships and bridges with them outside of just one social network.
The one challenge that I have, having written a book in 2009, is the fact that a lot of the stuff works, but it works with a ton of effort, and I say in the summary, the last chapter, you can't put all your eggs in one basket. It's really about focusing on a lot of social networks. It's a lot of time. It's a lot of commitment, and I think it was easy in the beginning. It was absolutely easy in the beginning to use a site like Twitter to build that visibility, but I think if you're starting up your site with your startup tomorrow and you want to get visibility in two months, Twitter alone will not cut it. Unfortunately, it won't. It might if you get the right people and you're really focusing, I don't know, like you're full-time on it.
It's definitely a challenge when social media gets saturated by a lot of people who have marketing commercial pursuits. There's just too much spam out there, so the signal is being hidden in so much noise.
You made the point that solely relying on Twitter is not enough in terms of getting visibility, and if you are going to rely on Twitter, then it's like a full-time gig. What other forms of medium can people use and not the typical ones, where people go where the noise is not saturated?
I love your questions. I will say that the other standard social network here is Facebook, and it works to an extent. I'm going to say the thing that's not typically average about it is the fact that people, all they want to do is create a page and they've all posted a page and they call it a day. I would say that if you want to build some more visibility to your business, you need to try to leverage something that's a little more, not so organic, if you will. I'm saying organic given the fact that there's no monetary exchange.
On Facebook, you can try to leverage demographic targeting through their adds. Not always the best course of action, but it definitely is a way to really hone in on the people who are interested in your product, and I have to say, I got yesterday, and I'm actually going to pull up Facebook while I'm talking, but yesterday, got a message from another social network, a big professional social network. We'll call it LinkedIn, and it was saying here's a survey about our ads. What do you think about them? I work in ad sales. Part of what I do is working in ad sales, and I don't remember any LinkedIn ad. It doesn't resonate with me at all. I don't know if you're the same. I think most people are the same. If they're using LinkedIn at all, and startups you actually can, but in this case, I'm talking about I use LinkedIn to connect with people on a professional basis as me, as myself, Tamar Weinberg.
I remember accepting invitations. Sometimes, I reply to messages. Sometimes, I look at other people's profiles, but there's not a single ad there that's reminded me of anything. However, I'm looking at, right now I'm on Facebook, and I actually see ads on Facebook that I might actually be compelled to click on. I don't click on them that often. I'm actually seeing right now something that, Pepto-Bismol, like that's not so interesting to me, but as you start looking on the social networks, you start seeing things. You see sponsored posts. You see things that actually might be somewhat interesting.
In my opinion, that's definitely something to pursue, but of course, we're talking about social media and not necessarily something that requires monetary exchange, so the three other things that I recommend for a startup are, number one, outreach, and this is direct outreach. Talking to the people, sending emails to the people, again building relationships. Social media is really all about that, and I'm going to keep continuing emphasizing that, because I think it's very important.
Talking to these people. Talking to influencers outside of any particular social network. Especially, influencers in most cases are pretty approachable. They were in the beginning before everybody else started hounding them, as once you get celebrity status, people push away.
Finding out who they are. One of the things is really just being active on their sites, so that they see you. For example, as a blogger myself, which I don't really do so much, but I do see when names show up a lot as comments. I notice who they are, and I pay special attention to the people who really invest their time in my site, and that's what you need to do. If you want that visibility, you need to invest time on their respective hubs of the Internet.
Commenting and engaging with them.
Yes. Absolutely. Exactly. Commenting, engaging, writing an email, but writing an email and maybe asking them a question, where you really want them to talk about themselves rather than you talking about yourself. Don't pitch them, immediately say, "Oh, check out my startup." How about getting to know them. Maybe even frame it in, "I have a startup. You can provide some really great value. Tell me something. Here's an interview I'm going to post it on my new site."
Sometimes for startups, they don't want to invest time in a brand new site, so you have to keep that in mind, and I can say that from a site that I worked on, where they asked the CEO all the time to answer questions. He just doesn't have time because of the volume, so there's really, really important ways to do it. Especially when the team is larger than just one person, it's going to be really hard to capture the attention of that one person that you want to get to, so keep those things in mind. That's actually element number one, outreach.
Element number two, sort of related, is networking. When I say networking, I'm not talking about on-line networking. I'm talking about off-line networking. Most influencers in most cases they become influencers a lot not because they have a presence on-line but because they have a presence off-line, and if you're really, really, really, really, really genuinely interested in bringing your visibility, your startup visibility to the next level, you go out and find out where they are and meet them face-to-face. Get a drink with them. Shake their hand. Talk to them at conferences and events.
How does that translate in terms of becoming more visible? Are they more willing to then promote your work? Is that it?
Yes, because when you put your messaging behind a lot of words, it's not as personable as actually putting in motion and face-to-face. Again, social media is awesome, because you can easily connect with people, no geographic borders, but think about how much more powerful it is when you actually meet somebody face-to-face.
I'm going to say this as who I am, and I actually have some anecdotes, personal history here. I started off in the social media realm, and I was for a while somewhat of a celebrity, and everybody was trying to get me to guest post everywhere and ask me questions and stuff, and I was kind of overwhelmed, but it was pretty awesome, but then, around the time that the book came out, I actually gave birth to a child.
It was great. Both baby and book were due at the same month. One came early and one came late. That was in 2009, and my son put my real life into perspective. I can't go out and travel as often. The funny thing is, I have a friend from Facebook, a friend from the industry that I've known face-to-face on these events, and two days ago, he sent me an email, "I hope you still remember me," but the question I've always been having, because I see people talking about networking face-to-face, I know that it's just sort of the opposite, because I'm not physically present, so people start forgetting who you are.
I don't mean to put this as like, “Oh I'm pretty cool” and then you fall off the face of the planet and then people forget about you, but I think it's really kind of something that you're supposed to take to heart. Once you network with somebody, that powerful connection is all the more so powerful, and it's really hard to explain until you're actually there and you really feel as part of that group, and that's what I think as a startup you need to do.
You need to put yourself, thrust yourself. Don't do it aggressively, but thrust yourself in those relationships where you can obviously derive benefit from them, but they, and this is the more important thing, derive benefit from you. Just being good friends with those people is something that can help when you're meeting face-to-face. Going to a bar and drinking a beer with them, people feel great about that, and they feel wonderful. Let them talk about themselves.
That's really just a great way to get yourself known once you establish contacts with them, but you need to do it on a recurring basis. Don't just meet with them at one conference and say, "Oh, we met ... ," because I have had this happen to me a lot. Someone says, "Oh, I met you at this event in 2007." It's hard, so you need to do things and meet with them on a regular basis. I think that's one of the most beneficial things.
I mentioned that there's a third thing, and the third thing is really niche network outreach. Each site is different depending on what your startup caters to, your audience caters to, so again, I was talking about people who like trains, people who like horseback riding, people who like Apple. Obviously, the people who like Apple are not going to be hanging out in the train forums on-line, but there are train forums on-line because my husband hangs out there and I can tell you for a fact that there are niche social networks for every single site out there. Typically, they're forums.
Start looking at where the popular forums are and start providing good content to people. That is another way to benefit yourself. Forums are very cool. In a lot of cases, you can add a signature with a link back to your website, so that's a nice way to get some startup website discovery. Many forum software allows you to embed a signature, so after you're finished writing your post, you have a signature template, which says, "Check out my startup for more tips and tricks about Windows," or something like that. You start posting good valuable content and having a link, and that link builds visibility to your startup, and people will check it out. Especially if you know what you're talking about, people will be compelled to explore.
How do you get your Facebook page to stand out?
That's a challenge. That's sort of why I say that you can't really do it just organic anymore, but there are some ways to do it. I mean, there's calls to action, calls to action on your website. You definitely can start encouraging people to follow your Facebook page on your startup home page. You can also have calls to action in email, say follow startup name on Twitter or whatever social network you actually possibly can.
It's a challenge to do that, but it's also at the end of the day, just another conduit to build up your startup, so I definitely say that Facebook pages are a great type of outgoing broadcast. One of the things I've been seeing, actually going from that, is that Facebook incentives seems to be the currency of encouraging any type of activity. It's crazy. My Facebook feed is filled with people who are sharing pictures because they want to win some sort of prize. It's crazy right now.
I'm actually doing it. I'm trying to share the same thing, but they're saying, share this on Facebook and be then write a comment on this post and then you can be entered to win a chance for a $99 product or free trial. It doesn't even have to be essentially the same item. Again, if you're an Apple enthusiast community, you might want to give away an iPad, even though you're not necessarily selling iPads. You're just going to have to invest in that kind of thing, so definitely, that's something that you can do.
Again, what you're trying to do is build visibility to your startup, so focusing too much on building your Facebook page is great, but at the end of the day, I think everybody's goal is to really focus on building that community on their startup homepage. I know that that's sort of debatable of a comment, but the reason why I say that is because I think a lot of people focus too much on Facebook. Because Facebook has such a great large audience, they think, "Oh, we have to use Facebook," but Facebook is not the be-all end-all type thing, and I really think that you always have to have a home base, and Facebook should not be your home base.
Facebook should be a way to branch out to build visibility to that home base, but definitely again, it's like Twitter. You offer some value, and you try to empower users as much as possible, but I think it's really, really important if it's not doing so well, and in many cases as a new startup it won't, I don't think it should be a reason for you to give up on that. Definitely, it's going to be a challenge, especially on Facebook, unless you're focused unfortunately, and I say unfortunately because of the fact that there is that monetary exchange, but unless your focused on Facebook ads, and I think that's sort of by design, again unfortunately.
What's the final thing you want to leave for the audience? What's Tamar's message about leveraging social media?
I really think that social media comes across the best when it's spoken by someone who's really passionate about doing it. I think that that passion is not something dictated by commercialism, just by visibility. For example, that tweet that I got yesterday, and I keep using that as this example here, I get them on a frequent basis, but this particular one that I'm pointing out here, this person is really desperate about their site, they don't care too much about the social media, and I think that the best person to oversee anything on social media is the person who lives, eats, breathes, and sleeps social media and loves doing it and has a good audience because of how they've already engaged.