Popularity: The Quest To Be Prom Queen On Twitter

Everyday, I come across at least two or three articles on how to get more followers on Twitter and fans on Facebook. Occasionally I’ll skim said articles, but my eyes start to roll back into my head when I come across the social media strategy clichés. (To see the kind of clichés I’m talking about – and for a really good laugh – check out Click the site title or refresh the page to see more “strategy” ideas. People actually talk like this for real.)

I really think people at agencies and marketing firms invent these terms and ideas to give themselves (and their clients) the illusion of importance when they are actually just doing something “important-sounding.” When I’m in a meeting and someone starts talking like that, I reflexively tune them out and struggle to stay in my chair.

Clients and friends often ask me how to use Twitter and Facebook to their best advantage. My answer is always the same:

Regularly and consistently create or share content that is meaningful, relevant or funny.

That’s it. Not rocket science, but definitely “applied” science. It’s simple, but not easy.

It’s simple because it involves three basic components: meaning, relevance and humor. It’s not easy because those components must be applied regularly and consistently to effectively curate and nurture a real following. This is the Achilles Heel for most people. Doing this effectively is real work; half-measures avail nothing. After a few weeks of kinda-sorta giving it a try and only a handful of followers to show for it, many people tend to fall away, realizing that it’s real work, claiming in exasperation “I just don’t get Twitter.”

After creating many Web sites for people over the last ten years, I’ve noticed an unsettling notion that the Web can bring quick and easy success or fame. We just need to launch the site, kick back and wait for all the love to come pouring in just because we’re online and we are, after all, “us.” With a few exceptions that do get their fifteen YouTube minutes, this notion of quick and easy success is fabulously untrue. However great or small, if genuine success on the Web is the goal, there is no room for hobbyist, part-time, half-time or half-assed efforts. (The real work actually starts after the site is launched.)

I’d never claim to be an expert or a marketing guru, but I keenly observe. I observe what works, and I observe what doesn’t. I follow The New York Times (@nytimes), NPR (@npr), David Pogue (@pogue), Kurt Andersen (@KBandersen), Al Gore (@algore), Anderson Cooper (@andersoncooper) and many others because their content has meaning and relevance to me. I follow several comics like Joan Rivers (@Joan_Rivers), Kathy Griffin (@kathygriffin), Bill Maher (@billmaher), Sarah Silverman (@SarahKSilverman), Jessica Kirson (@JessicaKirson) and others because they make me laugh (and because they also throw in a little meaning and relevance once in a while). In addition to their meaning, relevance and humor, they all share a common characteristic: they’re regular and consistent.

They didn’t buy my “followship.” Nor did they try to sell me something or use marketing gimmickry to proverbially jam something down my throat to get my attention or money. They simply bring meaning, relevance and humor to the party on a regular basis.

More and more individuals and companies throw their hat in the Internet ring each day, pining for the attention of fans and followers. And even after rigorous Tweeting and Facebooking, the bullshit detectors of potential fans and followers grow more and more refined. Web users get savvier every day, and they can smell bullshit from further distances and sharper angles. Gimmicks and tricks might work for a quick spike in followers. But they don’t work for real, sustained, loyal followings (or true “brand loyalty,” if you must). The moment I get the impression someone is trying to buy me… Unfollow… Dis-Like.

What works is – say it with me this time – regularly and consistently creating or sharing content that is meaningful, relevant or funny. If you’re entering the game with earnest hopes to really make something of sustained substance, that’s the way it works from where I’m standing.

What The Fuck Is My Social Media Strategy

One thought on “Popularity: The Quest To Be Prom Queen On Twitter”

  1. I was reminded of this post recently when I read about brands treating their FB fans like morons (and intentionally stoking controversy to ensure pageviews):

    You raise a great point, George. The metrics we use to gauge success on FB and Twitter are all wrong. “Activating engagement” is about more than a fan count – it’s about the authenticity of the conversations. Basing the success of your SM presence on your popularity is sure way to undermine your entire SM efforts and ensure neither your brand nor your fans benefit.

Talk to me...