Lon Safko is a bestselling author of books including, The Social Media Bible and The Fusion Marketing Bible. Soon, Lon’s show, “Social Media & You… Communicating In A Digital World,” will be featured on PBS. His career includes several other impressive achievements. You can learn more at http://www.lonsafko.com.
I got hip to Lon three years ago when I was writing an article on how actuaries — and everybody else for that matter — can use social media to market their businesses. Since then, Lon has been an influential colleague and friend. Lon graciously accepted my request for a Q & A and here it is!
Annmarie: How did you get into social media?
Lon: It was September 2006. I heard of the term and didn’t know what it was. I started asking around. My techie friends didn’t know what it was and told me not to pay any attention to it or the term, “Web 2.0” because neither meant anything. I didn’t believe that answer. I knew right then, it was going to be disruptive technology.
Throughout my career, I have been able to recognize these disruptive technologies before most others. Because of this, I have been called a futurist. This led to my having 18 inventions in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. and more than 30,000 of my personal papers are part of their permanent collection. I knew social media was going to be one of those technologies that would change our lives.
I’ll admit I did not know the extent of how disruptive it would become. I started watching it and by spring of 2007, I was hooked. I then began pitching the concept for a book, first, to my existing publisher, Pearson, then to all of their labels, such as Wharton, Peachnut, Sam’s and Que. There were blue-sky meetings after blue-sky meetings. Finally, I went to John Wiley & Sons. They totally got the value of social media even back then. The rest is history.
Annmarie: What do you like the most about social media?
Lon: The ease of communication. I can find whatever information I need at the click of a button. I can casually follow what my friends and family are up to. I can learn from people in the industry and it all comes to me with no effort. I can listen to one or to many and I can just as easily speak to one to or thousands.
Annmarie: What do you least like about social media?
Lon: The responsibility. Maybe it’s more me, because I am expected to be on every platform. It takes a LOT of time. Monitoring conversations, watching Google Alerts and HootSuite, answering email, posting to Facebook, updates on LinkedIn, tweeting on Twitter, checking my Second Life property, tweaking my SEO, keeping Google Hangouts working on my Mac… It’s a full-time job.
Annmarie: It does take a lot of time, even for those of us who are not doing everything. So how do you keep up with such a quickly growing industry?
Lon: I use social media. Really! With all of the information that streams in all day, I can simply glance at all of the content and keep my finger on the pulse of the industry. Ten or 20 years ago that would have been impossible. Now it’s much less work and often, fun.
Annmarie: How do you advise people getting into social media? What baby steps should be taken first and then where does someone go from there?
Lon: First of all, don’t be intimidated by it. Just like anything that we don’t understand, it seems scary or overwhelming. Take it one tool at a time. I suggest that people use what I call the Trinity of Social Media: blogging, micro-blogging, and social networks. If you can do just those three things, you have 90 percent of what you need.
Google Juice and Link Love are the two most important criteria
that all search engines use to rank your site.
You, more than anyone, understand the power of blogging. It sets you up in the search engine as a perceived industry leader because of your insights. You get Google Juice or indexed content, which contain your industry keywords, and Link Love or external reputable links or links back to your blog site.
Annmarie: True enough. But tell me, since Google has changed its algorithms, what is the best strategy to be found?
Google Juice and Link Love are the two most important criteria that all search engines use to rank your site. Micro-blogging is Twitter. I don’t call the category Twitter because there are other micro blogging platforms such as Yammer for an enterprise Twitter type solution.
Tweeting is a great way to you and your brand out in front of your prospects and customers multiple times per day. If you can Tweet only three times a day, Monday through Friday, you get your brand in front of your prospects 15 times a week. And, assuming you pay particular attention to making your content have a strong WII-FM — What’s In It For Me — or a IDKT — I didn’t Know That value. They will welcome your next message and your brand.
Add social networks: Facebook, LinkedIn, and others. Facebook has 1.2 BILLION users. The New York Times only has 1.2 million subscribers. If I told you I’d give you a free ad in the Times, you’d jump at it. Then why aren’t you strongly participating in Facebook and LinkedIn. I love LinkedIn. It the largest on-line database of professionals in the world! Connect and communicate with them!
Annmarie: What would you say are common actions even social media experts miss?
LON: STRATEGY! Can you tell this is important to me? Everyone’s talking, but doesn’t have a reason. That’s why fewer people are listening. Facebook is NOT a strategy. Twitter is NOT a strategy. Blogging is NOT a strategy.
You have to first define what you want to achieve, then ask how can I use say, Twitter, to accomplish that objective. Then ask, how can I use Facebook to accomplish that objective? Then repeat for each of your objectives by asking how communication tools will achieve those objectives. All of these answers become your tactics, and the summation of all this becomes your overall strategy. That’s what my newest book, The Fusion Marketing Bible, is all about.
Annmarie: Sometimes it’s difficult to sell social media services because there are still a lot of executives who are not convinced of their effectiveness. What do you tell them?
Lon: They have to get into the 2000s, peacefully or kicking and screaming is OK too! There’s no going back. Social media is here to stay. I can cite some examples from above; take out a very expensive ad in the New York Times and possibly reach 1.2 million or participate on Facebook and reach 1.2B. Pay tens or hundred thousands of dollars on a direct mail campaign that ends up in the recycle bin, or post three Tweets a day and get noticed by tens of thousands of prospects a week for free. Spend tens of thousands of dollars on newspaper advertising or blog and draw attention from around the world.
Once they hear the facts, the decision becomes quite easy. Then you have the difficulty of implementation and commitment.
Annmarie: What is the greatest barrier to implementing a social media program?
Lon: First, being convinced that social media marketing is a good idea. Then it’s making a commitment, creating a sound strategy, understanding all of the tools, creating sound objectives, developing the tactics, and then, most of all, a committed implementation. They have to stick with it.
It really doesn’t happen overnight; neither does traditional marketing. The key difference is social media has no media buys. Both traditional and digital marketing require time and creativity, so that cancels out of both sides of the equation. So, what’s left is cost. And social media has little or no cost to implement. That makes it my choice.
Annmarie: How do you think social media will continue to change our lives?
Lon: Communication. Different forms or platforms will allow it to communicate more easily and people will have more fun doing it.
Every time we create a technology for communicating, we quickly figure out how to use it for marketing. Pinterest is a great example of this. It’s fun to pin pictures, but it’s more fun to make money by having your products pinned.
These are the most exciting times I have seen in my lifetime. Computers were cool in the late 70s and early 80s, but they took two decades to catch on. Social media has changed all of our lives, worldwide in as little as five years. And, it will continue to change how we market, sell, communicate, and connect.
Annmarie: Thanks for sharing your advice with my readers.