My life includes a handful of decisions I wish I could do-over or at least sweep under the carpet and hide from the world. Like the time I buzzed my hair and dyed it bleach blonde. I think the hideous stares I got from the girls in my school were indication enough that I had made a bad choice.
Then there was the time I went skinny dipping on a beach in Mexico and came back to shore only to find my wallet, AND PANTS, had been stolen. I won’t go into the details of how I got home that night but trust me; it was a long and embarrassing walk.
Worst of all was the occasion I jumped out of the 2nd floor window grasping for the limb of the tree next to my house. I was 10 years old and thought I wanted to be a stunt man when I grew up. In case you were wondering, NO… I didn’t catch the branch. I fell about 15 feet and my ass was sore for a week.
Now the most grievous mistake I’ve made in recent years was the choice to try and automate my social media presence on Twitter. In hindsight, this decision was destined to suffer a most disastrous death but I just didn’t see it at the time. As the saying goes, I was “inside the bottle and couldn’t read the label.”
And I was sooooo smug about it too. I sincerely thought that by generating thousands of followers on autopilot I had figured out the key to social media marketing. I was finding how easy it was to get people following me and my tweets were generated around the clock with little manual manipulation by me.
So it’s with extreme embarrassment and major egg on my face that I write this post.
To explain, here’s how it happened. Sometime in 2010 I first started experimenting with Yahoo Pipes. For those who aren’t familiar, Pipes are one way to create an easy mechanism of re-tweeting based on your chosen keywords. For me, the keywords were things like “social media” and “SEO.” Every day, working around the clock, my Pipes would search Twitter for tweets that mentioned these keywords and automatically re-tweeted them as if I was genuinely interested in what these posts had to say.
In addition to my automated tweeting system, I used online tools like Social Oomph to auto-follow anyone who followed me. Then I submitted my account to sites like WeFollow.com and publicly broadcast to the world that I was a slut for new followers and fans (well, not in so many words, but you know what I mean).
Now for anyone who’s reading this thinking “Wow, what a great way to quickly generate a following“… you’re absolutely right. It worked. I sprouted to over 3,000 Twitter followers in a very short amount of time and thought I was the king of the social media world.
But in actuality, here’s what happened. I stopped logging into my Twitter account because it was filled with garbage posts from people I followed. My stream was filled with updates and tweets I couldn’t care less about. Many of the posts were in foreign languages and I had to search long and hard to discover even the smallest nugget of valuable information anywhere in my feed.
I quickly lost interest in the entire platform but kept my account active and growing at a breakneck pace. I thought to myself “What the hell. If I continue to add followers on a daily basis then the leads, customers and sales were sure to follow soon enough.”
I couldn’t have been more WRONG about it! In the entire time I was “on Twitter” this way, guess how many business deals I scored? You guessed it… goose egg.
What I, self-proclaimed King of Social Media, had failed to remember at the very core of my intellect, was that social media is meant to be in fact, social. You can’t fake a presence in any relationship, especially not in the public realm of online forums like Twitter. Sure, sure, there are still many people trying to use it this way but trust me, it’s not working.
Once I came to the realization that my methodology was all wrong and it all had to change, I was DEEP in the hole of a trashed Twitter profile and potentially damaged reputation. I dug in and spent many hours over several weeks tearing down all the automated mechanisms of tweeting and auto-following I had set up. In addition, I began the process of un-following a couple thousand people that added no purposeful content to my life or work and started building up my good name on Twitter once again.
I started actively pursuing genuine conversations on the site and using the key features of “@” mentions and hash tags the way they were designed to be used. I vowed to only post and share the links, articles, and information I found really useful and avoided disingenuous engagements at every level.
What I found most interesting in the process was that for every 100 people or so I un-followed, I lost about 10 to 20 followers myself. This led me to the realization that there are many people out there who have set up their accounts to automatically un-follow anyone that un-follows them. Talk about the quickest way to show how LITTLE you actually care about people’s content and collaboration.
So here I continue to examine the list of people I interact with on Twitter and lose no sleep about tracking the number of followers I have. I engage in real dialogue with real people and I’m finding incredible value in the medium. It’s like I’ve been baptized into a new beginning on Twitter and reborn into the belief that if you’re not using social media to engage in active relationship building then you shouldn’t be using it at all.
So get rid of any false identity or tactics you might currently employ on Twitter and start being you. Stop working “on” social media and start working “in” it. From there, get ready to see an entirely refreshed outlook on how this form of marketing can boost both your personal and professional life.
And by the way… I like my eggs scrambled, how about you?
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