My “strategy” (if you can call it that) with Twitter is to simply share whatever’s on my mind – if I think it might be of interest to the people I’m engaging with. This could be as work-specific as HTML5 infographics or articles about social innovation, or it could be as completely random as Lady Gaga’s meat costume at the VMAs. (No, really. Meat.)
Since I do focus my tweets so specifically on whatever’s on my mind at the moment, very often this ends up meaning that I’m tweeting about food – what I’m cooking, what I’m eating, what I’m doing with my farm share. While this is one of the most common complaints about Twitter (“who wants to hear about the sandwich you ate for lunch?”), it’s also what landed me a long-term and very profitable relationship with one of my favorite clients. Here’s how it went down.
Sometime in 2008, when I started focusing the zen kitchen‘s work on the specialty food industry, I noticed that a company named TankaBar had started following me. I didn’t pay it much mind at the time. About 3-4 months later, I was having a conversation with some fellow designers about ways to get in front of potential clients, and posed the following on Twitter: “Some designers say that critiquing a prospect’s work is an effective way to reach them. I say it’s rude and risks offense. What say you?”
Within a few minutes, TankaBar had responded via @reply confirming that they got that quite often and couldn’t stand it. Out of curiosity, I replied, “well then, as a prospect, how do you like to be approached?”
The response? “Well, we need to redesign our website. Want to send us a pitch?”
Three days later, I was in touch with their marketing firm. Six days later, I was signing a contract. The TankaBar refresh led to another project for their marketing firm last year, and there’s another potential project slated for first quarter of next year.
The lesson here? Social media works best when people connect with other people. Twitter opened the door for my studio to take in a great piece of new business in exactly the market we were looking for – but the actual relationship was built through conversation and mutual respect. And, it happened among people – not “brands.”
This is just one example – 75% of the prospect requests we’ve received in the last year have come through Facebook or other mostly personal social media outlets, largely because I share so much of what I’m in the middle of that my friends know exactly what I do, and ask me first when that’s what they need.
Do some people dislike the transparency? Absolutely. But that’s what the “unfollow” button is for. And frankly, the idea that social media is somehow a numbers game is a throwback to the old way of marketing – the “spray and pray” approach. In my experience, it’s much more effective (and easy to maintain!) to be who you are, and focus your energy on people who Get It. The rest of them will be just fine without you.