Social Media Magic

By Paul Sullivan of Breakthrough Communications

Magic is in the air these days. Harry Potter is making magic at the box office, the magic of Christmas is upon us, and my inbox is full of emails promising to help harness the magic of social media.

Sadly, a lot of social media wizards should take lessons from Harry or Santa. Many of them hail from marketing and are a little stronger on form than they are on content.

The magic of social media is pretty simple. There is a potential audience of millions lurking out there, unrestricted by time or place. If your YouTube video, FaceBook page, blog or Tweets make the magic connection, you could be like 26-year-old Justine Ezarik, aka iJustine, who has 300 million video views, a million subscribers to her YouTube channel and 1.2 million followers on Twitter.

What kind of magic does iJustine perform exactly? Simply, she’s a 21st century news channel for 13-24 year-old girls and women. While publishers are knocking themselves out trying to figure out the secret incantation to make the Internet pay, iJustine just goes out and covers Justin Bieber. And gets paid by GE, Intel and Mattel.

In a world where there are almost as many online marketing consultants as there are online surfers, iJustine cuts through the mystery. She’s a trusted source who provides relevant news to self-selected audience that has an insatiable appetite for what they like.

Don’t get me wrong. There is much technical knowledge required for successful social media: search engines, aggregator sites like Digg and Reddit, conversion rates, spammers, flamers, trolls, freaks, etc. But all of the social media savvy is meaningless unless you have killer content, like iJustine, who started posting her quest to live a healthier life, and now takes followers inside the Mattel secret toy factory or the Intel secret chip factory.

And it’s not all about the kids. Gary Vaynerchuk has transformed his father’s local New Jersey wine shop into a $50 million online business with his video blog called Wine Library TV, which has 150,000 viewers per episode, and it pretty much sticks to the basics – news about wine.

The magic spell, if you like, is that if your content isn’t news, who cares? Which is the same magic spell we’ve always had to weave. “What’s the news?” is not a new question.

However, the answer to the question, “Where’s the audience?” is no longer “Reading the paper at the breakfast table”.  More and more, the audience is at YouTube, Google, Gawker, FaceBook or Twitter. If you haven’t heard, everybody is online. According to Internet World Stats, 266 million people, 77.4% of the market, are online. As of August, there were 150 million FaceBook users, a 43.3% market penetration. Everyone has a desktop, a laptop, a tablet or a smart phone, and they know how to search what they’re looking for.

But you’re not going to rely only on Google to get people to your news. You’re going to send out bulletins, (also known as tweets), to your followers so they know about your news. And the tweet better be newsworthy. It’s exactly what our forebears did when we sent newsboys out to the streets to shout “Extra!” Twitter is the new newsboy.

Unless you are one of those wizards we were talking about at the outset, keep the tweet simple, a 140-character headline link to the story, which is on your website, blog, podcast, or YouTube video, etc. This is in addition to your daily email update to your email list, but the great thing about Twitter followers is that they’ll get your tweets, even if they don’t have a smart phone, as a text message.

FaceBook is a destination and a billboard combined. It’s also more complicated than Twitter, with so many dimensions that the time required to build an active, interactive page takes longer than Twitter. So I’d recommend becoming a Twitter magician first.

Before I was a consultant I spent three decades in the newsroom, print, broadcast and electronic. Wherever I was, it was always about the front page, the lead item, the cover story or simply, what comes first? And that’s what social media is about. It’s the first thing you want to share with your followers. It’s the story you know they’ll want to share and talk about. Whatever else you do today, that’s job one. If you think of your tweets as the new banner or cover story, you’ll always have an audience.

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