NOTE: This is a cross-post of my debut weekly column for Stephen Windwalker’s Kindle Nation Daily. Each week I will write a piece based on that week’s interview for the Kindle Chronicles podcast. On Tuesdays after the podcast goes live, I will cross-post the column here, after it has been published in the Kindle Nation Weekender and before it appears at Kindle Nation Daily on Wednesdays. I am very excited to begin this partnership with Steve, who was a classmate of mine at Harvard College back in the day, and who has established himself as a leading authority on all things Kindle. When I am in Cambridge, he and I regularly convene at a Starbucks in Arlington to share notes and consider possibilities. This new work as a KND Contributing Editor grew out of our most recent rendezvous. I continue to love podcasting, but this return to regular writing is deeply satisfying to me, recalling a career in journalism that extends all the way back to The Claypit Hill Flyer, a weekly newspaper that I wrote, edited, and delivered on my bicycle in Wayland, Massachusetts, beginning at age eight. Who knows, I may be able to talk Steve into reviving one of my most-loved Claypit Hill Flyer features, The Riddle of the Week. Just kidding. In any event, I hope you enjoy the columns!
THE PAUL SLACK INTERVIEW
Paul Slack, a co-founder of the Dallas-based Splash Media, has written a 319-page manual for entrepreneurs and small-business owners who are ready to graduate from buzzwords and get serious about social media. During an in-person interview with Paul at Splash’s state-of-the-art media studio on May 3rd, I learned these lessons about social media marketing:
- In social media, there are no quick fixes. Unlike search engine optimization, where Google is the only gorilla, a social-media plan must coordinate multiple sites with multiple purposes. For starters, those sites are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and your blog. “If you’re going to start today,” Paul tells new clients, “in terms of return on investment—if you’re counting return on investment as leads and sales for your business—you shouldn’t even consider that for the first six months.”
- To succeed in social media marketing, you need to build new habits for sustained building of community. Otherwise, your initial enthusiasm will lead to nothing more than a social-media ghost town, as in the Facebook page that no one has updated for six months.
- Because “people do business with people,” a business using social media must be transparent and let potential customers sense the presence of a real person on the Twitter or Facebook account.
- That doesn’t mean tweeting about what you had for lunch. The test of all shared content, Paul advises, is that it can benefit the people following you.
Although this new book about social media is aimed at entrepreneurs and business owners, it may also interest readers who have a more general curiosity about these powerful tools. For example, I asked Paul how social media can serve as a way to curate the torrent of new eBooks published every month, perhaps filling the void that would be left if the eBook revolution overthrows the unquestioned authority of traditional publishers to decide which books are good enough to present to readers and which ones are not.
“I do believe that social media plays an interesting role just in media consumption in general,” Paul replied, “and I would say that books and eBooks would fall into that.” The reason social media qualifies as a revolution, he said, is that we have all become micro-publishers and critics, adding: “In the old days—five years ago—you would do a search on Google to find something relevant, but you had no context. It was what Google told you was relevant.” By comparison, he said, today you can rely on what someone in your personal network has to say about which eBooks might be relevant to you.
Social Rules! went live this week at the Kindle Store for 99 cents a copy. It is also available for free borrowing at the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, if you have an Amazon Prime membership. The bargain price is part of Splash Media’s strategy of sharing practical social-media tips with as wide an audience as possible. In the past they have presented free social media boot camps all over the country, and now the medium is a full-length book. You can even buy it on paper, for $16.95.
“I’m not a technical person,” Paul told me. “I’m much more of a marketer. And so I wanted to write a book that an entrepreneur or a small-business owner could read and go, ‘Oh, I finally get what Twitter’s all about.’ Or: ‘I finally get how social media works together and can help me do something within my business.’”
At the end of our conversation, I invited Paul to step into a time machine and envision, decades hence, a time when social media itself will be the tired, old medium that the next media revolution will replace. What might that look like?
“The one thing that I know that seems to hold true,” he replied, “is that technology is going to continue to lend a hand in things, that the fundamental truths will never go away—that people do love to connect with one another, they do love to associate with one another, they love to share their thoughts and opinions, that we hate to be sold but we love to buy things—and so whatever’s going to happen in the future is going to facilitate that and make it easier and easier.”
Meanwhile, if you have a business—or even a book or a podcast—that could benefit from a disciplined, patient, no-nonsense engagement with potential customers through social media, you might want to download a copy of Social Rules! and get started.