Social Media for Marketers: Do This, Not That

One trait marketers and journalists have in common: The best at their craft are gifted storytellers. The challenge they both have today is telling a compelling story in 140 characters. Fortunately, much of the best advice for storytelling via social media is applicable to marketers and journalists alike.

In fact, I just attended JournCamp, hosted by the Society of Professional Journalists, with DMN‘s Elyse Dupré. We found much of the advice to be as relevant to marketers as it was to the journalists attending. For example, the day wrapped with 90 minutes of social media advice from someone expert at social interactions: Sree Sreenivasan, chief digital officer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Sree took the stage not with a laptop and PowerPoint, but with an iPhone 6, Google Slides, and a VGA-to-lighting adapter. Along with the cool factor was the practicality of easily going to various social media sites as he gave advice about them, as well as zooming in on key points on his slides. Mostly, Sreenivasan was emphasizing the importance of mobile today.

During Sreenivasan’s opening remarks, he stressed the continued relevance of trained professionals in telling stories. “In a time when everyone is a writer, the trained writer stands taller,” he said, adding the same about photographers. I’ll echo that statement for marketers, as well. It takes marketing expertise to get your brand heard above the din.

 “The scarcest resource of the 20th century is human attention,” Sreenivasan added. Luckily, for me, Elyse, and the other attendees, he provided valuable advice on how to get it.  Here, I pass on some of his words of wisdom to you.

Know your ABCs: Always be charging, always be connecting, and always be collecting.  

The first ABC is obviously to keep your mobile device(s) charged. In this time of always-on connectivity, it’s hard to stay social on the go if your phone dies.


The second ABC—always be connecting—is about two things. First, to connect with influencers. “It’s not about the raw numbers,” Sreenivasan said. “It’s not who follows you that matters; it’s who follows who follows you that matters.” Get influencers to follow you, he advised.

Second, “always be connecting” is about not being “an ask,” someone whose first communication with a new contact is to ask a favor. Don’t be that person, Sreenivasan said. Follow influencers. Comment on their posts. Interact with them. And do all of this before you need or ask for favors.

Last is always be collecting. Take photos, bookmark interesting content, and so on. These are items you can use to enrich your social posts. “Use images with posts,” Sreenivasan asserted, “or have a damn good reason why you don’t.”

The other item to collect is data. This will allow you to see what resonates—or doesn’t—and adjust accordingly.

Make contact lists. Just like you segment customers for targeted communications, create lists on social sites such as Facebook and Twitter (private is OK, too). Doing so makes it easier to track the activities of specific people or companies in your networks, which in turn makes it easier to engage with them. It also simplifies the process of posting to specific groups (e.g., public, friends only).  

Be an (engaging) expert. Sreenivasan showed a list of the top 20 influencers in the art world on Twitter. Nearly all of them are prominent museums. But one is Mar Dixon, a woman from the village of Shropshire in the UK who is “passionate about culture” according to her website. She has fewer followers than many of the museums, but hers are engaged enough to have catapulted Dixon to be fifth on that list of influencers. “Aim to be the Mar Dixon of your industry,” Sreenivasan recommended.

Think first. Sreenivasan repeated advice a colleague wisely gave: “Show excellent judgment on Twitter.” He takes that so seriously that he spends three to six minutes crafting each tweet, and writes each as if it’s his last one. 

“Show your best you on social.” Some people rarely update their bio or photo on social sites. Bad idea, Sreenivasan said. There are 160 characters in a Twitter bio, use them wisely. He suggested, for example, updating it weekly with links to examples of your best new work. And if you want to be contacted, make it easy to do so by including your work email in the bio.

As for your photo: No kids, dogs, icons; this is your professional persona. Use a professional photograph. (It’s shocking to me how many marketing executives don’t have one.)

Get a handle on it. Certainly, your Twitter handle can be your name. But, if not, it should be the best handle you can get. And it shouldn’t include your company name. Sreenivasan quotes a social media expert as saying that using your company name in your Twitter handle is like tattooing a significant other’s name on your arm. Bad idea. If you’re a chief marketer, consider something like @LastNameCMO.

Tweet to engage. According to Sreenivasan, the perfect tweet has a link, handle, and photo. Not all tweets have to have all three, but you have to try, he said.

Amplify the fans and ignore the trolls. In the case of negative comments, Sreenivasan recommends responding only to correct falsehoods.

Get snapping. “The camera is now an essential part of social media,” Sreenivasan said. So, learn how to use your smartphone camera—well. His advice: Don’t shoot square. Ever. Occasionally, use pano for dramatic effect (and point your feet where you want to end).

And finally…

Use Sreenivasan’s lucky 13. When writing social posts, be helpful, useful, timely, informative, relevant, practical, actionable, generous, credible, brief, entertaining, fun, and occasionally funny. “Be some of these,” he said, “not all of them.”

Want more? You can see an overview of Sreenivasan’s social media success formula here or check out more SreeTips on Facebook. 

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