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How To Build A Following (According to Guy)

build a followingI’m a big fan of Guy Kawasaki. I know some people who are critical of him and don’t think he has contributed to “the conversation” much in the last several years. I disagree.

Someone I know asked me, “What has he done since he left Apple?” That’s a fair question. And one that I don’t mean to answer in this post. What I think he has done, and done quite well, is to keep himself relevant in a fast-changing world of technology. Just look at his social media following and you’ll see what I mean. How does he do it? Here are his top 10 ways to build a following from an article on Inc.com.


1. Start yesterday.

If you’re planning to start a business, develop a product, scare up some funding, take your product to market and start promoting it–but don’t do those things in sequence, he warned. “Today, life is parallel. You have to create, market, and build your reputation all at once.” Thus, he said, “You should start building your social media platform the moment you decide you’re going to sell something, whether that will be two days or 200 days from now.”

2. Segment the services.

In a highly useful slide, Kawasaki defined the core value of 5 social media services:

Facebook = People. It’s mostly for communicating with those with whom you already have some connection.

Twitter = Perceptions. It can help you build your reputation and visibility.

Google+ = Passions. It’s for sharing your passions with others who have the same passions.

Pinterest = Pinning. It’s about beautiful images and finding great stuff.

LinkedIn = Pimping. He means this in a good way, Kawasaki said. “LinkedIn can help you position yourself as a serious person and influencer.”

3. Make a great profile.

People will decide in two seconds or less whether to follow you based on your profile so make those two seconds count, he advised. Pay special attention to your avatar, whose purpose, he says, is to make you appear likable and trustworthy. It’s a mistake to try to convey information about who you are in the avatar, by holding a golf club, for instance, or including your spouse. “It should be 90 percent your face.”

4. Curate and link.

Let’s say you want to use social media to draw people to your restaurant. Don’t post mostly about coupons and specials that you’re serving. Instead, when you find a fantastic recipe online, post a link to that. (One of my favorite local restaurants, Terrapin in Rhinebeck, NY, just illustrated this point beautifully by posting a recipe for pumpkin mac and cheese on Facebook. I plan to try making it soon.)

5. Cheat!

Look at what’s already trending on social media and jump on the bandwagon by linking to that content as well. “Chances are it will do well for you too,” Kawasaki said. As a matter of etiquette, he added, if you find, say, a funny ESPN video that someone else posted a link to, link to that person’s post–not directly to ESPN.

6. Restrain yourself.

Most of your social media communications should not be about yourself and your product, he warned. The right proportion can vary. “It might be 5 percent about you, 95 percent about others. But it should never be 50 percent about you,” he said.

7. Add bling.

Every post should be accompanied by a 400-500 pixel wide image, he advised. Use Wikimedia to find images that are free to use, or snap your own pix. Kawasaki sometimes buys stock photographs to make his posts visually arresting.

8. Respond.

This is something big brands often fail to do, and it’s a mistake, he said. If something you’ve posted inspires a conversation, make sure you’re taking part in it.

9. Stay positive or stay silent.

“There is no upside to posting harsh or negative comments,” Kawasaki warned. “I know there are many trolls who do this a lot. They’re 45 and still living with their parents.”

The numbers bear him out: Researchers at Georgia Tech identified staying positive as one of  9 tactics shown to build Twitter followers.

10. Repeat yourself.

This flies in the face of social media doctrine, Kawasaki acknowledged, and he’s taken a lot of flak for recommending it. But again, numbers don’t lie. His tweets are each tweeted four times at eight-hour intervals, and draw a number of clicks each time. If he limited it to one, he’d miss three-quarters of those clicks.

“Don’t take anything as gospel in social media,” he added. For instance, if you’ve heard you should only post once a day, try twice, then three times, and so on. “See where the pain point happens,” he said. “You may lose some followers by posting too often–but then you may gain other followers, and sell more.”

Do you know of any other tips or suggestions that he missed?

Scott Wilson is currently a Customer Experience Principal at a Fortune 50 company. He is also a marketing and business strategy consultant for small businesses and writes about Leadership, Communication, and Marketing on his blog at scottkwilson.com.

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