Imitation As A Strategy For Success?

“Be sincere.” “Be authentic.” “Be transparent.”

These common phrases have been driven, over and over, into our heads by the so-called “social media experts” for years now, so there’s no doubt you’re already familiar with them. I can’t disagree – sincerity, authenticity, and some level of transparency are critical attributes you need to have if you want to be a successful social media marketer. But what I’d like to dig into today is a piece of advice that I’ve been thinking a lot about lately; one which would cause most people to flinch if it were offered up in front of a conference room full of paying attendees (fortunately no one would actually pay to hear me speak, so we won’t have that problem today).  What I’m proposing is so radical – so out there – that not even the slimiest of social media gurus would admit to using it in their daily practice. And yet it’s been used in wide practice for hundreds of years, by marketers, sports players, politicians, business leaders and many more people around the world.

So what exactly is this dirty, underhanded piece of advice?

Determine your goal (let’s say it’s to become a master social media marketer), find someone who’s already achieved it (there’s literally 1,000’s of people to pick from), and imitate them (yes, I told you to imitate them).

Now before you get all up on your high horse and launch nuclear blog comments into my inbox, let’s clarify what I mean.

Imitate what they do that’s made them successful.

I didn’t say plagiarize their work (blog posts, tweets, or otherwise). And I certainly didn’t suggest you rip off their brand name or launch an exact duplicate of their service. What I’m suggesting is far more subtle. Imitate their style. Analyze what they do that makes them so successful, and use the same techniques in your own efforts. Consider them your role model. Not clear on what I mean? Well, let’s take a look at a couple areas where you might start, then let me know if you still think what I’m proposing is unethical and/or unsound advice.

Where do they focus their efforts?

Are you still spending 2 hours per day tweaking the background colors and widgets on your MySpace page? (I sincerely hope not). Are they? (They most certainly are not.) So where are they spending their time at? Well, if you can determine that they make a concerted effort to focus almost entirely on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr, then they must have a good reason for it. It’s probably not a bad idea for you to focus 90% of your own efforts there as well. Disclaimer: This assumes they are in the same or similar industry to you. If they focus 60% of their efforts on but you own a dentist practice, obviously a social networking site for the restaurant industry doesn’t work for you. Use common sense and do your homework.

How do they position themselves?

What’s the general tone they take in their tweets, blog posts, etc? Are they the “newsbreaker” (always on top of breaking news/trends)? Are they the wise old sage (advice and wisdom)? Are they the sh*t starter (boundary pusher)? Look at what works for them, and if you think it would be a good fit for your business without being an outright rip-off of their style, run with it! You can always shift gears if you find it doesn’t work for you. The point here isn’t that you’re going to do better as one or the other, it’s that you’ve at least committed to one or the other. By taking a position you’ve established the foundation for your voice online, and provided people with a frame of reference they can get to know you in.

What are they sharing?

This point could almost work as a sub-topic to the one above, but now that you’ve determined the position you’re going to approach communications from, what type of content should you be sharing? Again, take a look at what your role model focuses on. Would you say their tweets are more news-based sharing of information, or opinion-based critique of the market and participants? What are their most “liked” posts on Facebook – local interest stories about bunny rabbits and positive thinking, or bleeding edge tech pieces geared towards the early adopter audience? There’s no shame in sharing some of the same content they do; if they’re sharing it than it’s most likely viral in its nature. (wow, I used *it* three different ways in that sentence) But instead of just copying and pasting their finds and using them as your own, bookmark their sources and get the scoop on them next time that hot viral video comes out. I guarantee that over time, you’ll get so far down the rabbit hole of content that there’s little chance you’ll be seen as copying their style. But you’ve got to start somewhere right?

How engaged are they with their community?

We’re all familiar with the word engagement, right? Well what do you think it actually means? Here’s a good way to tell how “engaged” a company is with their Twitter followers. Go to their Twitter page and count, as a percentage of the first 50 tweets you can scroll through, how many of them begin with an @username followed by a message referencing a previous tweet. More than 50%? This company is seriously engaged with their followers. That means more than half of their outbound tweets are in reply to something a follower said to or about them. They’re not broadcasting – they’re interacting. This is likely one of the keys to their success. So how did this come to be? If they were an unknown entity previous to joining Twitter (like you), than it probably means they spent some time of their own @replying to people who they deemed influential or interesting. This is one way you get new people to follow you in the first place — if you’re able to positively contribute to their questions or discussions! Disclaimer: Don’t. Be. An. Idiot. Seriously, use some tact and think before you tweet — nobody likes a spammer. Only contribute when you think your comment will be seen as useful by the other party.

We’re all adults here, so I assume you’re savvy enough to have realized by now that I’m not suggesting you outright copy the entire social media plan of a thought leader in your industry.

Plagiarism=bad / imitation=flattery, right?

Successful social media marketing is not something you can just learn overnight, and the only sure way to get better at it is by simply digging in and learning as you go. In my opinion, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with looking to those individuals or businesses who have demonstrated a superior level of expertise and attempting to use some of their same tactics to improve your own position in the market. As time goes on, take what you’ve learned along the way and apply it to new situations and audiences, and I promise you’ll find your own voice.

One of the largest obstacles any of us face when it comes to marketing ourselves or our businesses online is simply knowing where to start. Think back to when you were learning how to play sports as a kid. Didn’t you want to emulate the top athlete in your field? Each and every one of us wanted to be as good as they were, and someday enjoy the same level of success. But as time went on, we took what we learned watching them and slowly made it our own. What I’m suggesting is that you treat your burgeoning social media marketing career the same way – find the Michael Jordan of your industry and try to play the game just like he does. You’ll never be able to. But if you pay close attention, stay focused, and practice hard enough, maybe one day you’ll be as good as Kobe.


VaultWare adds support for 3rd party apps; features TurnSocial.

VaultWare, a provider of apartment marketing and leasing solutions, recently announced support for 3rd party apps within their premium website offering, specifically mentioning TurnSocial as an example of how customers can make their website more interactive. We’re honored to be mentioned as the featured app!

VaultWare’s support for services like TurnSocial illustrates the increasing desire of multifamily companies to incorporate social and location-based media into their websites, and further establishes TurnSocial as the go-to product for accomplishing this somewhat complicated task with ease. We’re proud to add VaultWare to our list of partners focused on building value in the multifamily housing industry, and look forward to a great year ahead as we continue to roll out innovative features targeted directly at property management professionals.

To learn more about Vaultware, visit their website by clicking here. If you’re a business owner or agency interested in working with us on a custom solution for your customers, please reach out to me directly to discuss the opportunity at .

It’s friday already? Here’s your weekend reading list!

Busy week, right? I had about 2-3 other blog posts lined up that I wanted to get out the door, but time got away from me and here we are – Friday already.

In any case, I wanted to quickly share a few interesting posts that I came across in the last week which particularly struck me as adding value to the “conversation”. I recommend taking a few minutes over the weekend to browse through them, and if you have more than a few minutes, dig through the archives of some of the websites I’ve pointed out – there’s a treasure trove of advice and content to be had if you just know where to look. On that note, here’s this weekend’s reading list –

How To Be Like Zappos in 3 Easy Steps – It’s common knowledge that the company culture over at Zappos is one of the best in the business, so how can you take their lead and apply the same principles to your business?

How Online Marketing Drives Offline Success – KISSMetrics never fails to deliver insightful content, and this infographic connects the lines between the online and offline world in a way that should help any marketer bridge the gap. Hint: need something to share? People love infographics – so go for it!

A Blogging State of Mind – Get your head right! Think you know what drives your blogging decisions? Think again.

The Future of Community – What will the future of your online community actually look like? Chris Brogan shares some very insightful thoughts.

B2B: Social Marketing and a Cautionary Tale – Many marketers fail to accomplish their goals simply because they approach leads and influencers in the wrong way. This brief article is a great real world example of how easily things can go wrong.

Stay warm and enjoy your weekend everyone!

Do you let good leads slip through your hands?

Just for a moment, let’s forget about optimizing your website design for conversions and think about how many times you’ve let a good lead slip through your hands simply because you failed to follow up on an inquiry that came through your “contact us” form. What did you really just miss out on? Let’s think about what we know about this person…

  • They want to learn more.
  • They tried to engage you.
  • They told you how to reach them.
  • They want to be your customer!

And to think you let them slip through the cracks because you were too busy to spend 5 minutes typing out a personalized response email. You, my friend, have just had a serious #OPPORTUNITYFAIL.

It’s important to always look for ways to optimize your website for conversions, but if you don’t take the time to follow up on every legitimate inquiry you receive you might as well pack your bags and go home. You can’t complain about a lack of new business if you fail to follow up with someone who has expressed their interest so clearly, and you never know what opportunity lies behind that email address – it’s quite possible that you might have missed out on a game-changing deal that could take your business to the next level.

The next time you consider archiving that inbound email inquiry without responding, do yourself a favor and repeat this mantra: “I will answer every legitimate inquiry my website receives within 24-48 hours, regardless of the day of the week.” The internet doesn’t observe weekends. If you’re serious about building your business online, neither will you.

If you need more inspiration, take a moment and read what my friend Evan Hamilton had to say over on the Uservoice community blog. They aim to answer inquiries in a hour or less – now that’s what I’d call customer service.

Twitter D.O.A. | The Death of Auto-DM

If you’re reading this, you’re most likely a Twitter user. If you’re a Twitter user, at some point you’ve probably followed someone who sent you a direct message auto-reply after you followed them. Here’s one I recently received:

“Thanks.Will be happy to tweeting with you.Please follow me on facebook

Yep, that was the exact reply – including the lack of spaces and poor grammar. Suffice it to say, I immediately unfollowed them. Has anyone in the history of social media ever received an auto-DM when they followed someone and thought “wow, this is such a personal connection I’ve just built with this person I don’t really know but follow online that they want me to also connect with them on Facebook and be best friends!” (phew!!)

No, they haven’t, because auto-dm’s are lame, and in my opinion they carry with them the stank of the “social media guru”.

You know the type of person I’m talking about – they follow 72,364 people and have 72,465 followers, they can “help you make money online”, they’re a “social and new media expert”, and they’re on “#TeamFollowBack”. They’re fanatical about #hashtags, and love leaving inane link-bait comments on your blog like “Nice article! We enjoy and use your innovative marketing advice at our e-commerce site .”.

These people pollute Twitter, and contribute to a user experience which drives away many well-intentioned people who see Twitter only as a useless forum for blatant self promotion. Those of us who are experienced Twitter users do our best to steer clear of them, but they’re not going away; in fact it seems that they’re only growing in number. So what are we going to do about it?

I propose an immediate boycott of any Twitter user who sends auto-DM’s upon new follows. If you follow someone and they auto-DM you shortly thereafter, immediately unfollow them. People like this will only change their behavior if they see that it affects their potential to distribute marketing messages, and unfollowing them en masse hits ’em where it hurts. More importantly, I implore you to stop the practice of auto-DM’ing if you’re a part of it – it reflects badly on your character, and lumps you into a class of individuals which I’m sure you don’t want to be associated with. Do yourself a favor, and do us a favor – give it up. If I followed you it’s because I’m already interested in what you have to say – you don’t need to send me a carbon copy follow-up message to make me feel extra warm and fuzzy on the inside. All you need to do is keep up a useful dialog with your followers, contribute insightful commentary to our discussions, and share interesting, valuable content I might find interesting.

Sound hard? It’s not. Just be yourself. Share this with your friends and let’s make it happen.

This is the death of auto-DM. Shout out to Jay-Z for the inspirational acronym.