Three Steps for Social Media Success


“We hate Twitter…”

I was talking with entrepreneurial brothers Paul and Ian Everest last week about how Unit, the company they started together 10 years ago, uses social media.  Ian said: “We hate Twitter… but we get a lot of love on Instagram.”

They thought that the amount of love on Instagram was a bit weird, because while they have more than 250,000 likes on their Facebook page, they only have 16,000 people following their Instagram account.  On twitter they have 5000 followers.

The paradox is this – when they post on Instragram, they are averaging around 700 likes per post – which is equal to about 5% of the people following them.  On Facebook, they’re getting around 300 likes per post – about 0.1% of the people they’re connected with.

What makes they difference?

Here’s a photo of theirs that has nearly 1200 likes on Instagram, and it tells a big part of the story:



They get a lot of love on Instragram because they are a highly visual brand.  Their slogan is “The Art of Progress” – while they are making clothes for FMX and BMX riders and fans, they primarily view themselves as a creative and artistic brand.

That’s why Instagram loves them.

Choose Outposts That Fit Your Strengths

Ralph-Christian Ohr and I are just putting the finishing touches on a book chapter that we are writing together on how to use social media to support innovation.  One of our key messages in it is that you need to match the social tools that you use to your skills and objectives.  There is no one-size-fits-all solution to social.

It’s not the case that everyone needs to be on Twitter, or on Facebook, or blogging, or anywhere else.  What you choose depends on what you do.

The Unit guys illustrate this perfectly.  Of course they hate Twitter – they’re not a verbal brand.  They make art.  So Instagram is the way to go.

Valeria Maltoni does a great job of laying out a sensible social media strategy – check out her description of how she participates in social networks.  She has her home base – her website.  She also uses Google+ to reflect on and discuss important stories in her area, and Twitter to share resources.

This base + outposts has also been discussed by Chris Brogan –  who says:

Thinking of your primary online presence as your home base (and it doesn’thave to be a blog, but Twitter isn’t necessarily the right medium, I don’t think), and then thinking of the places where you make social connections as your outposts (realized I forgot LinkedIn, but I’m there too, obviously), then you see how you might prioritize your time and/or how you might try keeping the value chain alive.

You pick your outposts based on your strengths.  One of Valeria’s strengths is conversation (her site is called Conversation Agent after all!), so it makes a lot of sense to use Google+ as the main outpost.  In the same way, Unit’s strength is in the visuals – so Instagram makes sense as the primary outpost.

Three Steps for Social Media Success

There are three steps for social success:

  1. Do awesome work.  There’s no point in doing any social media if you’re not doing awesome work in the first place.  You have to have solid content and ideas to share.  Put your energy here first, then figure out the best way to share it.  Valeria and Unit both do awesome work – and that is the foundation for their success with social media.
  2. Connect with people. Here’s how Hugh MacLeod puts it:

    …all the internet is, as Doc Searls said, is a bunch of protocols that “allow us to get along.” Protocols allow us to talk to each other. The stuff in the middle, the stuff that separates us, the stuff that directly makes use of these protocols – hosting companies, web sites, blogging platforms, microblogging platforms, etc. – matter far less.

    You’re on one end of the wire. Just think about who’s on the other end of the wire, and what you can do for them. Worry less about the wire. Worry less about the shiny objects in the middle.

    Just worry about MAKING your own stuff, and the rest of the internet will look after itself.

  3. Choose outposts that fit your strengths.  Valeria and Unit make great stuff in very different ways.  So they need different outposts.  If you try to use every social media tool available, you’ll spread yourself so thinly that you won’t be able to use any of them well.  Pick the best ones for you – and focus on them.

There are many different ways to use social media.  It’s also important to remember that social media is only one small part of the social era, which, as Nilofer Merchant says is about how:

Connected individuals can now do what once only large centralized organizations could do, which changes organizational  structures and individual power.

So doing the social era right is another topic entirely.  But start with social media, the path is: do awesome work, connect with people, and choose outposts that fit your strengths.


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Student and teacher of innovation - University of Queensland Business School - links to academic papers, twitter, and so on can be found here.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

3 thoughts on “Three Steps for Social Media Success

  1. Tim, this is a great post as it encourages people to think strategically about where to direct their social media energy rather than just the tactics involved. The Unit example is a great one and the simple metrics around the number of likes are, I like to think, just ‘poor mans analytics’ but just as powerful!
    I’ve penned a few more thoughts about how to develop a good social media strategy which picks up on what you say. I’ve set in context by discussing Brian Solis’ thinking about Digital Darwinism, with social media being an important element of business adaptation.
    The blog post is here:

    • Thanks for the comment. You’ve done a good job of building on the idea in your post too.

      It’s a tricky area since so few businesses really know what they’re doing (or even what they’re trying to do) with social media. Overall, I think that Unit has done pretty well – the level of enthusiasm that they get from their social media efforts is very high…

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