Using Social Networking to Cash In On Your Passion

Gary Vaynerchuk is a 33-year-old entrepreneur whose dual identity as a business guru and wine expert has made him known as the “Social Media Sommelier.” According to Vaynerchuk, billions of dollars worth of commerce is moving online, “waiting to be claimed by whoever can build the best content and communities.” In his book, CRUSH IT! Why NOW Is the Time to Cash In On Your Passion (HarperStudio), Gary shares his method of online business success, by first finding your passion, and then using social networking to turn it into a flourishing business. Born in Belarus, Gary immigrated to the U.S. as a child, and became a successful young businessman with a chain of neighborhood lemonade stands and by making $1,000 a weekend selling baseball cards. At first, he had no interest in joining the family business, a local liquor store, but when he realized people collected rare wines just like they collected baseball cards, his new career was born. It skyrocketed when he used blogs and social media to educate people about wine, while promoting the store. As a social media pioneer, he's now in demand as a speaker and consultant, showing others how to use social media to promote their businesses. In what might seem an old-fashioned notion, but good news for authors and writers, Vaynerchuk says, “Storytelling is the most important business concept in the current marketplace.” Check out the Crush It! website: Check out the video:


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Building a Social Media Platform

A Conversation with Pamela Johnson
With many years of professional experience in corporate sales, marketing, PR, and as an independent publishers’ sales rep, Pamela Johnson founded The Secret Society of Happy People in 1998 and promoted it the way everyone did in those pre-social media days: She pitched the print and broadcast media and created a website.

Her efforts paid off. She did radio interviews, got TV coverage, and was a guest on Bill Maher’s ABC show, Politically Incorrect. She was featured in People magazine and many other national magazines, and in newspapers, including The Washington Post.

She created PJ Press to publish her first book, Don’t Even Think of Raining on My Parade and others.

Now planning seminars and working on another book, Johnson and the Society still get traditional media coverage and the website gets a respectable amount of traffic, including plenty from Society members, but Johnson has expanded her platform.

She needed just as strong a presence in social media as she’d built in traditional media.

She already has a blog on the Society website, but is adding another one called “Contentment is the New Bliss.”

She created a Facebook fan page for the Society that, as of this writing, has 5800 fans. Recently, 75 to 100 new fans have been signing up each day, and her goal is to have 15,000 by August, the annual Happiness Happens Month, which she created when she started the Society.

She’s learned a tremendous amount about Twitter, kept up with its rapid changes and, on behalf of the Society, has been tweeting madly (happily) for almost a year.

She’s also on Linkedin, the professional online networking site.

We talked about what she’d learned and how this can help you as you build your social media platform, whether you’re a writer, an author, a publisher, or work in any aspect of publishing or the media.

IP: Let’s start with your new blog. You’re planning to launch it later this month, April 2010. What were your considerations when deciding on its tone, content, and mission?

PJ: The Society blog covers the Society events, studies on happiness, and current events in the world. The new blog, “Contentment is the New Bliss,” will be more in-depth on the topic of contentment. Some of the Society members will be interested in it. Some won’t. And some people with no interest in the Society will be interested in this blog. It will target contentment-seekers. The blogs overlap, but they are also targeted at two different markets. The new blog will have a self-help angle to it, but the Society blog isn’t self-help at all because the Society isn’t self help.

What’s the best way to get fans for a Facebook fan page, and what kind of information should someone share with fans for marketing and promotional purposes?

You start your fan page with your personal friends, colleagues, and contacts. You invite them to become fans. Then you link your fan page to your website so that people who visit your website see that they can click on to your Facebook page and become a fan.

My website gets 200-300 hits a day, so that helps grow the fan numbers on Facebook. Once you get fans, that shows up on the fan’s Facebook page and that person’s friends see it and become interested and become your fans. Also, your fans can invite their friends to become your fans.

It’s a fine line between relationship-building and marketing. Like Twitter, you have to give them some content. People don’t want to feel that they’re just being sold to. Adding fans to Facebook and getting Twitter followers isn’t something that happens quickly unless you’re a household name celebrity.

On a personal Facebook page you’re not allowed to have more than 5,000 friends, but a fan page is unlimited. You can have as many fans as sign up to be fans. A few companies have millions of fans, but it even took them a few years to do that.

Once you have 3,000 fans, you’re in the top 5% of Facebook fan pages. [Her Society fan page has 5,800 fans, with 75-100 signing up each day.]. If you’re an author and you can tell a potential publisher, or the one you already have, that you have 3,000 Facebook fans or more, that publisher will be thrilled.

When people say they like your Facebook posting or they comment on it, what they say will show up on their Facebook page, so their friends will notice it and some may become your fans. That’s an important way you add fans to your page.

Let’s talk about how Twitter has evolved, and the best way to use it now.

I started using Twitter for the Society in May ’09, so I got into it when it was changing. Before that, it was a place where you tweeted out, “What’s a great restaurant I should go to while I’m in L.A.?” And anyone following your tweet who was in L.A. could answer you. It was relationship-focused then, and you followed each other on Twitter because you had a common interest. This group that had been using it for three years or so still probably have these kind of Twitter relationships.

The people who came into it when I did, and after, came in at a transition time. It was getting away from relationships. Companies created Twitter accounts and were sending out ads as tons of messages to try to get tons of followers, but they’re not conversing. And people created Twitter accounts to market themselves and their product or service.

So, there are two universes on Twitter right now: There’s a conversational one, and then there’s the one that’s trying to get a large following to market something to them.

For the Society, I send out a quote each day on Twitter or a link to a happiness study or something else having to do with happiness. For the people who pay attention to it, it’s a little like driving down the highway. If they happen to be online, they’ll notice it like they’d notice a billboard.

Then there are people who specifically look to see what I’ve tweeted that day. There’s a way to do that on Twitter that was just added in the last couple of months.

Of the 3000 who “follow me” on Twitter, I am on 54 peoples’ lists who have a link connected with their Twitter page so they can specifically look up my tweets easily. Fifty-four is actually an okay number of people to have in this category.

I can potentially reach 3000 people to tell them whatever I want. Using only 140 characters in a tweet, of course.

It’s also a bit like a popularity contest. People follow each other just to increase their number of followers. Most of the people following you are just doing it so you’ll follow them and that will increase their numbers.

Unless you’re a celebrity, a lot of the people following you don’t automatically care about what you have to say. You have to give them content to care about. Good content is more than just telling them where your next booksigning is. You have to tell them why they should be interested in your book, what it has to offer them.

Google just added Twitter to the search engine. If you tweet enough on a subject, it’ll come up in a Google search. Which gets back to content. You have to put out good content, and that’s the way to promote your book. You don’t want to be just another person trying to sell everyone something.

How do you think Twitter will evolve? What’s on the horizon?

I think Twitter will evolve into two separate universes, one with people who are experts in certain areas. For instance, CNN’s breaking news often hits Twitter before it comes out on TV or on their website.

The other Twitter universe will just be companies pretending to be people and it’s like junk mail. They’re trying to get as many followers as possible to try to sell them something. But Twitter has gotten smart about that. You can’t tweet the exact same message twice in a row. Twitter won’t let you do that.

Twitter doesn’t want the service to turn into nothing but the equivalent of junk mail.

The smart companies are using Twitter for customer feedback. Word of mouth with Twitter is so much more significant than texting or any other method. You tweet out your view of a movie or your experience with a product and it goes out to a lot of people who add their opinions and it just snowballs. But, it’s also easy for rumors to spread like wildfire.

Linkedin has been described by people as a site where everyone can share their Rolodex with other people and be in other peoples’ Rolodexes. It’s about professional networking rather than socializing. How can people make it work for them for promoting and marketing?

The principle for all social media is the same: people have to have a reason to want to be connected to you. In the case of Linkedin, your profile must show them the benefit of being connected to you. If someone sees you’re connected to a lot of editors, publishing people, and media, and that’s important to them, for example, then they’ll want to be connected with you.

I’ve just begun to focus a lot on my Linkedin connections now that I’ve got my Facebook and Twitter stuff well underway. If you have a book that will appeal to a certain group of people, you want to be connected to them at Linkedin.

What’s the next big thing in blogging?

The video blog. Your blog doesn’t have to be video every day, but if your book targets an under-30 audience you definitely want to do a video blog or include some video in your blog.

So much for blogging in the middle of the night in your pajamas.

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Nina L. Diamond is a journalist, essayist, and the author of Voices of Truth: Conversations with Scientists, Thinkers & Healers. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, including Omni, The Los Angeles Times Magazine, The Chicago Tribune, and The Miami Herald.

Ms. Diamond was a writer and performer on Pandemonium, the National Public Radio (NPR) satirical humor program, for its entire run in Miami and select markets nationwide from 1984-1998. As an editor, she works frequently with other authors and journalists on both fiction and non-fiction.