I have suffered through more social media books than you can imagine.
Thanks to 10 years of blogging and writing several marketing books, I’m on the “official” list of book reviewers.
Unfortunately, after reading dozens of hastily published books, I find it hard to recall even a handful that I might recommend. The sadly predictable fact about most of these social media guides is that the longer the page count, the more useless the book.
One of my favorite books hardly anyone would consider a social media guide. It is written by a prolific actor, writer and banjo player who is almost 70 years old—Steve Martin. The book is only 103 pages.
Steve Martin is an unlikely social media guru.
In fact, when he first started using Twitter in 2010, Martin said he approached it much the same way any celebrity might:
“I started tweeting purely for commercial reasons. I realized that when I did a television show to promote a book or record, and that television show had an audience of, say, four million people, about four hundred of them rushed out to buy the book or record. I figured if I had a Twitter audience of four hundred thousand—and that audience was tuned into me—and I promoted a book, then four hundred thousand of them would rush out and buy my book. Instead, forty of them rushed out to buy my book.”
Two years later, he published a book based on his tweets called “The Ten, Make That Nine, Habits of Very Organized People. Make That Ten.: The Tweets of Steve Martin.”
Martin was inspired to write the book after discovering a very interesting thing. In the book’s introduction, Martin says:
“When I started, around Labor Day of 2010, I didn’t really understand the ins and outs of Twitter, and it wasn’t until four months later that I noticed people were tweeting me back. Then, I started noticing how tuned-in and funny the responses were, and then a few months later I started saving the best of them (cut and pasted by hand, by me) in a file. This was real enjoyment: I would run to my wife quoting someone’s latest clever response, laughing hard.”
Rather than being a compilation of Martin’s funniest moments on Twitter, the book is a result of the tweets and responses he collected for more than a year. Reading them is entertaining in the same way reading a joke book is, but the book has deeper lessons for anyone building a social media following, using Twitter to promote themselves or a business, or just trying to improve their content marketing and social media.
1. Observe reality.
When you have as much content as Steve Martin, it’s tempting to focus on only sharing that. Some of Martin’s most frequently shared tweets are interesting observations and comments on current topics, such as Twitter spam or news headlines. Martin does the same thing Seinfeld did in his “show about nothing.” When you observe reality in an interesting way, people will follow and engage with you.
2. Engage with personality.
As soon as people begin to engage with you, it may seem a challenge to respond to all of them. The solution is simple: Don’t respond to everyone. Pick and choose, and respond with personality instead of corporate lingo. The more human you can be, the more likely people will see value in engaging with you and your brand.
3. Self-promote with authenticity.
Of course, one of the benefits of social media is the opportunity to promote yourself or your business. This can be tricky. You don’t want to risk alienating your followers by focusing only on yourself.
If you look at Martin’s tweets, he isn’t afraid to promote what he’s working on. And every time he does, he is authentic and shares a bit of his trademark humor to soften the blow.
4. Admit your mistakes.
Everyone makes mistakes. They can be one of the hardest things to deal with in public and real time. Martin shares how once he accidentally tweeted his own name while searching for mentions of himself. Instead of being embarrassed, he immediately tweeted, “Steve Martin oily muscles beach Speedo photo.” A few minutes later he tweeted again, “Sorry, meant to Google myself.”
This honesty and humor is something he has used over and over to admit and correct his mistakes. It’s a technique worth considering.
5. Create your own schedule.
When you start using social media, most experts tell you, create a schedule and stick to it. But sometimes life or work gets in the way. For Martin, that’s just another situation to share honestly. He’ll say he’s taking a break from Twitter to focus on other things.
You may lose some followers who need constant content to engage, but most followers will likely stick around and come back when you become active again—as long as your content is still worthy of their time and attention.
There are plenty of books on social media. Some are useful if you’re sitting in front of your computer and need a step-by-step guide to execute a maneuver. But if you’re looking for a guide to help you change the way that you use social media, I recommend Steve Martin’s “The Ten, Make That Nine, Habits of Very Organized People. Make That Ten.: The Tweets of Steve Martin.”
Not only is Martin one of the most clever writers and comedians alive today, but he might be one of the most under-appreciated social media gurus, too.
Rohit Bhargava is founder of the Influential Marketing Group, and the best-selling author of four marketing books. He teaches marketing at Georgetown University, and blogs at Influential Marketing Blog, where a version of this article originally appeared.