You might have noticed that it’s been a bit quiet round here for the past few months.
That’s because I decided to take my own advice.
Around this time last year, I made a commitment that 2010 would be about less talk, more action.
I’ve stuck to that commitment, but after this prolonged silence, I thought I’d share some of what I’ve been up to.
I spent the first few months of 2010 trying to encourage clients to make better use of social channels.
It was a tough challenge; while most of them seemed interested, none of them seemed ready to commit to anything.
Their main fear was that these ‘new channels’ were unproven.
None of them wanted to be the first to take the plunge, so I was caught in a Catch-22: nothing could happen until someone changed the equation.
It soon dawned on me that I would have to be the first to do it – on my own brand, and with my own money.
So, exactly 5 months ago, I put a little experiment into action.
My ‘brand’ was my DJ alter ego, eski, and my simple objective was to share my mixes with as many people as possible.
It’s probably worth noting that, before I started this experiment, fewer than 100 people had ever listened to my mixes online.
That number looks very different today.
If you’d told me 5 months ago that I would achieve so much in such a short period of time, I probably wouldn’t have believed you.
I appreciate the irony of that.
Sure, I was less skeptical than my clients, but I didn’t realise just how powerful social channels could be.
But I now have tangible proof that they really do work – here are today’s ‘stats’ from eski’s facebook page:
Many of those 50,000 have found me thanks to this simple banner:
I’ve also promoted the page by posting on other related pages on Facebook, and through some basic twitter activity.
But aside from the numbers, what has this ‘little experiment’ taught me?
1. Time is your most valuable resource
I always knew time was the biggest ‘cost’ when it came to social media, but I was still surprised just how much time and effort it requires.
Sure, the media costs next to nothing, but the content needs significant commitment and dedication, and the surrounding conversations need constant fuel, even when the audience is passionate about the subject.
I spend an average of 10 hours a week creating content, and then another 15-20 hours interacting with people.
That’s the same number of hours as a full-time job.
2. Content is everything
People usually only do things when they see a personal benefit – even if that benefit is simply feeling good about themselves.
Again, no surprises there, but this experiment has shown me just how fickle audiences can be.
The only reason people ‘Like’ eski, and keep coming back to the page, is that they like the music.
If I don’t publish content for more than a few days, return visits drop very quickly.
3. Targeting is saving
The difference in cost-per-conversion between my targeted and un-targeted ads is about 5,000%.
No, that wasn’t a typo.
If hadn’t targeted my ads so carefully, I would have needed to invest more than $50,000 to achieve the same results.
Needless to say, I spent an awful lot less.
There’s no easy answer on how to do this – you’ve just got to spend time understanding your audience, what they like, and what they want.
But then, that’s true of any channel.
4. Just do it
It goes without saying that proof is considerably more persuasive than strategy and theory.
So, if you really believe something works, find a ‘brand’ of your own to prove it on.
And if you don’t have anything suitable to try your ideas on yet, create something!
If you think laterally about what you enjoy, you’ll probably find something relevant – a ‘DJ’ might not be the most obvious choice when thinking of brands, but ultimately it’s still the same thing.
You might do it with your own photography, cake decoration, or anything else – the trick is to choose something you care about.
The reason why doing it for yourself (i.e. your brand, your money) is so important is that your level of involvement changes everything.
I quickly realised just how much emotional involvement impacted my judgment; it coloured my decisions, and it brought totally new perspectives to my ‘marketing’ activities – especially when it came to how to spend my money.
But, as a result, I understand the whole process so much more clearly.
Now, I have a solid case study that shows how to grow something from nothing, but I can also talk objectively about the experience from both sides (i.e. client and advertiser).
I know what it feels like to take those first hesitant steps.
I know what the first tastes of success feel like.
I know what it’s like when you get things wrong.
I know how it feels when someone criticises you or your brand on your own page.
But most importantly, I’ve had lots of experience dealing with it all.
And that’s worth way more than any number of theory charts.
5. Stay true to your purpose
One of the starkest discoveries has been that numbers can be distracting and addictive.
Seeing a fan base grow every day can easily become an aim in itself.
But an overemphasis on numbers quickly destroys what you set out to do in the first place; growth for its own sake has no benefit, and will eventually destroy your soul (more on that here)
I started this experiment to learn how to use social media to build a brand, and that will remain the objective.
The fact that it’s been so successful simply means that I can now start experimenting in different ways.
6. Rinse and repeat
Like many other people I’ve talked to who’ve done something similar, I only wish I’d started sooner.
In fact, I’ve enjoyed building the eski page so much that I’ve already set up another 2 pages of my own (more about them another time), and I’ve also joined teams on 5 other related pages.
So, in the process, I’ve succeeded in another of my resolutions for 2010 as well (from here):
How about play rises instead of pay rises? More time to do the things that feed your souls, not just your bank balances (think Google’s 20%).
7. Never stop learning
Although I’m amazed at what has happened over the past 5 months, this is still just the start of the journey.
I’ve barely begun to optimise my activities, and I’ve only explored a fraction of the tools available to make things more interesting.
So, I’ve set an even more challenging objective for 2011.
But that story will have to wait until the next big milestone…
In the meantime, I hope you have a great festive period, and I wish you all the best for a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2011.