My First 5k

Twitter, Arthur Catalanello, @acatalanelloRecently, my personal Twitter account reached the 5,000 followers benchmark.  Having joined Twitter in June 2009, it’s taken me 7 years to the month to reach that milestone.  I wanted to share some observations and musings about my journey and strategy to 5k.

I’ve tweeted just shy of 13,000 times on Twitter.  I’ve watched some accounts delete older tweets to give the impression that they’ve built a large following based on fewer tweets.  That may fool the uninformed, but if you built your following organically, there’s no way you reached 5k followers on 128 tweets unless you’re a celebrity.  Besides, tweets are great for SEO, so if you want to be found on Google, your tweets should stay.

Speaking of organically growing your following, my following count is is 100% organic.  I have not purchased 1 follower to reach that number.  While I can see that helping a business get started on Twitter, I would otherwise not recommend it as I believe it’s better to have quality over quantity.

I don’t automatically follow-back the accounts who follow me.  I do look at each follower and read their bio, look at their number of tweets, the number they’re following and the number of followers they have.  I also look at the industry they’re in and/or the topics they tweet about.  I scroll through and read their last 5-10 tweets.  If the account seems legitimate and that I’d get value from their content, I follow them.  It’s time consuming compared to automating the process, but I believe it makes my Twitter stream more valuable to me.

I believe consistency is key to growing your following on Twitter.  You need to be consistent with the topics you tweet about and the frequency with which you tweet.  It’s also very important to be familiar with Twitter etiquette (or Twitiquette) and engage with other users.  Remember the basic rule of thumb that no more than 20% of your tweets should be self-promotion (and perhaps no more than 10%).

I’ve seen numerous accounts try to game the system by following several accounts, waiting for those accounts to follow back, then unfollowing those people.  This makes their followers count larger than the number of accounts they’re following, giving the false suggestion of importance and influence.  Because I’m active on Twitter multiple times a week, I use a tool (https://web.crowdfireapp.com/#/grow) to see who has recently unfollowed me.  Almost always it’s an account trying to manipulate their followers-to-following ratio.  If someone unfollows me for that reason, I unfollow back.  Once or twice a year I’ll review the accounts I’ve followed and will unfollow accounts that have been abandoned or haven’t tweeted in 12 months.

Use metrics and apps to enhance the Twitter experience.  You can learn about best times and days of the week to tweet, where your engagement comes from and which accounts provide the best interaction.  Twitter by itself is somewhat basic, so if you’re wishing it could do something bigger and better, chances are, there’s an app for that.  Some are free and some are paid.

Try to minimize the automation.  While it’s fine to schedule tweets ahead of time (I use https://hootsuite.com), your account should not be so robotic that you neglect to interact with others.  As far as automatic direct messages, does anyone read them or like receiving them?  Just turn those off and reach out to me after we’ve engaged each other a few times.  It may work on some, but I think the quantity that are annoyed by that practice is significantly larger.

Lastly, know your audience and goals.  How I’ve chosen to use Twitter for my personal account is quite different than how I’ve used it for clients I’ve worked with.  Why?  Different audiences and different goals require different strategies and methods.

How are you using Twitter?  As a wise woman once said to me, “Twitter isn’t stupid if you follow smart people!”

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Pathways To Success

Path, Pathway, PathwaysLast week I had the pleasure of participating as a panel member (social media entrepreneurs) in Pathways to Entrepreneurial Success 4.  While the event was obviously focused on entrepreneurship, the tips and information shared that day apply to all professionals regardless of their entrepreneurial interests and employment status.

Here are a few of the tips discussed at the event:

  1. In order to be successful, you must have a passion for what you do.  A casual interest and a decent effort simply aren’t enough.  You must be passionate and fully invested to succeed.
  2. Surround yourself with a strong network built on quality.  I’ve written about my belief that quality trumps quantity in multiple posts.
  3. Recognize your strengths and weaknesses, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of your competition.  You must work equally hard on maintaining your strengths as you do trying to improve your weaknesses.
  4. Everyone is a salesperson, whether you’re selling a widget or selling a service.  If you don’t have the confidence to sell yourself, you’ll never convince the customer to buy from you (or hire you).
  5. You don’t have to offer a niche product or service to be successful.  It’s okay that you have direct competition.  Just make sure you work harder than your competition at satisfying the customer.
  6. The path may not always be clearly marked.  You have to visualize what success looks like for you.

What other “pathways” have you found that lead to success?

The Secret to a Successful Job Search

Job seekers are often told that the secret to finding a job is through networking.  I believe that’s very true.  However, these factors are also important:  job boards, recruiters, a good resume, your digital footprint (LinkedIn profile, etc.) and continuing education.  But, the common thread that weaves through all of these important resources is networking.

Networking, Business Networking, Networking Event, Job Search, Job Search Networking, The August Group, Career Fair, TAG, TAG Career Fair

When networking, I’m a firm believer in two guiding principles:

  1. You must give to get
  2. Quality is more important than quantity

Want to know what’s even more important than networking?  Want to know what’s the secret to a successful job search?  You must tell your network that you’re looking for employment!  I recently learned that two friends lost their jobs, but I learned of this somewhat after the fact and indirectly.  Job seekers – your network cannot help you if they don’t know you’re looking for work!

Losing a job can be a hit to the ego, in addition to the checkbook.  I’ve been there; I understand that.  You don’t need a billboard to announce your availability and you certainly don’t want to be over-the-top with your announcement.  That can make you appear desperate, which can backfire.  However, here are four things you should do immediately.

  1. Update/Change your LinkedIn profile.  Some job seekers are worried about showing a gap in their employment history.  While that’s understandable, it’s worse to be misleading and confuse people who can help.  Make sure you make it easy for people to contact you!
  2. Contact your friends and family.  Who’s more likely to help when you need help – friends and family or casual acquaintances?  Most people “take care of their own” first, but they can’t help if they don’t know.  Call or send them a private message – but be specific with your ask!  I have 150+ friends on Facebook, but I probably know the career paths of less than 25% of them because our relationship on Facebook isn’t for professional reasons.  If interested, there are Facebook apps that can facilitate this.
  3. Contact your professional connections.  LinkedIn allows you to send messages to those you are connected to, so why not take advantage of this and touch base with your connections?  Remember the “give to get” philosophy of networking, so your message should not be all about you.  If you expect help, you should offer help first.  If you’ve been a ghost in your network, then I’m afraid you’re about to learn a very hard lesson at an unfortunate time.
  4. Update recruiters you’re connected with on your search, the positions you’re looking for and the companies you’re interested in.  Make sure to ask them how frequently they wish to be updated (typically it’s monthly, but ask) about your search and interests.  Be sure to schedule and conduct those follow-ups to stay top of mind!

My question to those who have successfully navigated the job search waters is this . . . If you had to narrow down all of the various pieces of job search advice into the singular most important thing someone could do, what would that one thing be?

Twitter Fraud Advice for the Novice

As with most social media platforms, if you use it long enough, you’ll eventually come across all sorts of hackers, spammers and scammers.  On Twitter, I sometimes wonder if there’s more fraudulent users than legitimate ones – and that doesn’t even take into account inactive members.

The fraudulent Twitter accounts I laugh at the most are the ones that promise thousands of followers a day if I simply follow them, follow their system, purchase their material outlining the secret to Twitter success, etc.  Have you seen these members or even had some follow you?  Here’s a recent example of one to follow me:

Twitter Bogus Member

An account like the one above raises so many red flags for an experienced Twitter user.  First and foremost, if your system truly can deliver 1,000 followers per day, why does your account only have 104 followers?!?  Other red flags include a lopsided following-to-followers ratio, an abysmally low Klout Score, no bio (just a sales pitch – and a bad one at that), and a plea for followers.

For those who are new to Twitter, you’ll want to watch for some of these red flags mentioned above.  I also strongly suggest you value quality over quantity when it comes to building your Twitter presence.  I’ve spent nearly four years building my Twitter account.  Followers come and go, but if you place quality over quantity with how you use and manage Twitter, you’ll trend upwards organically.

What other advice would you give to the novice Twitter user?

The $209,200 Question

Ithaca College, IC, Ithaca, Communications, Park School of Communications

Roy H. Park School of Communications at Ithaca College (via http://www.ithaca.edu)

I recently had the opportunity to participate in a conference call with current students at Ithaca College, who are interning at the Office of Career Services.  Our chat centered around marketing, social media and the lessons I’ve learned in “the real world” since graduating from Ithaca College and leaving South Hill for Rochester, NY.  I enjoy giving back to my alma matter in this fashion, so when asked if I could spare 15-20 minutes on a Wednesday afternoon I didn’t hesitate to accept.

My favorite question that was asked by a student was, “What is the skill a graduating senior would need most in order to secure employment?”  Since I didn’t know the questions in advance, my mind raced with possible answers. . . .

Communications:  I majored in Communications, so this was an easy answer to give.  Virtually all jobs require good communication skills!  I dismissed that answer as something that should be a given.

Marketing:  These are marketing interns, so a broad-based marketing skill set would be valuable.  After all, marketing applies to all job seekers because they’re ultimately marketing themselves to prospective employers.  So, I dismissed that answer too, since it should also be a given.

Networking:  As a job seeker, it’s not just what you know.  It’s also not just who you know.  It’s who knows about you which is equally important.  What’s the best way to make sure recruiters, employers and hiring managers know about you?  Networking!  I had my answer!

Whether in-person or via social media, networking is truly an important skill set that graduating seniors should possess.  It’s also a skill that won’t be taught in most classrooms.  Some colleges do, however, teach networking to their students (along with personal branding).  I have first-hand experience that Ithaca College currently does this.

I was able to stress to these students that their networking efforts should begin immediately with fellow students, professors and other professionals.  Two other important points about networking, especially for students who are likely to be new to networking:

  1. Make sure you practice a “give to get” philosophy.  Seek out ways to help the person you’re networking with and/or what you can bring to your professional relationship.  Effective networking is a two-way street.
  2. Emphasize quality over quantity when it comes to your network.  It’s better to have a network that’s half the size but twice as effective.

If you were faced with that same question, what would be your advice to a graduating senior?

As to the title of this post?  That refers to the current 4-year total of tuition/room/board at Ithaca College.  🙂

Authenticity in Social Media

I intentionally try to avoid traditionally controversial subjects in my blog such as politics and religion to name a few.  I have other things I’d rather write about and want to keep my blog on more of a professional level than personal level.  I’d also rather not add fuel to the fire of a rumor.  So, it’s with some hesitation that I write this post.

I read an article on The Hill about Mitt Romney’s Twitter account that I thought was rather interesting.  Presidential candidates seemingly have everything scrutinized with a magnifying glass these days.  Someone noticed that Romney’s account, which had been averaging 3,000-4,000 new followers daily had suddenly picked up almost 100,000 followers in a two-day period.  And, this increase occurred without any significant change in his engagement with followers.  Immediately the speculation was that his campaign was buying Twitter followers.

This certainly is not very newsworthy, especially since it’s speculation at this point.  But fact or fiction, it is a great example of the importance that authenticity plays in social media.  In a previous post that still generates weekly views, I offered 3 reasons why quality is more important than quantity when it comes to social media.

The number one reason I listed in that post is that when fans/followers can be bought, your authenticity comes into question.  Whether it’s a politician or a consumer brand, most people won’t tolerate a fake.  Engagement cannot happen with fans/followers who do not have a true interest, let alone may not exist in the first place.

Don’t just take my word for it.  A recent research study from About.com demonstrated that activity (i.e., engagement) on a Facebook page was a better indicator of trust than the number of “likes” a page had.  In fact, 84% said that being trustworthy is a requirement before interacting with a page or info source.

Again, fact or fiction, here’s a current reminder why quality is more important than quantity when it comes to social media.  What are your thoughts when it comes to authenticity in social media?