Guy Kawasaki on the Art of Social Media

Guy Kawasaki defines “good stuff” to post online, and how to really get more followers. (Hint: don’t pay for them!)

Chock-full of practical tips for getting more out of the time you put into social media, Guy Kawasaki and Peg Fitzpatrick’s latest synopsis of how to be a power player is bursting with industry knowledge you can use right away.

Not sure where you fall in the spectrum of social media knowledge? The authors have kindly assembled a quiz for you on the book’s homepage. They call it the Social Media Readiness and Aptitude Test (SMART). It’s timed, perhaps so you can’t quickly check how many characters are allowed in a tweet, or what happens when you swipe left or right on Tinder.

In a dozen chapters you’ll quickly get over 100 effective tips you can use right away, or you can dip in as you like to get inspiration for future social media planning. Early on the authors point out that they find multiple viewpoints confusing, so the book is written from Kawasaki’s point of view, and that’s who I’ll treat as the primary author.

Kawasaki is the currently chief evangelist of Canva, an online graphic design service that aims to give everyone simple tools to do their own graphic design work. Kawasaki calls it “democratizing design”. Making attractive, effective images is a snap with Canva’s user-friendly interface and access to a huge library of inexpensive stock photos. Kawasaki has also worked at Google and Apple, and has an enviable following on all the major social media platforms, while Fitzpatrick kicks butt over on Pinterest.

Fitzpatrick is a social media strategist and director of digital marketing for Kreussler, Inc. She and Kawasaki will be presenting on the art of social media at SXSW Interactive. With an active blog and presences on all the major networks, Fitzpatrick has an upbeat can-do vibe. The tricky thing about getting into The Art of Social Media is the temptation to put it down and go and double-check all of your online profiles. It was tough to just keep reading and soaking it all in.

Kawasaki shines with short tips that drive straight to the heart of the topic at hand. For handling negative commenters he has an excellent rule of thumb: go three rounds. That is, when you see a comment on your post that you just can’t ignore, respond to it once, let them respond, and then move on. Don’t get drawn into multiple responses or any escalating negativity. They’re not worth it — just give the instigator one comment to show them (as well as your supporters) that you’re paying attention, and then let it go. We’ve all seen examples online of multi-stage back-and-forth exchanges that rarely end well.

Practical tips abound, like covering how to get set up to do a Google+ Hangout on air (and thus other video and podcasting projects) if you haven’t had a chance to think about it yet. Kawasaki notes that being prepared is key, and that he once had a guest on a Hangout who realized just before they were going live that he didn’t have a Google+ account. Good lighting, publicizing in advance, even what not to wear — this is a list of tips handy for anyone trying to get a bit more into the future of video conferencing.

A great chapter to dip into if you’re just trying to figure out one particular social network is “How to optimize for individual platforms”. Provided here is an excellent breakdown of aspects of each network that you should be aware of, especially as you try to grow your brand or company presence into uncharted territory. The purpose of each of the major social networks varies greatly, and trying to share the same content on each isn’t going to succeed, as the audiences between LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Facebook for example, are vastly different.

While this compact little guide won’t take you long to read, it’s well worth having on your shelf to help with your strategy as you expand into new networks or aim to better use your existing presences. The Art of Social Media is also available as an e-book, and that may be the best version to go with, since there are many hyperlinked pieces of content scattered throughout the book, and as you can imagine, they just don’t have the same impact as static text on the printed page. That said, the authors have made a resource list available on the book’s website, and plan to add new resources going forward, so that’s a great place to check, as well.

I had the chance to talk with Kawasaki over a Google+ Hangout on Air with my 15secTech cohosts. We talked about the impetus behind writing the book, what privacy on social media means to him, and how to define the “good stuff” you should post online to expand your audience.

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Why did you write The Art of Social Media?

(We) wrote the book because we were getting asked so many times about how do we do our social media, and we wanted to write this really tactical practical guide, full of tips that would help people optimize their actions. It’s not written at the 50,000 foot view. We made a very strong effort to remove any duh-isms like duh: you should be open, duh: you should be transparent, duh: you should engage people.

For example, I’ll give you a duh-ism and how we don’t do it. So one duh-ism is you need a great profile. Yeah, duh, as opposed to you need a crappy profile. So we take it much lower level, we say, this is how you get a great avatar: the picture has to be lit from the front, it should be only your face, it should be symmetrical. This is how you get a great cover photo: it should tell a story. This is how you fill out all the fields in your profile so that it’ s more like LinkedIn, rather than simply, I like to get drunk on the weekends. And so we’re at a very tactical level throughout the whole book.

Kawasaki’s take on Google Hangouts, the platform we interviewed him on:

Listen, I do two Hangouts a day and every time I’m like confused, I mean, my theory is that the team that designed Google Hangouts’ interface, they were fired from the Microsoft Word team.

Has anyone been frustrated by the fact that the chapter on getting more followers, a very popular topic, is the shortest chapter in the book?

No, it’s kind of an IQ test right, so to let you in on a little secret, there is a chapter on how to get more followers, and basically the chapter is one and a half pages long, and it basically says, post good stuff. That’s it. And you know if you just did that, that’s 95 percent of the battle. And it would be making something much too complex, because it is a simple answer. You post good stuff, you get more followers. It‘s that simple.

Now, there is a chapter about how to find good stuff and all that kind of stuff, but bottom line is, post good stuff. And we also go on the record that we think the practice of buying followers and buying likes and buying fans and all of that is absolutely stupid, heinous, immoral, and just clueless. If you press me, I’ll tell you how I really feel!

Kawasaki on privacy in social media:

For me, social media is a platform, it’s a business, it’s what I do. So you will never ever see a picture, for example, that contains the faces of my youngest children. My older boys, they are 19 and 21, they can fend for themselves, but I have a daughter and I have a young son, and you’ll never see their faces.

Generally speaking, my social media is all about adding value to people’s lives, which is about curation. It’s not about, look at us, we’re having fun in Hawaii. Now, I’ll post pictures from Hawaii, but it’ll be, this is a very great hotel for a family, look at all the facilities at the hotel. It is not, look at our family at the luau.

What do you mean when you say people should post “great stuff”?

So there are several ways to define it. One definition is, good stuff is information, it’s analysis, it’s assistance, or it’s entertaining. Information would be, what just happened. Assistance would be how to make this good thing happen for you, how to upgrade to iOS 9 or something like that. Analysis would be, what does it mean that this happened?

Entertainment could be anything. My most illustrative entertaining post is this: every Easter, believe it or not, these two churches in Greece celebrate Easter by firing rockets at each other. I was just so amazed, that’s how they celebrate Easter, so that’s entertaining.

So that’s taking us down from 50,000 [feet] to 5,000, I want to get down to 1,000. I’ll give you two ways to think about that. Everything you post should pass the reshare test. The reshare test is, you post something, and it is so valuable, so good, so interesting that the people who follow you reshare it to the people who follow them. That’s like the difference between giving a tip to the waiter vs. telling people to eat at the restaurant.

So whenever you press the “post” button, ask yourself, am I posting something so good…? When I posted about the two churches firing rockets at each other for Easter, in my mind, I said, this is so interesting, my followers will retweet, reshare, re-post, re-whatever that. So that’s the test for me.

Another way to answer this question is let’s take some examples. If I were running social media for Air Canada, let’s say, I would of course use it to update about storms, delays, [and] I would also do it, so, when you come to Toronto, these are ten places you should eat. Or, when you go to Montreal, if you can go in February, you’ll see the Montreal ice festival. I’m making this up, I don’t know when that ice festival is, but it’s a fantastic ice festival, right? And if you go to Vancouver, make sure you go to that little island that has all the shops on it.

And so it’s not about Air Canada itself, it’s about the assumption that if you’re flying on Air Canada, you should provide value to people who are coming to Canada. Air Canada could provide a link to, say, this is how you get your Nexus card so you can get through customs faster. It’s all that kind of valuable stuff.

What advice do you have for authors who are trying to self-publish their work?

The thing for an author, and it’s something that I tell this to so many authors and nobody believes me until it’s too late, the day you start writing your book is the day you have to get seriously involved with social media because it will take you six to 12 months to finish your book; it will also take you six to 12 months to build up a good platform. And you don’t want to do this sequentially, you need to do this in parallel.

So, as soon as you start writing your book you start using social media to position yourself as an expert in that topic so that you are properly positioned, and so that you build a feeling that people need to reciprocate, so for six, nine months you’re providing great content in the area of your book. When you finally publish your book, people feel an obligation: you’ve been curating for them for so long, providing such value to their lives, and now you wrote a book, so the least a person can do is buy your book.

If only authors can just get that through their skulls, that even if you have the best publisher in the world, you are largely responsible for your own marketing. It shouldn’t be like that. What can I say? But that’s how life is so you need to man up and take responsibility for the marketing of your book.

What are you working on now?

I am full time with Canva. Canva is a Sydney-based company, it’s an online graphics tool. It enables you to create beautiful graphics. It’s fast, and it’s free, and it works everywhere.

We have designs in advance for you for Kindle e-book covers, real estate fliers, business cards, infographics, for the optimal size for Pinterest, optimal size for Facebook, optimal size for Google+. So what we’re trying to do is take people away from booting up a large expensive product that puts you in an open blank window with dozens of tools around it and says OK, have at it. So we’re trying to democratize design basically, we’re trying to enable people to created beautiful designs in the time that it takes other applications to boot.

What’s next for you?

I have just revised the Art of the Start. This is a book that’s ten years old. Believe it or not, it’s kind of the defacto standard for books to read when you become an entrepreneur. And this book was written ten years ago, which was before crowdfunding, crowdsourcing, cloud computing, and social media, you know, some small developments that have happened over the last ten years. I’ve completely revised the book. It published March 3rd.