The following is a guest blog by Bill Seaver, Social Media Marketing Consultant

In one way or another we’re all marketers now. Once you got your hands on Twitter or Facebook or your WordPress blog or that Flip video camera for your YouTube channel, you became a marketer. Most of you did that on purpose, and you shouldn’t apologize for that.The question isn’t so much whether you use these tools for promotional purposes as it is this: do you use them the right way?

The way you use social media tools is directly affected by the way you think about them. They are excellent promotional devices when the promoter (that’s you) has the right mindset. With the right mindset you can connect with people and promote whatever you’re doing in ways that were never this cheap or easy.

With the wrong mindset, however, the best thing you can hope for is that you’re wasting your time. The worst thing would be that you’re becoming an annoying jerk who’s losing influence and dragging your organization’s reputation down at the same time. To use the tools effectively, you need to understand the new online culture and acquire the new mindset. The new mindset is to earn people’s attention before you promote anything.

Understanding The Old Mindset
The old mindset was one in which organizations just talked about themselves. The assumption was that people were interested in them. In some cases they were. In a rare few cases, they still are. For most of us, however, we’re just another one of a thousand people wanting someone’s attention.

Twitter is a perfect place to observe the old and new mindsets in action. With Twitter and other social media/social networking tools, a shift is occurring where people can more easily choose not to pay attention to self promotion. Marketers still need to get attention, but rather than screaming for it, they need to earn attention by being valuable to the people they want to reach. To earn attention with Twitter you have to understand it to be the conversation tool that it is. Twitter is a conversation tool that also does promotion.Many marketers seem to think it’s the other way around. As such, I have observed organizations that don’t understand this strategic mistake and don’t have the restraint to keep from over-promoting on Twitter. It’s fine to promote sometimes, it’s not fine to promote all the time.

Scoring The Right Balance
To help organizations strike the balance, I’m proposing a self-imposed Twitter Balance Score that is weighted toward conversation and sharing before promotion. The idea is that once you have scored 10 points, you’re free to promote, sell, or otherwise bring attention to something you’ve done. Until the points are scored don’t promote anything. Be part of a conversation or start a conversation.

Keeping Score
The easy way to think about the Twitter Balance Score is to think about sharing as the most valuable portion of a conversation and then listening. Only after that do you start talking. With that perspective in mind, here’s the Twitter Balance Score:

  • Share a link: 3 points
  • Retweet: 3 points
  • Ask a question: 2 points
  • Respond/reply to someone: 2 points
  • Update about what you’re doing/thinking/etc.: 1 point

The goal with this scoring system is to Tweet at least four times between promotions.

Negative Points
The downside to keeping score with anything is the ability to “game” the system. As such, someone could look at the scoring method above and just share a lot of stuff but still never talk to anyone. Beyond that, there are numerous tools available that give the appearance of activity and sharing without actually requiring the person to participate, which should result in negative points. Here are a few scenarios where negative points would be applied:

  • Provide links in three consecutive Tweets: -3 points
  • Three consecutive Retweets: -5 points
  • Retweeting compliments: -10 points (I think this is a big Twitter sin as I’ve written about in the past.)

So that’s the Twitter Balance Score. Think it will help?

Greg Atkinson

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