Hosting an Internet radio program over the past few years has allowed me to speak with some of the most successful social media communicators in the space.  People like Guy Kawasaki, Chris Brogan, Liz Strauss, and Brian Clark are synonymous with social media.  They’ve each amassed huge followings on their blogs and on sites like Twitter.  They are recognized experts in the social media community for their ability to connect with people on a personal level, even when they’re speaking to thousands of people at a time through social channels.

So if you’re looking to successfully leverage the power of social tools to reach people on behalf of your business and “move the crowd,” here are a few things successful people like those above have in common.

They read

One thing all the successful social media types I know do is read. In fact they are ravenous when it comes to reading, devouring up to 100 magazines a month. This includes national business publications, regional business magazines, industry trade journals, and specialty newsletters from professional organizations. Mixed in with the magazines are the handfuls of books they are reading. This typically means they are in the middle of four or five books, on an off subject with respect to their profession.

I won’t even bring up the online perusing of blogs, white papers, and e-books they also take in. They do this because of their passion to know as much as they can about their chosen area of expertise, not necessarily just to blog. But the knowledge they accumulate allows them to create valuable content that attracts people to them.

They listen

The fastest way to get people to listen to you is to listen to them.  Not just put up with the sounds coming out of their mouths, but to listen.  And listening to others is at the heart of what successful social media communicators do.  Listening and observing what people were talking about on Twitter was key to the success of Guy Kawasaki’s latest venture Alltop.com.  Kawasaki is a Silicon Valley venture capitalist who got his start with Apple many moons ago. Through his site, billed as “the online magazine rack,” Kawasaki finds out what people are talking about on Twitter in order to create a resource page of great content on the Web on the hottest topics.

Chris Brogan, president of New Marketing Labs, a new media marketing agency, has a huge following on Twitter, but always seems to be directly communicating with people when they ask him a question.  And he asks people for their thoughts and opinions on a regular basis because he’s genuinely interested in what others have to say.

They share

What really strikes me about successful social media folks is their willingness to share the spotlight with others. Many of these folks have spent years writing to build audiences. This includes not only writing blog posts, but also answering numerous comments and Twitter “tweets” from their readers. The successful social media communicators also take time to help others by critiquing their writing to help them find their voice. They also use their blogs and podcasts as platforms to bring attention to people who are doing things they feel are noteworthy. And, in many cases, these popular bloggers will offer a few of their readers the opportunity to be a guest author. Liz Strauss, a social Web strategist and community builder who founded the business blogger conference SOBCon, gives out her SOB award (Successful Outstanding Blogger) each week to bloggers she thinks people should be reading. 

This might not seem like a big deal, but it is a huge honor if you think about it. It’s like an unknown getting a chance to be the opening act for a superstar, in front of a crowd you would never get on your own, but are interested in hearing you just because you’ve received a huge endorsement from someone they trust.

They have fun

Brian Clark is well known for his highly respected Copyblogger.com website, which helps people up their copywriting skills to better connect with audiences.  The site is full of great information, but what makes Clark someone to listen to goes beyond his considerable expertise.  I look forward to what Clark has to say because he’s also funny, and because he quotes lyrics from 80’s rappers Eric B. and Rakim.  And while Kawasaki is a best-selling author, sought-after speaker and serial entrepreneur, he’s got a great sense of humor. And this is readily apparent if you follow his tweets on Twitter.

Sure Liz Strauss and Chris Brogan are social media strategists and people look to them for understanding how this stuff works.  They’re also great fun to talk to.  Strauss shares her sense of humor on her blog and on Twitter to the delight of her thousands of followers.  And Brogan’s self-deprecating humor is appreciated by anyone who has a chance to  interact with him.

So if you want to be successful with your social media endeavors, do what the experts do.  Read, listen, share, and go out there and have fun!

Brent Leary is a small-business technology analyst, adviser, and award-winning blogger. Leary is also host of a weekly radio program heard on Business Technology Radio. He is the co-author of Barack 2.0: Social Media Lessons for Small Business. His blog can be found at www.brentleary.com.

Published on: Apr 1, 2009