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Cultivate for Compound Interest

February 25, 2010

Getting the most from social media takes time. You will not see a payoff right away. I say it again; you will not.

So, go into it expecting that it may take awhile before you see any ROI. Even if your organization dives into social networking with both feet, it’s the sustained effort that really matters…not the first, excited push.

In a fascinating interview by Media Bistro about how NPR is using Twitter, Andy Carvin of the NPR Social Media Desk (NPR has a Social Media Desk!!) notes that it takes time to build up a social media community: you really must “cultivate, cultivate, cultivate” before you can reap real benefits from it. NPR, for example, has been active on Twitter since October of 2007. By now, he says, reporters are able to use NPR’s robust Twitter network for both “queries and feedback,” yielding late-breaking scoops, personal angles, and unusual human interest stories that set NPR’s journalism apart…most recently in the recent Haitian earthquake disaster.

As you build a community of followers or fans and interact with them over time, your results will begin to snowball. First, you create quality content (whether that’s on your blog, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.). If your audience finds it interesting, people will see it and share it, spreading it around the Internet for you. The more who see it, the more share it, and so the more see it, and on and on…increasing your visibility, virally. (This is particularly true if you have a presence on several of these sites and leverage them together to build synergy across them.)

So, yes, though social networking sites are free to use, they are still significant investments of time. It will take awhile to build an active fan base on Facebook or a significant following on Twitter. But if you are patient, thinking more long-term investment and compound interest rather than short-term payoff and instant results, you’ll eventually be glad you did!

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