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The Secret Ingredient of Social Media Is…

What is the secret ingredient that makes some people and businesses successful in social media, while others fail spectacularly?

There’s a great scene in the Simpson’s episode, Flaming Moe’s, where a team of scientists are trying to reverse engineer the eponymous drink. “According to the gas chromatograph, the secret ingredient is…Love?! Who’s been screwing with this thing?” asks an obviously frustrated Dr. Jonathan Frink.

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However, when it comes to success in social media, the secret ingredient is just as ephemeral: it’s value.

We’ve all seen people and businesses whose Twitter stream seems like the ramblings of an OCD sufferer; tweet after tweet about how you should visit www.theircompany.com. Those are selfish tweets, and provide no value or interest to anyone outside the company.

It’s too easy to disconnect from someone in the social media arena. Every tweet, every Facebook status update, every new YouTube video uploaded, is an opportunity to unfollow, unfriend or unsubscribe. If you aren’t continually providing value to your audience or community, there’s someone else who’s willing to be that person and capture their attention.

Value means different things to different people. Depending on you and your business, your value may be in providing timely advice to help people save money. It may be in tweeting links to the best new blog posts in a given industry. It may be in answering questions from customers, prospects and strangers. Or, it may be in being sarcastic, irreverent or even NSFW.

There’s an unwritten social contract in social media that we’re all going to provide value to our community; it’s a meritocracy of value. Those who provide the most value rise to the top.

Certain people may work the self-promotion angle of social media harder than others, but if they’re not providing value at the end of the day, no amount of promotion will save them. You may tire of hearing from one or another of the louder (shriller?) voices in the social media arena, but undoubtedly they’re providing value for a portion of the community or they would have tired themselves out.

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As you carve out your own social media niche, be sure that you provide value with every tweet, every status update, every blog post, and every email newsletter you send out, and you’ll reap the rewards of a well-informed, well-engaged community who want to return the favor.

What do you do to provide value to your community, or what have you seen that shows a company is providing value?

Rich Brooks on Twitter

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About the author

Rich Brooks is founder and president of flyte new media (http://www.flyte.biz), a Web design and Internet marketing firm in Portland, Maine. His monthly flyte log email newsletter and company blog (http://www.flyteblog.com) focus on Web marketing topics such as search engine optimization, blogs, social media, email marketing, and building Web sites that sell

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