It was early in 2011 when I first heard about Twitter and after much deliberation, I joined Twitter in May 2011 without a single strategic goal, other than to try and understand what all the hype was about. Fortunately, I learnt quickly and found out what people wanted and then delivered consistently. This consistency resulted in my account growing and it continues to grow because the primary focus of my Twitter account has been to serve the people who follow me. I have termed this process Digital Leadership or in a more simple way of explaining this online leadership.
Many ask how can you ever get a return on that type of thinking? Yes, it is a selfless approach and I needed to think abundantly. Sometimes I wondered myself if what I was doing would ever work. But there was one thing that I promised myself: I would keep on doing what I do, and thus believed through this consistency that I would achieve results somewhere in the future.
They say karma will find you and we often wonder if this is true, in February 2013 my dear mother passed away after a long struggle with Leukemia, it was a particularly difficult time for me as my workload did not allow me to mourn her death. At this time Nikk Bishop Smit (@NikkBishopSmit) asked if he could meet me. Nikk had been following me on Twitter and wanted to meet me face to face. Upon meeting with Nikk, who is an extremely passionate and assertive individual, he asked me, “Who are you really?” I simply told him that my name is Richard. He said, “No really – please tell me who you really are.” As he said, no normal person would have in excess of 100K followers.
Nikk kept in contact and when I released my first book titled 5 Night Plan in February 2014 he resumed more regular contact, but it was not until my second book titled Mug and Tweet was published that Nikk became interested. This book had captured Nikk’s imagination and awakened a possibility within him, he engaged and challenged me about my thoughts and subsequently, our friendship grew.
Nikk was actually the first person to purchase a copy of Mug and Tweet. Nikk stated that Mug and Tweet is not a book you read, it is a book that reads you! He then approached me to be a brand ambassador for the book. I immediately liked the idea, but my initial concern was how could he be effective, as Nikk had around 500 followers on Twitter at the time. He convinced me that he could accomplish it and my doubts were a thing of the past as Nikk implemented one innovative idea after the other.
From the start, I made it clear that I was not in a position to spend time training Nikk to be the Brand Ambassador and Nikk’s reply to that was “Why would you ever need to train me as everything I need to know is in the book you have just written?”
What Nikk actually meant by that statement, was about to be revealed to me in a very short time. The first thing Nikk implemented was a weekly Twitter Chat titled #MugAndTweetChat which took place on a Monday night. In the third week of the chat, it reached a phenomenal number of over 350 participants, with a total reach of over 1.4 million and more than 60 million impressions. Nikk and I still think this is some sort of Twitter record.
How was this accomplished, you may ask? Well, Nikk simply spent more time individually inviting relevant influencers to join in on the chat and engaged with them personally – this is seldom done and this is one of the key factors for success. This type of personal engagement is how online influence is formed and sets a perfect example for the saying “that people buy from people and not brands.” In essence no matter how big the brand, if there is no personal touch, no personal emotional contact, you have lost your audience.
This, however, was not the only factor for success. What Nikk managed to achieve was that no one needed to moderate or control the chat. This forum was for everybody and together we trusted the process of social regulation, we could, therefore, enjoy the chat as much as everyone else who was participating.
The no need for control was further expressed when a second language was introduced into the chat, namely Afrikaans – which is a South African language similar to Dutch. SA Artists (@SA_Artists), who had a considerable following amongst the Afrikaans entertainers and the broader community in South Africa, facilitated the Afrikaans’ section of the chat. Was this perhaps the first time in Twitter history that a chat ran in two different languages?
When #MugAndTweetChat was running smoothly and growing week on week, Nikk decided that people needed more than just online interactions in the form of a chat, and would rather interact face to face. He then implemented #MugAndTweetUp – a meet up for all those who had been interacting. We ran these events in Johannesburg and Cape Town, although the numbers may have been smaller than the online chats, we always believed that the right people came and had a meaningful networking session.
All of the above ideas and events proved to be highly effective in building the Mug and Tweet brand, to such an extent that all my future books will be in the Mug and Tweet Book Series.
Let’s look a little deeper into this concept of being a self- appointed mentee. The traditional approach of the Mentor Relationship is that the person who is the mentor will impart as much relevant information as possible on the mentee. However, often the mentee feels that what the mentor is teaching him is not in-line with what he has learnt or that the knowledge will not align with his own management style or learning approach.
I want you to think of the movie The Karate Kid, and yes, there are other examples like this where the student needs to prove himself worthy of being mentored by the master. Many people would like to be mentored, simply for the sake that it would ultimately help them; but do they desire to learn, are they ready to learn and what will they do with the knowledge they have learned?
The self-appointed mentee model allows the mentee to choose his mentor and this becomes a particularly interesting relationship in the online context. Let’s look at the thinking and behaviour of Nikk Smit as he appointed himself my mentee.
Nikk firstly identified me as a possible mentor by investigating whether the things I had to say had any relevance to him and where he wanted with his brand. He read my tweets, my blogs and then my book, thus making sure that he understood the concepts within my head to the best of his ability before approaching me with questions. Therefore he was asking informed questions from the context of the writings and from me as a person. This way he gained a deeper understanding into who I was and what made me function as a person. In this manner, his questions were always relevant and they never became irritating.
Furthermore, Nikk had a plan. He knew what he wanted and carefully got my attention by tweeting and sharing my tweets with his small yet effective Twitter following, which he continued to build amongst people he had chosen to engage with. Using the concept of people buy from people, Nikk knew that if he could promote me, he would ultimately be promoting himself. He was not looking for personal recognition. He was in fact doing what I have termed edification marketing – by promoting me, people saw the abundance in him and placed Nikk in higher regard. This proved to be a very wise and insightful approach.
You may ask how long this process took, well, all of this happened within only three months. I doubt whether better results could have been achieved on another platform other than Twitter. I wonder if you could have done it faster anywhere else and this highlights the opportunity that lies in front of us online. Nikk’s brand has continued to grow and now he holds a position as a Digital Manager within a recognised international brand.
The Ten Keys to Digital Menteeship
Considering what we have learnt from Nikk, let’s look at the ten steps to becoming a mentee in the digital age.
- Identify a mentor in your industry that is a thought leader.
- Ensure that the person you have selected is consistent. This will ensure ongoing learning and that the mentor will never cause you to slow in your learning process.
- Remember that you may never need to actually meet your mentor so you can choose the best possible person to use as a mentor.
- For ease of communication, try choosing a mentor in the same time zone as you.
- Consider how you will get the attention of your mentor, a simple message may work, but if your mentor is really someone you are going to learn from it may take a little more than a message.
- Try thinking like your mentor, becoming mentor- centric, asking yourself what does your mentor possibly need, not what do you need.
- Imagine what they could teach you, not what you need to learn. Remember my favourite saying: “Don’t look for the ideas that will confirm your thinking, rather look for the trends that will disrupt your thoughts.”
- Your task is to be acknowledged by the potential mentor, and this is done by promoting your mentor to your audience however big or small that audience may be. People will see your abundance and due to this abundance, they will be prepared to follow and read what your mentor says. In this way, you would have gained favour with your mentor, as you have in fact paid it forward.
- When your mentor acknowledges you and recognizes your effort then you have created the opportunity. This is something you will need to recognize and it will be a continuous learning process, you will make your own rules and discover your own learnings daily.
- This is a creative learning experience, but most of all you need to have loads of fun along the way.
This article first appeared in a book called ‘Fried Twitter Tales’ with is a series of short stories on digital marketing and can be downloaded for free at the following link FriedTwitterTales