Guy Kawasaki: 'If You're Using Social Media Right, You Will Piss Some People Off'

Guy Kawasaki


Guy Kawasaki, chief evangelist at Canva.

Entrepreneur and popular author Guy Kawasaki is a master at drumming up interest, whether it's for a brand or himself.

He was the chief evangelist at Apple in the late '90s, an advisor to Google's Motorola division, and a cofounder of Garage Technology Ventures. Most recently, he joined the Australian online design resource Canva, regaining his chief evangelist title.

Kawasaki has been advising entrepreneurs for the last 20 years through his books and speaking tours, and recently launched online class "Art of the Start: Turning Ideas Into High Growth Business" on Skillshare. In it, he discusses how small businesses can tell their stories on social media.

We spoke with him about how he's grown his own social media following (amassing 1.4 million Twitter followers), best practices for small businesses, and the common mistakes companies make. Here's what he had to say.

Business Insider: How can small businesses grow their social media presence?

Guy Kawasaki: The best practice is to curate valuable content. This means content that inspires, amuses, informs, or assists people. Other than cheating by buying followers, it's the only way to do this.

Why is it important?

GK: A large social-media presence is important because it's one of the last ways to conduct cost-effective marketing. Everything else involves buying eyeballs and ears. Social media enables a small business to earn eyeballs and ears.

How can businesses identify content that's valuable to their customers and potential customers?

GK: For example, if you own a restaurant, you should post content that would appeal to foodies so that you establish your brand as knowledgeable about food. If a brand is knowledgeable about food, it's reasonable to assume it makes good food. For example, here's a video that explains the science of pouring ketchup.

What is the most common mistake you see companies make?

GK: Almost every company is not posting as much as they should. Many are believing "expert" advice that the optimal number of posts on each platform is one per day. This is the stupidest thing I've heard. Imagine if NPR, CNN, ESPN, or the BBC did one report per day - and never repeated it. Companies are afraid of a vocal minuscule minority complaining about too many posts and repeated posts.

If you're using social media right, you will piss some people off. Deal with it. My Twitter account has 50 tweets per day. My Google+ has 10 to 20 per day. It's not how much you post. It's how good you post.

What role should storytelling play in a business' social media posts?

GK: Storytelling is much harder than curating other people's content because it requires that you (a) have a good story to tell and (b) you can tell it in text, podcast, or video form. The question is, What's a good story? The story of your company might be good to tell every once in a while, but soon it becomes "just promotion." Here's good storytelling by Motorola. The story of your customers using your product or service can be very interesting and less blatant. So storytelling can work, but it's not easy.

What have you found to be the best way for a company to communicate directly with customers on social media?

GK: A company should search for every instance of the use of its name and zoom in when there are issues - both good and bad. @ComcastCares is a good example of how to do this.

How much focus should you put on retaining loyal fans versus recruiting new customers?

GK: First, the primary activity is to provide value. One form of value is support for existing customers. If you provide enough value, then you earn the right to promote your company in order to recruit new customers. The key is to always provide value.

What are some small businesses you've seen best use social media to grow their brand?

GK: Self-serving as this may be, watch what we do with Canva. To get the total picture, you need to look at our efforts on Pinterest, Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and our blog. Seriously, everything is tied together. This is the work of mostly one person: Peg Fitzpatrick. If anyone tells you need a team of people or an outside agency, they're bullshitting you. One great person can do it.