Do your social media marketing efforts pay off? If you have the sneaking suspicion you're wasting resources, you are certainly not alone. Attracting and leveraging a social media audience is a struggle for most businesses.
But not for the King of Style -- a.k.a. professional cyclist Ted King.
King rides for the European-based Team Liquigas-Cannondale. He's completed the Giro d'Italia twice and represented the U.S. at the 2010 World Road Racing Championships. (In football terms, that's like playing for, say, the Washington Redskins, except without the dysfunctional ownership.)
He's also leveraged a blog and a Twitter account into writing gigs for cycling media like VeloNews.com and Bicycling magazine and a worldwide platform to support his favorite charity, The Krempels Center.
Here's how Ted built up his significant social media presence:
BNET: What was your initial social media strategy?
King: I didn't have one. The blog started as a way to keep in touch with family and friends and keep them apprised of what life is all about as a professional cyclist on the road. A few iterations of the blog and more than a half a million hits later it's developed into a voice to reach out to an enormous international fan base. To a degree, some of it is still to keep my family informed on what this crazy lifestyle is all about... except today there's a bigger readership along for the ride.
BNET: Do you have a specific approach to blogging and Twitter?
King: I'm a fairly PC kind of guy and generally avoid unnecessary trouble, so I don't go out of my way to stir up controversy on social networks. In general I'm voicing observations readers wouldn't have a clue about unless they were in my shoes. For example, thousands of cycling fans across the globe would pay big bucks to get a view of the inside of the team bus at races. I don't necessarily do a video tour, but I'll blast some photos of guys hanging out in the bus to offer a glimmer of what it's like. The response is great and people love it!
BNET: The "King of Style" isn't necessarily PC.
King: The King of Style is an alter ego I created to critique some of the style, um, let's call them errors that are rife in the sport. Clearly it's tongue in cheek, but the KoS has appeared on a number of blogs and websites besides my own. That said, the KoS likes to keep his head down and avoid controversy, so he's been on a sabbatical of late. Something has to really bug me for the KoS to make an appearance and voice his (true) opinion.
BNET: Your "I am not Ted King" idea also took on a life of its own and spawned a range of products. How did that happen?
King: I named my first blog "iamtedking." Later, with the help of Jason Schweitzer at Creative Outlet Advertising, who won the contest I ran on Twitter to design the logo, and the fine folks at Cutaway Clothing, we developed a t-shirt with an "I am Not Ted King" logo (the tag line is "You Might Know Ted King... but you are No Ted King.") Again, tongue firmly in cheek. No one wants a Ted King shirt, but lots of people turned out to want an I Am Not Ted King shirt. The t-shirts were a hit so we added other items like sweatshirts, jerseys, frame stickers, and pint glasses.
BNET: How does Twitter play into that?
King: People wouldn't know "iamnotTedKing" pint glasses exist without me blasting it to 10,000 Twitter followers. 100% of the proceeds from the stickers and a good chunk of the other "iamnotTedKing" product proceeds go to a charitable organization very near to my heart.
BNET: Tell me about using social media to help the Krempels Center.
King: The Krempels Center is a program in New Hampshire for adults living with brain injury. Every single day is a struggle when you live with a brain injury. That became terrifyingly apparent when my father had a stroke eight years ago. Giving back to Krempels Center is something I've tried to do ever since Dad began attending the program because it has had such a positive impact on his life. My ability to give back has increased ten-fold as my career has grown onto the international stage. It's truly an honor and a privilege to expose a large audience to the great work they do, and to see that audience contribute.
For example, on my birthday I didn't expect anyone to send me a present, but I did suggest on Twitter that people could donate to the Krempels Center in honor of my father. Fifty cents or fifty dollars, it didn't matter. A number of donations went straight to the Krempels Center, all thanks to my fans' benevolence and the power of Twitter.
There is also a charity ride to benefit the Krempels Center currently in the works. Spreading the word through social media will be as powerful as any flyers posted at local bike shops.
Photo courtesy Chris Milliman