Lots of folks are all aflutter about leveraging social media. When you run a business, you will frequently get lots of comments from everyone you talk with (friends, family, neighbors, new acquaintances, employees, partners) about how you should really be using social marketing. Social media advice has become akin to parenting advice – lots of blanket statements from people who you barely know and who may not even be doing it!
Most of the business owners we talk to are game for any form of “free” website traffic and customers, but just don’t know where to start. They’ve all heard about Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and community website content, but they don’t understand how their business could use them.
We’ve put together a quick guide to help you take those first steps to social marketing. But before we get into specific recommendations about what to say, let’s talk about how to say things:
1) Watch Your Tone — No Marketing Fluff Allowed
With parenting, telling your children that you are the best and dictating what they should do often backfires. However, providing them with guidance and educating them to become self-sufficient experts can lead them to choose to come to you and make the right decision. The same goes for social marketing. Although it’s called marketing, your tone in social media is different than in other forms of marketing. In this case, it’s not about telling people you are the best, but allowing others to determine your greatness through your expertise, helpfulness and what others have to say. Social media is most effective when done in an informative and guiding manner rather than a self-promoting manner. Put another way, think about how you talk when speaking to a friend or customer face-to-face. Then look at how you communicate via social media. Your face-to-face “human” voice should shine through in your social media interactions, not your “business correspondence” voice.
2) Be Engaging
Nothing can be more frustrating for a parent than endlessly talking to a child who sits stony-faced, acting like a wall. It can be just as frustrating with social media — reaching out and communicating, and encountering nothing but crickets. With social media, you’ll want to make the way you post things spark interest and encourage conversation. Ask for comments; ask for people to add to your guides and comparisons; ask people to share their photos and experiments. Sometimes, like children, your followers might not feel motivated to get engaged. Feel free to use a rewards system to encourage the start of community (or follower) involvement.
3) Be Responsive
Social marketing, like parenting, is not a one-way communication street. Even if you have the greatest things to say, unless you also listen, respond, acknowledge and appreciate, your expert voice will eventually be tuned out. When people comment or get involved in the community of followers you establish, respond to them. Make sure they know their input is appreciated and valuable. Become an active member in your members’ communities – comment on things that they post and stay engaged with them. Beyond your immediate community, also leave comments on posts from other experts or news organizations on issues related to your community’s interests.
4) Think Beyond Yourself
As with parenting, if you can’t put yourself into your kid’s shoes, you will have a hard time providing them with the right set of information that makes them eager to listen to and follow your guidance. While other forms of marketing traditionally focus on promotion of just your business, in social media you need to think beyond yourself. What related interests do you have with your customers and community? What related interests can you become an informer about? Whether complementary products, services used before or after yours, local information, industry information, or helpful tools, this is your chance to strut your stuff as the expert source they keep coming back to.
As to what you should be sharing with your community of followers, you’ll want to provide information about:
1) Your Business and Products
a. In a purely informational way, post pictures and videos of your products or offerings, rates and specials information.
b. Let people know where you are going to be participating – are you going to a conference, a local festival, or sponsoring something?
c. Share information about new customers or new deals – let new clients know you are excited to work with them.
d. Take polls regarding existing offerings or potential new ones. You can question folks about a product they like the most or have them vote on a new service you are contemplating.
2) Complementary Products
a. Are there products or services that people are likely to use in conjunction with yours, or before or after yours? Become an expert source – provide resources, comparisons, guides and reviews.
b. Retweet or post links to interesting articles or blog posts.
3) Local Information
a. If you have a local business, become a local area information provider – from festivals, to events, to activities and attractions, provide information along with photos and videos.
b. Discuss interesting weather events or major local occurrences; include your photos and videos.
c. Retweet or post links to interesting articles or blog posts.
d. If you sponsor a Little League team or Girl Scout Cookie drive, people love seeing that your business is engaged this way. So talk about it — post photos, videos, etc., especially if your team wins a trophy or sells the most cookies.
4) Industry Information
a. Provide reviews of products, tools, or complementary businesses.
b. Provide comparison guides and decision guides to different solutions in an unbiased manner.
c. Provide information glossaries and helpful calculators or tools.
d. Retweet or post links to industry events or interesting blog posts.
Next Up – Part II: Social Media Avenues