You spend a lot of time on social media – and so do your customers. You know you should be using social media to build your business, but you understand it’s a bad idea to build your business entirely on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and the multitude of other services.
But you may be asking yourself, “What type of social media marketing should I be doing?”
How are savvy businesses using social media effectively to find more customers, boost their reputations, and make more sales?
Here are some basic rules that will turn your social media marketing from an all- consuming time-waster to an effective bottom-line booster.
Get your Website in order
Your website. It’s on a domain you own. You control the user experience — from the content to the site design.
This is where you show your visitors your expertise in your business. That means building a nice home for high-quality content that demonstrates that expertise in a likable, accessible way.
First impressions matter – in fact, your visitor decides to exit or remain on your website within 3 seconds – the blink of an eye. You need to make sure the design is clean, professional, and smart. It can still be stylish or funky, if that’s your thing, but it shouldn’t look amateurish or confusing.
Your site should be used to post content that answers your readers’ questions, give them interesting tips, and helps them solve their problems. When someone wants to know more about you, this is where you send them. It is your business – it’s your electronic storefront.
Communicate with customers, not with other experts in your topic. Don’t just pontificate to show what you know — tie your news and opinions back to how those things affect your customers.
Identify the face of your business
To use social networking platforms like Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn successfully, you need a human face to make your efforts effective.
So, does that mean potential customers want to know about you personally? Is it a place to express personal opinions and problems? No. (Unless those problems relate directly to your business, of course.)
Just like people have always done in public settings, you’re going to adopt a persona — a selected range of your thoughts, emotions, and observations. You don’t want to share absolutely everything about the “real” you with your social media connections. You’re going to be social and informal, but in a way that’s relevant, appropriate, and interesting to who you’re talking with.
That doesn’t mean I want you to be a fake. You need to be friendly and genuine. Sound like a human being, not a corporate robot. And you certainly don’t have to stick to business 100% of the time. It’s totally acceptable to show that you have a life. Just as important? It’s not so good to show the world you’re careless, rude, or boring.
The truth is, the definition of “appropriate” depends on your audience. If it works for your customers, it’s appropriate. Authenticity for a business doesn’t come from oversharing or boring your audience to death — it lies in doing what you say you’ll do.
Build healthy relationships
Social networking platforms were designed to make it easy and fun for people to hang out together. That means you’re going to use them to build relationships that will help your business.
Try to build an audience that works to your advantage. Look for people who have healthy-sized audiences and who are a good fit for your product or service. They may be bloggers, or authors, they may have a popular podcast. They may simply be social media magnets who have lots of friends and like to share good stuff. These are the people you want to share and promote your site’s content.
Cultivating professional relationships isn’t impossible. Stick to the basics — link to them from your content, comment intelligently on their blogs and social platforms, and be a nice person. If you’re going to take a controversial position, make sure it’s one that really matters, and express it with respect.
Choose your primary platform
Think about where your customers are. If you love Pinterest, but your customers spend hours every day on Facebook, you need to recognize that Facebook is probably a better venue for your business. It may not be as fun for you — but that’s why they call it work!
Only move beyond your primary platform when you’re sure you’re on top of things. Choosing a service as your focus really depends on the industry you’re in. Do your research.
You need to decide how much time and focus you’ll put into social media. Otherwise, you’ll find that it can become quite all-consuming, and will detract from your other duties.
Sites like Twitter and Facebook are seductive places to drop in and just check what’s new. But when your “quick” check turns into twenty-five minutes, and you’re doing that four or five times a day per site, you’re going to find your productivity will take a dive.
Remember your website. That, and delivering your actual product and service are where the bulk of your time and energy need to go. Decide in advance how much time you’ll spend checking in and being social, set a timer, and stick to it.
Search Engine Optimization
Too many people think that social media sharing means they don’t need SEO anymore. The fact is, social media marketing is a superb complement to your SEO. Both are needed for success.
The same elements that make social media work (sharing content that’s both useful and user-friendly, doing what you say you’ll do, building healthy relationships with others in your industry) are the elements search engines prefer to serve up.
Search engines want to find the content that’s a widely valued resource. Use both tools strategically — with a focus on content and getting a useful message in front of a wider audience — and they can be brilliantly effective.
Have a great Social Media Tip or Experience to share? Tell us about it below in the comments!