Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, blogging, and similar online activities are grabbing headlines and building businesses. Feel like you’re missing out on something? You may be right. Social media is being used successfully by companies large and small to build relationships, care for clients, and bring in new business. Whether your organization has branches around the world, or is based just in Santiago or St. John’s, social media has the potential to immensely improve your marketing and customer service.
Unfortunately, if you’re like many businesspeople who are kept busy running day-to-day operations, you may be still asking, “What are social media, SEO, and blogging, anyway?” Or you may have answered that one but still find lots of other questions staring at you. Should you use Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, blogging, a combination, or something else entirely? Once you’ve set up your accounts on whatever platforms you choose, what do you do? How do you build relationships? How do you make things happen, without spending hundreds of hours figuring things out? The reality is that it’s exceptionally easy to get into social media, but disappointingly difficult to be effective there. As a result, far too many companies have no real social media strategy or action plan, and no consistent activity. Even though they realize social media has potential for them, as their kids would say, so far their efforts pretty much suck.
If that sounds like you, how do you unsuck your social media activities?
Here are five steps to help you get on track:
1. Forget about yourself.
This isn’t about you. But then again, good marketing never was. So forget about what you want to do. Just ask yourself who it is you’re trying to reach, and why they should be interested in you instead of your competitors or whatever they’re doing. If you can’t quickly and easily see what they would love about you, how could you possibly expect them to?
2. Know your place.
What are the social media channels that will best connect you and your target groups? Know which ones your audiences use, but also understand their intricacies, including what is considered correct behavior for each. Activity that is completely appropriate on Twitter may be frowned upon on Facebook and get you banned on LinkedIn. In social media, like the proverbial cocktail party or networking event, being appropriate is a basic requirement.
Know how to look for mentions of your company, product, competitors, or areas of interest on each channel, and know what your responses will be. Facebook allows you to search for people or company pages, as well as for any words used in status updates by people inside and outside your contacts. LinkedIn lets you find people based upon their industry, company size, company name, position, physical location, and other criteria. But Twitter is king when it comes to listening, with exceptional power to not just search but continually monitor everything people are saying about anything… as soon as they say it. So explore who’s out there. Monitor conversations. Learn the hashtags on Twitter that are most used by the people you’re trying to reach. Have a system in place to respond quickly and appropriately when you catch something of interest, and continually refine. Slight touch-ups here and there will often immensely improve a monitoring program.
4. Don’t waste your time. Or theirs.
It’s easy to spend hours on Facebook or Twitter and get caught up in the latest buzz, but being there does not automatically build meaningful relationships. Understand what you can bring that others might genuinely want. Know and stick with the activities that will generate the greatest rewards. At times that may indeed mean talking about nothing; there’s nothing wrong with relaxing sometimes. But work hard at understanding when it’s okay to be a genuine friend and when it’s proper to be a supplier or client. And don’t fake being nice or interested because that’s how you think you’ll get the sale. Be nice and interested because you’re nice and interested. It’s a good way to live, and the best way to get new business.
5. Put a ring on it.
Hey, it’s all about commitment, baby. Have appropriate resources available to maintain and grow your presence. While it’s possible to meet lots of great people almost instantly online, the key is always to build relationships. That means, again as in real life, you need to nurture your time together. Set targets of a minimum time per day to spend in social media, and know what you plan to accomplish while there. But don’t center those targets too much on the number of new contacts you’re adding. Go deep with the right people to understand their needs and how you can help. Social media will not work if it’s just a series of quick hits or things to do when there’s extra time on your hands. Relationships treated that way never do.
On a final note, there’s wisdom in seeking help. Recent research has shown that companies often take two years in social media to build confidence that they’re doing the right things. That’s a long time to invest your time, energy and money trying to build initial confidence. You may reduce that time considerably by working with a social media consultant or agency experienced in making things happen. However, whether you tackle it on your own or through such a partner, you owe it to your company to start getting a grip on the marketing potential of social media. You can be sure your competitors are.