Whew. Another year has gone by. You have survived, despite the odds! Looking back, you realize though that you never really did get around to using social media for marketing your company like you wanted. Articles keep pouring in how other companies are using these channels to drive sales, but you blithely ignore them. That’s not for you and your business…as you just can’t make it work. You did try. Nobody read those six posts you chucked out there at the last minute in January and February when you were trying something new at the beginning of the year. You did give it a whirl. Albeit half-heartedly. Then you got busy and gave up.
What the hell is Twitter anyway? LinkedIn is just for some sad sack that lost their job. Pinterest is just pics of ultimate gooey brownies and cute shoes. Facebook is dying – at least that’s what everyone is saying anyway. Don’t even get started on the effort it takes to write a blog.
Does this sound like your social media marketing tale of woe? I hear this often from people when I talk to them about their company. I think everyone wants to succeed on social media, but it’s like looking at an unfolded road map. Nobody knows where to start, where to go, or what direction to travel. It’s easier just to not do it. Actually, it’s not that hard. You just need the recipe. Take a look:
First, it is social. It’s all about connecting, sharing and interaction. It isn’t about posting that your company is having a sale and then sitting back and watching dollar bills rain from the sky. Talk about unrealistic expectations. There is a reason it’s called “Social” media. You have to get in there and figure it out, and believe it or not it’s just like going to a party. If you sit there at the table staring infinitely into the salt shaker you aren’t going to meet many people. If you get up out of your chair and introduce yourself, shake some hands and mingle, you’ll have a better time and meet tons of people. Will everyone you meet be worth the effort? Probably not. But some will. One or two could be your next customer. The trick with social media is to find the right party. The party you want is where your current customers and potential new customers are hanging out. Unfortunately that’s going to take some effort on your end, and here’s the news that nobody is telling you – you have to discover where that party is located. Nobody can do it for you. It just takes some effort, like anything worthwhile.
Targeting. To help figure out what social media channels your customers might be using, just take a handful of your best ones and look them up online. What are they using? Most companies post their links on their webpages. Simply click and start following them online. Where are they posting? Next, look up a few of your direct competitors. Yes, be sneaky. You can even follow them, and track their every move. What channels are they using and what are they posting? How about some customers that you wish you had? Do the same thing for them. Write all of this down. Are you seeing any trends? What sticks out might be a good direction to start for you. This is a great way to start and to get new ideas. As a side benefit, when you start following others a good many of them will follow you back. Your small effort will start building your audience.
It’s All About the Content. So, if you have determined the where, the next step it to think about the what. What are you going to post? One thing I know definitely is that if you just scream Me, Me, Me, Me, Me, constantly you will quickly be ignored. Think about all the stuff you ignore or dump into your junk mail folder. Don’t copy that. Instead, think differently. What works is the 80-20 rule. Share 80% of the material on subjects that you think your connections will be interested in. 20% of the material is generated by you. Articles, videos, photos, whatever. If people are resharing, liking or commenting on your posts, you will start to understand what may work for your audience. If everyone ignores it, you know they don’t. Keep posting content until you discover the successful traits of posts for your audience. When someone shares, likes or comments on a post this is your opportunity to engage with them regarding the topic. Simply say thank you, or ask them a question. Get the conversation going. Just like at a party. Follow or connect with them. Keep the dialog going with other posts. Eventually this effort will materialize into new customers, or people who will send you new customers. The quality of the content you are sharing has a direct correlation to how your audience reshares, likes or comments. The trick is to find good content effortlessly. Subscribe to news feeds on subject matter that you are interested in, or that your connections may be interested in. As new material comes in, read and share anything that you find valuable.
Post What People Care About. Be mindful on what your connections care about. Once you tune in to their appetites, you can start to see and develop the habit of finding and curating content that will work for your strategy. Just look for opportunities for engagement. When you are creating your content, what works best is more story-telling and less used-car salesman pitching about your company. Get people interested in your expertise and show them how you can help them. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Write the article, film the video, shoot the picture. Create and birth the baby and post it. Develop the habit of good content creation and like everything you will get better over time. What’s vital is to just let loose and go.
Make Connections. Making connections is like making friends. It takes time and requires sincere effort. On your social media channels your connections will be posting, commenting and sharing their interests as well. It’s not all about you. Like, reshare, comment with their interests too. Add to the conversation. Share your side of the story. This engagement is what is going to drive your success, and what will help build your audience. Do not get hung up with how many connections you have in a particular channel. The metric you want to be concerned about is how many people are engaging you on your posts. The more engagement you have the better, as your connections are obtaining value from your effort and will remember you. Over the long term, this translates to your phone ringing with opportunities.
Make Plans & Set Goals. Since you are in charge of your schedule, you know what will work for you when it comes to finding time to build your social network and engagement. Use a calendar and plan ahead. Make it a daily routine at a certain time. If you don’t carve out the time though, it will be another year gone by and you still haven’t accomplished anything. Nobody is going to do it for you, so if using social media is important then it is going to have to be prioritized like anything else that matters. Before starting a social media campaign, ask yourself why you are doing it and what goals you are working to achieve. Drive awareness? Build sales? Make your phone ring? Construct your effort to achieve that goal. Determine what metric you need to hit to know your effort was a success. Did you achieve that goal? Great!! What happens if you didn’t? What did you learn? Rewrite your effort, set another goal and power on. It’s a continual battle.
Keep It Simple, Stupid. The ol’ KISS method. You remember that, right? It works for social media too. You can’t swing a dead cat online without hitting another time saving or analytical app designed for people to use to strengthen their social media. I like using tools too. One of my favorites is called Buffer. This allows me to schedule my posts on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Google+, all at once and in advance. I usually have everything scheduled about a week in advance out. I can control the time and frequency of any post. Also, if the post includes a hyperlink Buffer tracks how many clicks the post received, so I can use the same app for metric gathering. I can’t tell you how many hundreds of “social media experiments” I’ve tried to determine what works best for engagement with my connections. I’m always thinking up something new and seeing if it will work or not. It’s like a game and that’s what makes it sort of fun. Sort of. It’s still work and effort.
Be Consistent. Since starting this blog, I’ve tried to post a new article every Saturday. Do I always achieve that goal? Hell no. However, that’s what I work towards. That consistency has paid off for me, as the readership for this blog has really blossomed (Thank you by the way!!) and I hear from readers constantly how they look forward to seeing what I’m going to come out with next. Some readers have e-mailed me with ideas for future blogs, or followed up with some questions that they needed answered more in-depth. One of the things that I’ve heard repeatedly is that the reshared content that I find, or the articles that I write are valued from my connections. I’ve put some thought into what I’m posting whether I’m writing it or not. Regularly sharing high value, interesting content from reliable sources will establish you as someone to follow and be trusted. Want to tune people out? Sharing anything that doesn’t matter to your audience will instantly turn them away. Stuck in line at the grocery store? Favorite team just scored? Just saw a rabbit hop across your backyard? Who cares!!?? That might be great for your personal posts that your grandma or cousin Eddie will adore, but for your business feed you have to look at the bigger picture. Consistency consists of bringing value. Know what’s important.
Be Nice. I hate writing this, but it needs to be said. Online is a minefield of danger. The minute you post a troll-like comment is the minute you degrade your value. Your mom was right…if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. Instead, look to help others online. Repost or share their content. When someone achieves a goal or does something great, acknowledge it. Give people answers to their questions. Be sincere and yourself.
Need some help developing your social media game plan? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s work on developing a plan together.
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Hi Marshall Happy New Year – loved your article it is really interesting. As a small company this is all truly a minefield and everyone you speak to that can help seems to want to charge enormous amounts and tie you in to all types of contracts !!! I am trying pay per click at present for a 3 month trial and not sure if it is worth it !!!! not being a teccy person doesnt help either !!!
best wishes marie
Marie – before you start paying per click, you should write yourself a marketing plan. Know, like the back of your hand, where you customers are on social media, what they post, when and what they like. Outline your objectives. Is it for brand awareness, to drive sales, to create a following? How will you know if you are a success? Don’t just spray and pray – have some real concrete goals in mind. Otherwise you could come away from the venture without the results, and with a lighter wallet. -M