Social media logos on Rubik's Cube

“You’ve got to get a Facebook account!”
“Everyone’s on Twitter.”
“Pinterest is the best. It will help you spread the word.”

Ignore the social media hype

All of the above quotes are myths. Works of fiction. They could also be bad advice for a business owner. Social media isn’t for everyone. Like any tool, it is only as effective as the person who wields it. There are certain people and certain businesses who won’t reap great rewards from being on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Path, Google+, or the myriad of other Silicon Valley start ups.

Who should be on social media?

If you are serious about using social media instead of being on social media, then you have a wide swath of territory to cover and many benefits to be discovered. The social networks should rarely be used as individual pieces. Even Google -operators of Google+- encourage linking between sites for reasons of relevance, link building, and verification.

I still believe in the old adage that the best advertisement is positive word-of-mouth. A good referral remains the most trusted form of business advertising and this is confirmed in study after study. At its core, social media is about broadcasting word-of-mouth. Courteous service, a broken appliance, buyer’s remorse, or an easy buying process are all things we might hear from someone. But most of our friends and family aren’t experts. They’re average consumers who are sharing a story from their perspective. Seems like an odd thing to base a decision on. Shouldn’t a purchase be made after a bit of research?

Maybe not.

Opinions matter. It is the experience of others that matters more today than ever before. Those opinions no longer rely on one-to-one conversation. Every person has their own bullhorn to broadcast their opinion and potentially reach hundreds, thousands, or millions of people.

Those opinions are about you and/or your company. Every little moment can be rebroadcast through social media and live forever. This is one of the ways your business can use social media.

If you’ve made the choice to include social media in your business, make sure you tackle the fundamentals.

Rule #1 – Build and Use a Plan

Your business doesn’t succeed on luck. It takes knowledge, planning, and efficient execution of that plan. Social media is no different. You can’t create a Facebook Page and hope for people to find you. Here are some core elements of a social media strategy:

  • What do you hope to achieve?
    • Brand awareness
    • Drive website traffic
    • Build a fanbase (“Likes”)
    • Stay in touch with customers
    • Receive more leads
    • Increase e-commerce/social commerce
  • What social networks will benefit you?
  • Will you hire someone in-house or outsource to a third-party vendor?
  • Who will be responsible for your social media development in the company?
  • Other than personnel expenses, do you need to create a social media budget for promotions? How much?
  • When will you review  the plan, make adjustments, and measure success or failure?

Rule #2 – Stay Consistent and Committed

Don’t anticipate success as soon as you launch. Social media is about word-of-mouth, distributed content, and becoming a resource for your customers and potential customers. All of these things take time to work.

Your plan should have a content calendar of what will be posted and when. Stick to it. Visitors appreciate reliability and knowing when they can expect to see more of your great content. Every business will be different in their approach to meet the expectations of their fans. You may encounter a negative customer comment or a lull in user activity but none of these are reasons to quit. Let your plan develop and reach its milestones before you waive the white flag.

Rule #3 – Have Customer Conversations

One critical element is to interact with your customers. Each compliment is a new advertisement for your business and each criticism (even the dreaded public ones) are opportunities to turn a customer from angry to happy.  When you do this, it shows current and potential customers that you care about their satisfaction and work hard to earn their business. It also has the added benefit of showing you have actual human beings working in your company. A company with no emotion can turn off potential customers because they feel you don’t care.

Rule #4 – Share and Share Alike

It is tempting to view social media as a new advertising platform to blast the latest and greatest sale. This is a mistake. People have Liked your Facebook Page or Followed you on Twitter and these are special invitations into their social media experience. Don’t bore them to death with self-serving promotion.

Use social media to create a dialogue and keep the interest of your visitors. Post relevant pictures and videos about your industry. Post a joke every Monday morning. Share a motivational quote. Create a poll with an interesting question, or share a piece of corporate or industry trivia. It can also be helpful to reference pop culture or events in the news.

And remember to share content from other relevant sources. If you’re a car dealer, share cool videos from the manufacturer or a customer’s picture in their new pickup truck. Great content can come from anywhere!

Rule #5 – Make Social Media Part of your SEO

Your social networks are part of your SEO strategy. Didn’t know that? It’s true! Google, Yahoo!, and Bing all include social media sites in their results. More importantly, they are using the information you provide to verify your listings.

Make sure you list the same company name, address, and phone number (NAP) on all of your social networks and your website. This is especially true for Google because they are cross-checking your website, your Google+ Local page, and your other social networks and directory listings to ensure they are the same. It helps them verify you are real, not trying to scam people, and they will reward you with better listings in their search results.

Rule #6 – Cross Promote

People won’t know you’re on a social network unless you tell them. Make sure to include your Facebook or Twitter address in your traditional advertising. include links in your email blasts. Encourage your employees to create a LinkedIn profile and include the address on their business cards. Insert a QR code in an ad that links to one of your social media Pages. The ways to promote your social media are endless. Make it creative, relevant, and easy.

So what will this get you?

Social media should reap the rewards you’re looking for. Remember that part of your plan is to set your achievement goals at the beginning of the process. Restrain yourself from declaring victory or failure too early. If social media is right for your business and you do it effectively, you should see a unique growth and recognition difficult to achieve in any other medium.

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