Social media is confusing to some business/website owners. At one time, the primary means of getting a website found was via search engines. Search Engine Optimization was a big deal just a decade ago, but then Google changed its algorithm such that SEO was less applicable. At the same time, the company made social media engagement an important parameter for getting traffic to a website. Sites that could engage people on social media would get better search scores and the pages that got the attention of readers through these platforms would perform best. The result is that most businesses with a website know that they must have a presence on social media, but with so many platforms, knowing how can be confusing.
The Principles of Social Media are the Same as Traditional Networking
To a large extent, the principles of social media are no different than traditional networking. In traditional networking, a business owner or representative attends a conference, expo, or trade fair to promote the business. All representatives are provided with business cards and perhaps some simple brochures to grow awareness of the business and brand wherever they meet others. Advertising further enhances the marketing (networks/brand awareness) of the business.
Social media does the same.
When a business/website owner starts a social media account, they are networking with prospective customers. Thinking of the social media platform in the same light as a trade fair or other place where the business representatives can meet large numbers of people interested in what the business offers can help business owners apply sound principles for success. That said, there are some specifics that are worthy of discussion. Following are our top 10 tips to help your business be successful in using social media.
Top 10 Tips for Social Media Success
Whether looking to sell a product or service online or support a traditional brick and mortar business, social media is a great way to build brand awareness. Although these are the top 10 ways to build a solid brand using social media, there are many other elements which may be useful. In addition, because every social media platform is slightly different from the others, we will be adding future pages to help business owners better use whichever they prefer.
Although we call these “tips,” each is based on sound marketing principles which apply in the offline world as well. A good way to think of these is to view the online world as a mirror of the offline universe. Sound principles apply regardless of the situation as will be explained with each tip.
1. Start with a Social Marketing Plan
No business owner would dream of sending out representatives to a trade show or business expo without some plan about how the company would be promoted, yet many get on social media channels without any idea about how they are going to accomplish their business goals.
Treat social media just like attending a big conference. A business conference will contain people of every sort with an interest in what a company does or provides. For instance, a sales conference for Mary Kay Cosmetics will not be attended by Mortuary Sales Reps. Likewise, a trade expo for funerary companies is not likely to be attended by software engineers.
When planning a presence on social media, think first in terms of audience and make connections with people interested in the same thing as your company. Then, think of how you will present your company just like you would at a trade fair. Think about what will be said to people you meet, what you can offer them in terms of helping them, and think about how what is said and done would go over in person.
That is part of planning. The principles of planning for a conference are the same as the principles of planning for exposing a company on social media. Use sound marketing principles online the same as you would offline and you will be fine.
2. Link with Others Interested in Your Niche
Briefly mentioned above, this principle deserves a special place in this list of tips. Many business owners use their personal Facebook page, personal LinkedIn account, personal Twitter, etc. That is fine if YOU ARE the business. For instance, I do use my personal accounts because I am my business. I am a content writer/developer/marketer. I am a one-man show (though I do outsource some aspects of my business to trustworthy partners) and plan to keep it that way. Thus, I have merged my personal social accounts with my business. I am my brand.
If the business is more than just you, that is, the business has its own brand, separate social media from your business. This way, you can connect with people interested in what you are interested in. You can segregate your private life from the business and focus on just what interests your customers. This is applicable for businesses which sell products or services to be performed by employees.
For businesses such as Lawyers, Doctors, and Real Estate Agents, it would be ok to merge the social media accounts. But if a Lawyer grows the firm to include a partner, if the doctor is part of a medical group, or the Real Estate Agent becomes a larger agency, it would be wise to segregate the social accounts from the personal.
Most important, when connecting with others, seek out those interested in the same things. Look for connections with potential suppliers, potential employees, potential clients just as you would do if attending a trade show. Follow those who would follow you. Many will follow back, some will not. In time, networks of like-minded people will result. These are the networks that will best serve to grow your brand in social media.
3. Engage with Your Social Network
One of the strangest things that happens when a business sets up social media accounts is that they spend more time talking “at” people rather than “to.” What is the difference?
Think again of the Trade Show or Conference. If a representative only spoke at potential clients or vendors without engaging them in a conversation, the results would be negative for the company. Likewise, with social media the best rule is to have conversations. Pat folks on the back for achieving something like a work anniversary. Congratulate them on a promotion. Ask their opinion about something.
It is not necessary to spend a great deal of time doing this, but reaching them on a personal level will go much further to building loyal business relationships than simply generating posts. Generating posts is talking “To” them; engaging them in conversations, commenting on their posts, just saying “Hi” even…these things mean more than any posted content.
That said, when it is time to post content, those you have been kind to will be more apt to read what you have added.
4. Post Appropriate Content
It goes without saying now that if the content posted does not interest your audience, it will be useless. This goes along with the principle that it is important to engage with those interested in what the company offers.
If the connections made have been with those interested in your industry, many will read what you post. If what you post is informative and helpful, some will like it and share it. These likes and shares do two important things for your website/business.
- They grow your presence and audience because more people will find your site through the new connections.
- They enhance your website’s reputation with the search engines, resulting in related posts getting more traffic in search results.
5. Post Content of Appropriate Length
One of the biggest concerns many business owners have relates to the appropriate length of posts on social media. To be clear, each social media platform has different standards, so there is no set figure, but there are a few pointers to keep in mind.
- If the comments are posts on a social media network, make them useful and encourage responses from others.
- If the comments are comments on posts by other people, keep them civil and encouraging. Also, do not say more than is needed to make the point. Concise, positive comments get more attention than wordy, negative comments.
- If the comments are announcements, keep them brief.
- Pay attention to the media. Twitter feeds are 140 characters. Facebook encourages video and images. LinkedIn offers the ability to post blogs. Reddit allows only links with a headline and a brief description (and be sure to add it to the appropriate section). Pinterest is image driven.
If you do add a blog to a social media platform, treat it as you would a blog on your website. Typically, a five minute read is ideal, which is between 400 and 700 words. Keep it simple. Keep it useful.
One of the biggest trends is to capture a brief section from a post on the website and add it to social media with a link back. While this is kind of ok, just know that the search engines will only link to the original and people are less inclined to follow the link unless the content is outstanding.
The best practice is to add the blog to one or the other. It is even good to create two blogs covering the same information but each uniquely written; one for the website and another for the social site.
6. Post Regularly/Adhere to a Schedule/Editorial Calendar
Another thing which will grow your audience and build your brand is to post regularly. The best way to do so is to adhere to a schedule. Regular means once a week, every Monday; three times a week on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday; daily…whatever. As long as the content is added regularly, the search engines and your readers will get used to seeing your content and the result will be your brand will grow.
Along these lines, an editorial calendar is useful. An editorial calendar need not be fancy. You can create a spreadsheet with the proposed title of a post, the social media outlet into which it will be placed, and a deadline. This way, you can outsource if need be or plan to have it ready on schedule. In addition, as you get ideas for posts, these can be added to the calendar for future reference.
7. Plan Your Outsourcing
Along these lines, plan your outsourcing. Ideally, you should write every post because you are the expert. It is YOUR brand you are building. But this is not always possible and if you have someone in your organization that can create great content for you, use them. If you do not, there are plenty of great freelance content developers out there (I happen to know of one).
Find a good freelancer and stick with them. Over time, they will get to know your ‘voice’ and your business. A good one will even fill your editorial calendar for you, taking much of this burden off your shoulders. Finally, a great freelancer will even know how to research trending topics and ideal keywords/subjects which will draw traffic to your post.
Most importantly, do not leave this to chance. Just as you create a marketing plan, plan your outsourcing. Post as much as you can to social media yourself and especially the comments on posts, congratulatory remarks, and conversations in which you engage prospective clients, but if you must, it is ok to outsource the posts themselves.
8. Limit Social Media Accounts
That said, limit the number of social media accounts you use. With more than 200 out there, it is impossible to use them all (unless you are a major corporation and even then, it could be overkill). Most experts agree that between 2 and 5 social media platforms are sufficient to properly engage your target market/audience without wearing yourself out.
Choose your favorites and stick to those. For business purposes, one which is a must is LinkedIn. LinkedIn is social media for business networking, so make that one of them. Facebook is largely for personal relationships, but the site is moving to compete on the business side. Twitter, of course, can be very effective if used properly.
If your business offers plenty of cool items that look good in images, Pinterest would be a sound platform.
The point is, keep social media accounts to a manageable level for the best results.
9. Pay Attention to What is Posted
Which brings us to point number nine. If you have too many social media accounts you are trying to juggle, you will be unable to pay attention to what others post (either those you follow or those posting on your behalf).
You need to pay attention to what others post because someone may add a post about a problem that your company can solve. They may post something that you feel a need to respond to in some way. Maybe they just had a baby. Congratulate them. They will remember it. Perhaps they just celebrated an anniversary. Send them an online greeting card.
Maybe one of your employees added something that would not be appropriate to the business. You cannot make sure it is removed unless you see it and further, you cannot address it so it may happen again.
Treat your social media account as you would a social gathering in your office. Pay attention to what goes on and address needs as you deem appropriate.
10. Track Results using Google Analytics
This last one will be a challenge for many business/website owners because many do not yet know how to use Google Analytics. However, it is well worth the time and effort to learn how. Alternately, you can hire a freelancer for this as well (Here I am).
Google Analytics allows your to get a snapshot into how well social media is working for you. In addition, you can add links from posts you included on social media so that Analytics will track how well the posts perform. This will provide you with valuable insights into how best to spend your time and money. You know…ROI?
With Google Analytics, you can gauge how well content is performing throughout your site, via social media networks, from Adwords campaigns, or any other way that people find your site and engage with you.
Parting Words from Oakes Writing on Top 10 Tips/Principles for Social Media Success