No matter what social network you’re using to connect with your community, your customers, or other businesspeople in your industry, the most important thing to remember is that it’s a “social” network. That means there’s no “set it and forget it” approach. Social media is interactive, requiring efficient and effective response. Importantly, it proves more and more each day that personality and pizzazz can get you a lot of attention, perhaps more quickly and easily than any other marketing channel.
Although social media is often touted as “immediate marketing,” it takes a long-term approach to make it valuable, vibrant, and varied. Just like with any other relationship you want to cultivate, the results won’t happen overnight. Others need time to get to know you, and they need to see evidence of your commitment to the community—whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter, your blog, or another venue in the social space—before they will actively keep you on their radar.
While social media can be a bit intimidating for the newcomer, it’s actually one of the few marketing opportunities that let you get your feet wet while you’re trying to figure out the right formula for putting “yourself” into your marketing efforts. That personality part of social media is what causes many business owners to shy away from it, and their apprehension is understandable. For years, business owners have been trained against doing just that. It used to be that a business had a personality all its own. So now, when they’re expected to inject their own personality into the mix, some business owners will crouch in a corner of inactivity or resort to automatic replies.
But social media need not be scary. Why? Because the fusion of personality and business lets you live and breathe and socialize in a “community” that was never possible before. Here are just a few of the new and awesome opportunities it brings:
- Have a supplements shop? You can ask your customers to tweet their vote for the next flavor of your signature energy drink.
- Sell environmentally friendly products or services? You can engage in a conversation on a green industry blog about the proper methods for installing solar panels.
- Is your store known for having the latest and greatest electronics? You can reward your Facebook fans by offering them a special discount on your latest tech gadget.
And along with those new opportunities comes a new set of rules for conduct and etiquette. While you’re busy typing your feedback and sharing “yourself” online, it’s important to remember that you’re still representing your “business.” What you say and how you interact in the social sphere are just as important as what you say and how you interact in your bicycle shop or in your booth at the local farmers market.
Your social presence should be respectful and in line with the character of your business. For example, unless your business takes a public stance on political or religious issues, you’d want to steer clear of such topics and focus on subject matter that’s less controversial. Use logic when deciding what to do and say. Want to share your opinion on an election? “American Idol” will usually work better than something more, shall we say, Presidential?
What are some of the other don’ts for a business engaged in social media? Here’s a sampling:
- Don’t send automated direct messages on Twitter. This impersonal approach prevents you from building relationships with your followers.
- Don’t neglect to add comments on your Facebook wall, or to properly address concerns (or compliments) left there by others. If you’re not actively engaged, your fans will abandon ship . . . and set sail elsewhere!
- Don’t treat every interaction as a sales pitch. People will see through your efforts very quickly.
- Don’t treat your blog as a replica of your website and expect that people want to read endless posts that are nothing more than advertisements.
It’s also important to avoid letting your ego get in the way when you’re responding or sharing. Before you post any content online, it’s always a good policy to take a step back and carefully read what you’ve written to make sure that nothing could be misconstrued or considered “too much.” Don’t think of it as censoring yourself—think of it as being smart. Smart and, well . . . social!
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