Sometimes the best way to do business is to get social. And that’s never been more true than with social media, which is like one big party you don’t want to miss. Previously in this two-part blog series, we looked out how valuable social media can be to your business and gave an overview of the major social media sites for business. In this follow-up post, we look more closely at how to go from social nobody to veritable social butterfly.
Getting started: “Please RSVP”
Each social media site is like a different party. To get into the party, you’ve got to register your interest. But don’t stress—it’s an easy process. Registration is free for most sites. And most of the major sites have a sign-up process tailor-made for businesses, which is a great place to start. Just google “[social media name] business” and you’ll find where to begin.
Be as thorough as you can in the registration process; fill in plenty of information, include strong images, and customise logos to fit properly in the allocated spots. On Twitter, for instance, the profile picture that accompanies each tweet is tiny, so an intricate logo will probably need to be re-tooled and simplified in order to stand out at that small size. If you’re thorough at this stage then you won’t be left with a bare-bones site. Having said that, it’s easy to add more information and images later on.
Once you’re in the door, take some time to find your bearings. Check out tutorials and start familiarising yourself with how it all works. Soon you’ll be posting and pinning like a pro.
Building a following: “Nice to meet you”
Now it’s time to introduce yourself and make a few new friends. Each social media site has a way for users to connect with your business. Facebook has “likes,” Twitter has “followers” etc. A user can choose to follow you (we’ll stick with the Twitter lingo for now) just by clicking a button, and any time you communicate, they’ll receive that message. It’s as if they’ve joined your conversation circle at the party. Here are a few tips for building a following:
Promote your social media presence.Social media is designed to make it easy to connect with people, and some sites even have tools to help you promote yourself. But you should also be promoting it outside of the social media realm too. Social media sites have buttons that you can incorporate into your website, blog, and email signature. Just a simple click and you’ve got a new follower. And don’t forget offline; your social media details should be included on your business cards and print advertising.
Provide interesting or valuable content.If your content is compelling you’ll not only sustain the interest of your current followers, you’ll hook new followers too. Sites allow users to pass on their favourite communications to others (called variously “share,” “retweet,” “reblog” etc.). For instance, let’s say you run a café and you post a cool video of your barista doing some impressive latte art. With just a click of a button, your followers can share the video with their followers, who might just decide to follow you themselves (and maybe drop in for a cuppa).
Take time. Firstly, you need to allocate a reasonable amount of time to social media. How much? That depends, but one study found that 36% of businesses using social media spend 1-5 hours/week, 26% spend 6-10 hours, leaving 48% that spend 11+ hours. But a little goes a long way: 65% of businesses spending less than 6 hours/week still report getting more leads through social media. Secondly, realise that building a following doesn’t happen overnight. You’re in this for the long-haul.
But with social media, it’s one thing for a follower to receive your message; it’s a totally different thing for them to actually see it. Content inevitably gets buried in the social media avalanche, meaning that many of your followers won’t see all your posts. This is just the reality of social media, but you can maximise your chances of being seen if you post at noon for Facebook, and noon or 6pm for Twitter. Some sites let you schedule when posts go out, which is a good way to increase your exposure.
Producing content: “That reminds me of a story…”
No-one at a party wants to be stuck talking to the boring guy. It’s important to create compelling content. Communication in the social media sphere is different to traditional advertising. This isn’t the place for the hard-sell; it’s a place for conversation. Your content needs to be engaging, not overbearing. Here’s how:
Offer special deals.Social media is an excellent channel for extending special offers to users. Remember, 24% of Facebook users that “unliked” a business did so because they didn’t offer enough deals. Often this takes the form of “‘Like’ us to receive…,” which is also one way to build your following. InSites Consulting found that 61% of followers want promotions and 58% want freebies.
Entertain.Being bombarded with sales pitches can get old really fast. 24% of Facebook users unliked a business for being too promotional. The key is to include lots of non-salesy stuff. And if there’s one thing that goes down well in the social media sphere, it’s entertainment. Social media thrives on fun. So get creative and let your freak flag fly. That’s what blender company, Blendtec, did with their brilliantly-goofy “Will it blend?” campaign, in which they blend baseballs, iPhones and other unlikely objects into a pulp. Blendtec used Facebook and Youtube for their campaign and sales skyrocketed. With a little luck, you might even hit upon social media gold: going viral.
Educate.It’s also a great place to share ideas. Elsewhere, we’ve discussed the value of sharing your expertise to show that you actually have it. The same applies to social media. 17% of users unliked a business for being too chit-chatty and casual. That means you need to balance the fun with the facts. Share relevant articles you’ve read, include links to your blog, or post some helpful tidbits directly to your social media page.
Involve your followers.Traditional advertising is one-way communication. Social media is different—the audience talks back. And that’s a good thing, because positive engagement with your followers means a stronger relationship with your potential customers. Inviting your followers to post stories about your product or upload photos of them using it are easy ways to get them involved, but that’s just scratching the surface. InSites have found that 80% of consumers want to help businesses, particularly with helping improve current products and services. Take your social media strategy to the next level by harnessing the creativity of your followers.
Be authentic.We’ve said it before but it’s worth repeating: authenticity is crucial online. It’s even more crucial on social media. This is the place to show customers your human side. When an American Red Cross employee accidentally tweeted about her plans to get drunk on the their official Twitter channel, they acknowledged the faux pas by light-heartedly tweeting: “We’ve deleted the rogue tweet but rest assured the Red Cross is sober and we’ve confiscated the keys.” Best of all, the incident led to more donations! To err is human—and, on social media, being human is what counts.
Conclusion—Getting started on social media
That’s a lot to take in, so let’s summarise:
You don’t need to sign up to every social media site, but you should sign up to a few. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are the big three (see the first post about which social media channel you should use for business).
Be thorough in the registration process and take some time to familiarise yourself with how the site works.
Build your following by promoting your presence, providing interesting and valuable content, and investing time into it over the long-haul.
Create compelling content by offering special deals, being entertaining, being educational, involving your followers, and always being authentic.
Phew! That’s a lot of information. No-one said being a party-animal was easy! But once you turn up, you’ll find it’s straightforward and you won’t regret joining in. Social media is the party of the century—the 21st century—and your business can’t afford to miss it. Often the best business happens when you stop working and start socialising.