It’s hard to believe that with more than 1 billion web surfers on Facebook Twitter, Pinterest and other social media sites, most small businesses still haven’t jumped in. That’s according to a report from eMarketer, which found that less than one in four small businesses has developed a comprehensive social media strategy.
So, what’s the disconnect? Why hasn’t business moved more aggressively to leverage this tsunami of online activity (and potential customers)? Chances are, they’re thinking “no harm, no foul,” as in “maybe this thing could help my business, but not getting on board can’t hurt me. Right?”
What businesses still sitting on the sidelines don’t understand is that customers, and prospective customers, are already talking about them—every day—on social media sites, saying good things, and bad. Imagine you’re on an elevator, and you hear the other two passengers talking down your business, spreading inaccurate information, hurting your brand. Would you just stand there in silence, ride to the 20th floor with them, not say a word? Or would you join the conversation?
If you’re a smart businessperson, you’d speak up, and that’s the opportunity you have when you join the conversation about your business on social media. Convinced? Great. Now, how exactly do you do it, and do it right?
Well, the first step is to realize that the operative word is “conversation.” Smart social media strategy begins with an understanding that it’s all about the rules of good conversation. Here are some tips for being a smart conversationalist on social media.
Don’t Start the Conversation with Your Sales Pitch
Smart social media strategy is about engagement, not direct sales. Ever have someone come up to you at a party and start bragging to you about how wonderful he is (Harvard-educated, mega-successful day trader, beautiful wife, brilliant kids)? Unless you’re a glutton for punishment, you were probably looking for the closest exit.
Engagement on social media means knowing who you’re talking to, what their problems and concerns are. And it means knowing that good conversation begins by being a good listener—there’s a reason you were born with two ears and one mouth. Listen to what your customers say and use it to your advantage.
Finally, talk like a person, not some industry representative. Bollixing up your conversation with a lot of insider jargon will make you sound stiff and unapproachable and turn people off.
Give them Valuable Content
Knowing your audience and listening to their concerns will help you decide what constitutes valuable content—as in, practical content your customers can really use. Give them how-to videos, case studies, white papers and webinars. If you’re a restaurant, how about a prize-winning recipe for chicken parm? If you’re a car dealership, show them how to detail their aging wheels and get a better trade-in price.
Make a Real Commitment
If you’re going to do this, do it right. That means getting involved—and listening—every day. Don’t succumb to the temptation to automate your posts—robots don’t generally make for good conversation. And don’t assign the whole ball of wax to some designated “social media guy.” Smart strategy involves everyone in your business, from top management to secretaries and clerical staff.
Speak with a Single Voice across All Marketing Channels
If someone tells you he’s your best friend, you’re flattered. If you find out later that same day he told 15 other people the same thing, you’re—well, not so flattered. Your social media campaign has to be effectively integrated with your wider marketing strategy. Be consistent through all aspects of that larger strategy, from website to email marketing to social media. Remember, engaging conversation begins by developing a sense of trust.
If Your Tailor Doesn’t Measure, the Suit Won’t Fit
Social media is like other forms of marketing—the more you measure results, the better it will be. There are plenty of online tools to help you do that, like Facebook’s Insights tool.
Jumping into social media can bring fresh life to your marketing efforts. It can teach you valuable lessons about your customers and show you how to give them value in return. If you want to do it right, your best bet is to partner with online marketing professionals who can take your conversation on social media to the top of the heap.
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