Social media can be daunting. How do you find your way around it? Is it even worth getting involved, especially for a small business?
Whether it’s Facebook, LinkedIn, Flickr, Twitter, YouTube, Yelp or others, social media is an essential part of your marketing mix because it’s a way to reach out to customers more easily and at a lower cost than with traditional marketing methods. It’s the online equivalent of "word of mouth" marketing: people are turning to it more and more to find recommendations for goods and services.
To help you get started, here are some basic dos and don’ts.
1. DO respect the community. Learn the proper etiquette for online dialogues in general, and for the application you are using in particular. Always keep your comments constructive, even if someone makes you angry.
2. DO participate. Otherwise no one knows who you are or what you have to say. Monitor topics and contributors that are important to your industry and interact with them through their social media. Instead of posting everywhere just to get your name out, focus on bringing value to the conversation – you’ll gain more respect.
3. DO write original content. It’s a violation of copyright law to lift someone else’s material directly off the Internet and pass it off as your own. You will be caught! Remember that you are a leading authority in your field and people want to hear YOUR thoughts and opinions.
4. DO monitor your efforts. As with all marketing efforts, it’s important to know what results you’re getting. You can use one of the social media monitoring tools to find out what people are saying about you and whether the time you spend on social media is leading to increased business. The tools also help you stay engaged in the conversations that matter most to you. Businesses that stay on top of the buzz about their company can respond quickly when they need to.
5. DO stay current. Social media is constantly changing. Tools that are popular today may be considered ancient tomorrow. Follow the trends. Know what’s available but don’t jump on every bandwagon just because you can. Know which tools help your business make the biggest impact.
1. DON’T lie. Social media is based on trust, and trust must be earned. Shady tactics can backfire and create huge negative publicity. Don’t say things about yourself or your competitors that are untrue, and don’t create aliases to post comments to artificially boost your reputation.
2. DON’T spam. Many social media applications require people to subscribe in order to receive your messages, but that doesn’t give you a license to flood their inbox. When you overrun the application with your messages, you risk alienating your fans and they will turn you off.
3. DON’T overdo your presence. Sure, you want your company’s name spread around as much as possible. However, it’s best to stick to a few core social media applications. When you attempt to post in too many places, it becomes overwhelming and you’ll end up posting exactly the same content everywhere. That’s likely to annoy your readers. Or you’ll run out of worthwhile things to say.
4. DON’T be a pest. Everyone wants the biggest and most important people to be their fan or friend. However, if they haven’t responded to your request, don’t keep resending it in case it got "lost in the mail". At best, they might continue to ignore you, at worst you may have annoyed them enough that they call you out on it publicly.
5. DON’T connect with just anyone. When you want to build authentic relationships, be wary about connecting with strangers whose only goal is to sell you something. They are unlikely to add anything to your relationships. Ideally you want your fans to be people who are genuinely interested in what you have to say and offer, and who will respond to and interact with you.
There you have it: simple ways to make sure that your social media spreads the word about your business in a way that creates a positive impression and gets you noticed. For a comparison of various major social networking applications and ways in which you can leverage them for your business, check out this guide to the social landscape.