Richard Branson recently said, “Social media is such a terrific way to connect with our customers that I would never miss out.” (source) As a guy who boasts over 2 million Twitter followers, I think he is doing something right. While our businesses may never reach the size of Richard Branson’s, we too can leverage social media to grow our businesses and deepen our connection to our customers.
Many businesses have a hard time deciding where to spend their social efforts. They sign up for every social network under the sun and try to manage them all. Take some time to do a social audit to see where your customers and target demographic are most active. Rather than spreading your social efforts thin, choose 1 or 2 networks where you see the most activity from your target demographic and get involved. You can always expand your social efforts as your business grows. Here are some social networks to explore:
Facebook – where the social relationship revolution started. Wide variety of posting options and functionality.
Twitter – share short bytes of content. Also works well as a customer service channel.
LinkedIn – excellent source for professionals and B2B businesses.
FourSquare – perfect for those with a storefront or restaurant.
Pinterest – businesses with lots of visuals could benefit from joining the millions now ‘pinning.’
Others: StumbleUpon, Digg, Reddit, Google+
Businesses often forget to take time to ‘listen’ to the conversations in the social realm. They spin their wheels by posting content that isn’t relevant and isn’t needed. Here are a couple of ways to cultivate your social listening skills:
Use Twitter to do a few searches with keywords in your industry. What are people saying? What information are they looking for? Use your results to generate content and respond with truly usable information.
Invite feedback and input on your Facebook posts. Respond promptly and graciously to those who participate in the conversation. Use their responses to help determine the type of content you should be posting.
Make use of a tool such as HootSuite to stay tuned in to your brand. Find opportunities to give above-any-beyond customer service, insert helpful information about your company into a relevant conversation or stave off angry customers with kind responses.
Lose the Tie
Elura Nanos of Lawyer up says, “When businesses use social media, they're often... well, too businessy. When FBing or Tweeting personally, people are funny, witty, smooth-talking, and eye-catching.” (source) Elura makes some worthwhile points. One of the most common errors businesses make in their social media efforts is neglecting the social aspect of social media. Here are some ideas to thinking socially:
Host a brainstorming session to determine the personality of your brand. Use the persona your come up with to feed your social tone of voice.
Include images with your posts whenever you can. Images can make your posts more appealing and make you appear more approachable. Create your own images using a tool such as Instagram when you are at events or tradeshows.
Practice responding to comments as if you are having a conversation. Show your understanding and kindness with your words.
Businesses that separate themselves from the pack are those who generate good, relevant, applicable content. Creating content that speaks value to your industry will begin to define your business as a thought leader in your space. Content creation is hard, but it’s not as hard as we often make it out to be. Here are some ways to start cultivating worthwhile content:
Follow thought leaders to see what trends they are noticing and what questions they are answering.
Start by writing content in small bytes. A sentence or two here, a paragraph there. When you have a free hour, expand on your thoughts. When you have a bank of content built up, start a company blog.
Utilize your data. Businesses often overlook the data sitting right in front of them. Ask questions such as: What does our data tell us about our industry? How does what we know separate us from our competitors?
Give yourself a little break on grammar. Blogging has loosened the ties that once bound us to English 101. While grammar and clear communication is still important, the lines have softened. Write in your personality and tone of voice. Your customers will appreciate the authenticity.
Give and Give and Don’t Give Up
Social media is way more about give than about take. Turn your business into a business who gives with some of these ideas:
Give your content freely.
Share your praises on posts that got it right.
Recognize and share other people’s successes and accomplishments, not just your own.
Give yourself a break if you don’t get it all figured our right away.
And most importantly, don’t give up.
Leveraging social media takes time and consistent effort, but the rewards down the road will be well worth the wait. Social media is not the future, it is the now. Businesses who step in to harness that power will find themselves ahead of the game as the social world continues to grow.