Social networking has gained tremendous acceptance worldwide. Businesses have come to see the value social media channels offer in targeted marketing and customer engagement.
The ability to rub virtual elbows with millions of consumers and businesses via Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and others offers the opportunity to build brands and customer loyalty.
How do you make these social networks work for you? Do you go on a no-holds-barred recruiting binge and lure everyone you can to connect with you? Should you offer free tickets to sports events or other valuable freebies to attract followers?
Or should you simply document your every little activity in hopes that people will find your life so fascinating they’ll want to know even more about you? Umm, no.
Sure you can use these types of methods, and they’ll give you a short-term boost in friends or followers, but that’s really not going to help you reach your goal. You want to establish true connections with people, because that’s how you’ll get business referrals and bolster your professional and corporate image.
The best way to look upon social networking is to think of it like traditional networking, except you’re doing it via the internet instead of in person. If you’ve ever belonged to the local Rotary group or other professional club, you know how that worked.
You’d meet with the other members regularly, shake their hands, get to know about their families and their work, and make small talk when you got together. Then, once you realized they were “good guys,” you’d send them possible referrals, and they’d do the same for you. Right?
Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook and other social media can be handled much the same way as socializing in person, except that you shake hands virtually and make small talk using the internet.
You still must establish a connection with people. You need to let them get to know you. Once they know you, they’ll like you. Once they like you, they’ll trust you. Once they trust you, they’ll bring you their business and refer their friends. See how easy that is?
So, here’s what to do. Find out who the gurus in your industry are (or in another industry if that’s easier). Then friend or follow them on several social networks.
Watch how they’re getting their name out there. Look at the information they’re placing online. Read their articles, social media posts and blog and see how they’re providing value to their readers. And take note of reader reactions. Which posts get the most likes and comments? Which ones generate negative feedback?
Once you understand how others are “working it,” then you can develop a strategy that works for you. Slowly jump into the mix and try things on your own. Join in the fun.
Contribute to conversations (in writing). Make the effort to get to know others. And contribute your knowledge and assistance when possible.
You can’t be just a bystander or simply set up a profile. That would be like joining the Rotary organization and not attending the meetings or attending the meetings but not actively participating in any way.
You also can’t simply repost content that others have created. In order for people to get to know you, you have to post about the things that are important to you. Original content–whether it’s in tweets, photos, videos or written posts–gives others insight into who you are.
Most important, be interesting. Nobody wants to read mundane posts. Your posts need to entertain or inform to garner attention. Even better, incorporate photos and videos. You can’t expect to cultivate a following with posts about your cup of coffee, elevator ride or commute. Be funny. Be unpredictable. Be passionate.
Once you register with a social network, begin by connecting with other people in your fields. Join online groups that relate to your field and then contribute relevant information and opinions.
Add to online discussions. Update your status or Tweets and let people know what exciting projects you’re working on.
Most of all, you should provide value. Write and post articles online that can help others. If you have a blog or e-newsletter, use it to cross promote between your social networks and to let people know more about you.
Need ideas of what to write on your social media sites? Consider some of the suggestions in the infographic below to get you started.
Until now, we’ve mainly been talking about personal profiles on social media. But you can keep personal and business separate if you like. Create a business profile that stays focused on subjects relevant to your business.
Put out quality information that positions you as the expert, the go-to person for all things related to your business, whether that’s insurance, graphic design, architecture or gardening.
For example, if you’re an accountant, set up a profile for your accounting business. On that page, you can post helpful tips about tax issues and risk management. Talk about financial planning and changes in tax laws that could impact your followers. Post links to your blog posts. And occasionally, promote special pricing or opportunities that your company is offering.
Another example. Let’s say you’re a hair dresser. On your business site, post photos of your customers when they come in for new do’s (with their permission, of course). It’s a great way to show off your talents. You can also promote discounts for new customers to build your business. Or a special rate in December for Christmas cuts.
Consider placing ads on social media to drive traffic to your business profile. Because you can precisely identify your demographic markets on sites like Facebook, your campaigns can have a significant ROI.
Be sure to read up on advertising targeting for Facebook or whichever social media site you plan to use before reaching for your credit card and spending advertising money. You want to make sure you have a firm understanding of how ads work on that platform so you can be cost efficient.
Social networking is here to stay. No one can deny that. Sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram have become wildly popular for individuals and businesses. If you’re not participating, you’re losing potential customers that are going to your competitors.
Marketing via social networking is critical to success these day. Watch how others are doing it and then get involved on your own. So go sign up on Facebook. Compose your first tweet. Create your LinkedIn profile. Post your photos on Instagram. The more effort you put into social networking, the faster and more substantial will be the returns.
If social media marketing isn’t the best use of your own time, consider hiring a freelance copywriter to post regularly to your social media accounts.
Susan Greene is a professional copywriter in Orlando, Florida. She writes websites, blogs, brochures and other marketing materials for clients located throughout the world. Susan uses social media to interact and engage with prospects and encourages her clients to do the same.