We all know how crucial social media is to get ahead in today’s market. Many of us also know how overwhelming and time-consuming it can be.
There’s a reason why a lot of small businesses haven’t jumped on the bandwagon. They may feel as though they don’t have enough resources to dedicate to social media efforts; or perhaps they just don’t know where to begin.
The truth of the matter is that yes, it can be a challenge to give the public an accurate portrayal of your brand.
But if you learn how to do it, and do it right, you’ll gain advocates and evangelists who will start doing the work for you (so to speak). Here are 10 rules of engagement to get your started:
1. Have a Purpose
Like most of our endeavors, using social media should be purposeful. Don’t just start a Twitter account or throw up a Facebook page and be aimless. If you’re going to invest time into it, you should do a little research to do it right.
Find out what your fans want to see, how you can create more value in your brand. While actually being on various online networking platforms is free, your time isn’t.
This ties in with number one. In order to meet your goals and satisfy your purpose, you need to have some guidelines. Develop a list of the types of posts or tweets that you want representing your company, and convey it to your staff. This is especially important if you have one or more individuals monitoring and participating in the social space.
3. Avoid the Sales Pitch
There is a very fine line between selling to people and Selling to people. Confused? Well, you’re not alone. While your fans may want to learn more about your services or products, keep in mind that they don’t want you to sell to them.
Be subtle and creative with your tweets, posts, pins, etc. Think about how you would react to a post if you were on the other side of the fence. If there’s an ounce of doubt that you might turn off some potential customers, think of another strategy.
Keep in mind that it takes a lot of effort to build your brand in the social space. Be aware of your target audience and how you should reach them. Find out what they like, and what will make them like you. Find out when your audience is most likely to see your posts and tweets. Don’t just put something up for the hell of it. Be strategic.
5. Integrate Your Marketing Efforts
I will assume that if you are marketing online, you’re also marketing (in some capacity) offline. So why not integrate your efforts into a cohesive strategy? This way you develop a synergy between the two.
No matter how you’re marketing, make sure that your online strategy doesn’t portray a very different picture of you than your offline strategy does. Avoid duplicate personalities; the last thing you want to do is confuse people about your brand.
Social media is like technology, constantly transforming. If you don’t keep up, you’ll probably be missing out on something crucial you can use to build your brand. I’m constantly reading articles online about how to best utilize the various social platforms for different industries.
Even though I manage small business’ social campaigns, I will never call myself an expert. I am constantly learning and evolving with online marketing. You should be too if you want to use it efficiently.
7. Monitor, Monitor, Monitor
Clearly this can’t be stressed enough. Always listen first. Find out what people are saying about you. I highly recommend setting up a Google Alert. You can customize it to either send you alerts immediately as those little Google spiders come across them, once a day, once a week, etc.
I have clients with set out for once a day, while I’m alerted immediately for others. How time-sensitive is your product or service? Do you need to know what is being said about you immediately, or can you respond at the end (or beginning) of the day?
Google Alert is just one form of notification; there are many smart analytics applications, such as Sprout Social, that you can utilize to be even more specific with your keywords for Facebook, Twitter, and any of the other profiles you have it searching.
…but don’t overreact. Not everything is a crisis. Yes, information has the potential to go viral in an instant, but don’t let that freak you out, just be aware of the possibility.
If someone writes a negative review or tweets a negative comment about you, address it, but don’t be emotional about it. Set up a plan ahead of time and relay it to your staff so that you’re all on the same page.
For instance, have a rule that with every negative review, you’ll offer an incentive for the reviewer to come back and give you another chance. Remember to address the comment online, but take the conversation offline.
Give the disgruntled individual your email address so you can handle it in a private setting. Remember, you can’t please everyone, but you can try. Use social to do it.
9. Be Social
Before you hit the ground running, take some time to familiarize yourself with the networking platforms you’ll be using for your business. You obviously don’t want to set up Foursquare specials if you’ve never checked in any where. Be completely knowledgable and comfortable within the social space before you get your business involved.
There are plenty of agencies that will help you if you don’t want to (or have time to) put effort into social media. Find out their philosophy and where you might have an intersection of interests before committing to them.
If you’re a small business, you may want to talk with a small agency; in many cases they can offer a more customized plan to fit your financial situation.
Do you have any more tips to share? Tell us below!