Understanding how to use social media to market your business can be complicated. There are loads of new tools and platforms coming online every day, and just when you think you have understood how to effectively use that one tool to market and promote your business, you find another one gaining prominence and popularity. I’ve heard a lot of reasons which offer compelling explanations as to why business owners don’t want to get involved, ranging from: “I just don’t have the time or the inclination to figure out how this whole online marketing thing works” to ‘’social media marketing doesn’t work for me, so it just isn’t for me’’. Other business owners blame the tool/platform; “when I write a new blog article, nothing seems to change much” or ‘’I don’t seem to get any new likes or comments on any of my Facebook posts, so why bother?”
Social media marketing – the people
Before businesses started marketing online, they really got to know their customers. They talked and networked with their customers so well that they could engage them at a personal level, asking them about their holidays or how their children were doing. They answered the customers’ questions and resolved their customers’ problems – they related to their customers and listened. If a customer complained, the business owner would have taken steps to try and resolve the situation so that the customer went away happy and would be willing to stay loyal to the business and return for subsequent visits and/or purchases. This also helped reduce the likelihood of the customer escalating their concerns to a more public arena.
These days I am surprised at the number of businesses (small, medium and even large organizations) who start out contributing to their social media accounts with great enthusiasm but then after a short while either drastically scale back their efforts or even abandon their social media accounts entirely, which may even have a more negative impact than if they hadn’t started in the first place. Did they give up because they weren’t using the right social media platform or because they didn’t tweet or publish their messages the right number of times or at the right time of day? Did they feel like they had difficulty tapping into their target market? Maybe they believed that their chosen social media marketing tool was so new that they thought their customers were not ready to engage with them using that method of advertising. I know that it all comes down to the basics of marketing regardless of which social media tool or platform you use to communicate with your customers.
Social media marketing – the rules
Using social media marketing strategies in your business can be as simple as relating to your customer – it’s just a case of using a different set of tools to help you reach the same goal – connecting online rather than face-to-face.
Business owners who were the early adopters in using social media marketing to build their business brand and awareness did not study and follow any of the rules or watched the trends closely or used any of the popular hashtags. They just started, jumped into the conversation, shared their thoughts, listened to their customers’ thoughts or read their messages, and sometimes responded. They didn’t know what time of day was the best time of day to tweet, they didn’t understand the 80/20 rule (i.e. write 80% of your own content and share 20% of others’ content) curating and timing the publishing of their content.
Business owners who begin to use social media to market their business can very quickly become mired in the number of rules they need to understand and can quickly find the process time consuming, complicated and confusing: trying to figure out the ‘optimal’ time to post on Facebook or tweet on Twitter; how to use hashtags ‘correctly’; how to have their content rank ‘higher’ and found ‘more easily’; how to get the ‘right’ tone in their content; how to write their posts with the ‘optimal’ word count; or the importance of choosing the ‘right’ size of image and ‘correct’ frequency for publishing status updates.
So many rules to understand and consistently apply (Phew!) that you may end up forgetting the foundational rule when marketing using social media: that is, the social aspect. You are still marketing to people, remember?
Social media marketing – the approach
There is an art, a hidden knack to social media marketing, and it’s not all that complicated. Think about how you relate to others face-to-face and use the same principles. If you use your natural, authentic voice online, it will resonate and attract the right people online as it will offline. Be authentic, transparent and honest and people will come to trust and respect that level of integrity when they think about and see your business brand. There are of course many social media marketing rules and best practice guidelines specific to your chosen platform that are there to guide you on when and how to publish – but don’t get too caught up with following everyone.
One of the simplest rules is a simple, yet practical rule: be good! You need to ‘be’ good in order to run a good company delivering a good product/service. Everything that you say or do and publish online is a reflection of you and your business. If you’re helpful, personable and thoughtful you will receive the same smiles, handshakes and messages of support as if you were sharing a cup of coffee together.
If your product is a little questionable or your service unreliable, then regardless of how widely you use social media and follow the rules, you still won’t be able to shake off that reputation. But if you consistently offer and provide real value, you will be recognized, recommended, receive referrals, and gain appreciation, and positive mentions online.
Over time, you will learn the nuances and tools for using the various online tools and platforms to enhance your businesses marketing value. Give your social media marketing strategies another go – even if you’ve already jumped in and come off feeling disappointed by the lack of response, for now, forget about what you’re supposed to know and all the rules you were supposed to be following and work on being good. You’ll learn the basic tactics as you need them. Through trial and error (or a check of your website statistics), you’ll find out whether it is best to post in the morning or mid-afternoon. You’ll start to see that it is not simply mastery of the technical nuances of using the tool that brings about success, but it is in being human, connecting, resonating with people and simply doing business with people that is important – and that is what will grow your business.