Everyone is talking about social media, but what is the purpose of investing time in these efforts from a business perspective?
There are several reasons why it makes sense to invest time on-line. Here are three major ones:
- Learn what customers are saying about your products and services
- Make relationships with people you want to be your new customers
- Allow your current customers to fill your sales pipeline based on their advocacy of you
Unfortunately, many people jump into using social media without focusing on these reasons, and end up being the equivalent of a self-absorbed insurance salesperson at a cocktail party – they can start a conversation, but rarely does anyone stick around long enough to hear the ending.
Here are five tips to help you become the most interesting person in the room, combined with five tips on what to avoid saying if you want to be successful in this domain.
Do say something of value. Don’t spend all your time talking about yourself.
This seems easy enough on the surface, but the most common question that I get asked is: what should I say? On Facebook and Twitter, start off by talking about lifestyle choices that would be popular with your customers. So, if you own a pet store, talk about parks where pets can visit off-leash or how to travel with a pet. The worst mistake to make is to just send out message after message about your product or service, without creating a dialogue with other people.
Do listen to others. Don’t act like social media isn’t worth it.
Good social media is listening to what others are saying. Do a Google search on your business name, your industry, your competitors and see what comes to the top. Read the reviews for your business and your competitors on Yelp.
Even if you aren’t ready to jump in and start creating web content, it is a grave mistake to ignore the online community and what they are talking about – because they will talk. You will be in a better position to respond to your customers by spending a small amount of time listening to what they are saying.
Do invest more time talking to a few people. Don’t jump into social media without thinking about your audience and where they can be found.Another question that I am frequently asked is, ‘What’s the ROI on social media?” In my world, we call it Return on Ignoring. That being said, some of the measures that people do track include numbers: how many friends they have for their Facebook Fan Page or how many followers they have on Twitter. When I sit down with a client, I disregard these measures because they mean nothing unless those followers are part of the target demographic and are helping the client to achieve a certain goal.
Usually, if you are a business to business operation, you should be spending your time cultivating contacts on LinkedIn and creating videos and blog posts for a very specific audience. For example, if you sell biotech equipment, you want to have video interviews with the scientists using your products. Likewise, don’t be afraid to write blog posts that are probably far too complex for the average reader – your audience will understand them. Use LinkedIn to build connections with hospital and research facility decision makers on LinkedIn. Your target market may only be several hundred people, but social media can help you connect effectively with them.
Do help promote, support and connect people. Don’t ignore your friends.
If you do something good for someone – they will remember you for that and repay your good deed. You can retweet their information, share it on Facebook and also create partnerships with them when appropriate.
Offering your own free information is critical to creating a loyal following. You can write articles for your blog, create videos or link people to cool things happening in your town. Look at every activity as a potential piece of content.
Do respond to promotion. Don’t keep doing what you have always done and think it will be enough.
Author and businessman Seth Godin talks about taking the traditional sales funnel and turning it on it’s side – so that it becomes a megaphone. You create systems on-line so that your happy customers can tell other people about their experiences and turn your future cold calls into warm calls.
One way to get them writing about you is to offer incentives for customers to write a review on Yelp, LinkedIn or Facebook. Ask people to comment or post photos on your website and Facebook Fan Page. Another way is to hold a contest – everyone loves to compete against others.
The main point is that you don’t have the option to ignore social media. Fifteen years ago, very few businesses had a web page – and now almost all of them have some sort of web presence. According to a recent University of Maryland study, social media adoption by small businesses has doubled from 12% to 24% in the last year. The next generation relies heavily on their phones for information – so digital content will be critical to being found by your future customers.