When you consider all of the possible social media channels and the millions of participants on them, it may seem ironic that we're talking about one-to-one marketing and social media success in the same breath. For some business consultants, the world of social media feels like vast, amorphous territory. Yet for many business consultants, it's a great vehicle for creating awareness, fostering genuine connections with existing customers, and attracting new customers.
The difference between getting lost among the masses and achieving social media success is determined by your ability to engage your audience in authentic and meaningful ways.
Sure, there are lots of different examples and recommendations on how to do this. Yet many of them reflect the experiences of an individual business. While there isn't a "one size fits all" approach to success in social media, the following 10 best practices have proven to consistently deliver results for businesses of all types and sizes.
1. Have goals. When you define your goals, you're more likely to achieve them.
But they shouldn't be so lofty that they're not attainable, or so easy to reach that they don't deliver tangible results. Set realistic milestones such as adding a certain number of new fans and followers within the next month, improving your SEO results, or initiating a certain number of quality conversations each week and then build on those successes by raising the bar each quarter.
2. Be consistent. Your social media posts, profile and personality should consistently reflect who you are, the type of business you're in, and the interests of the audience you're trying to attract.
3. Be where your customers are. Instead of spreading yourself too thin across multiple networks, identify the top two online destinations where your customers and prospects are most active and immerse yourself on those sites.
4.Let your customers know where to find you online. Include your social media information on your website, business card, blog, email signature, newsletter, and any other way you communicate with them. And when it's appropriate, slip it into your face-to-face conversations.
5.Join existing conversations and initiate new ones. Listen and comment where it makes sense without sounding like a commercial for your business. You can also use the nuggets found in the social media stream as a launching point for a new discussion or you can simply start a fresh conversation with an interesting fact, provocative question or news item.
6.Be relevant. When your fans and followers read your posts, they should walk away with the following three thoughts. They learned something new, the information is interesting and/or helps them in some way, and it's specific to their company's expertise.
7.Be engaging. To really make an impression, be sure that your posts offer tips and insight that aren't widely known and that also further the conversation. Remember, engagement is about dialogues, not monologues.
8.Be active. You already know better than to post just for the sake of posting. The trick is to strike the balance between being active enough to stay top of mind but not too active that you risk alienating your audience due to an overzealous approach to sharing information. To determine the right amount of activity for your business, take your cues from your audience in terms of their levels of interaction.
Along these lines, one common question is whether it's appropriate to resend the same message. When it comes to Facebook and Twitter, you can post the same information, worded differently, twice per day because the speed of the feeds and activity on these sites may bury your message. However, when it comes to LinkedIn, one post on a particular topic is enough.
9.Be responsive. Whether you've just picked up a new follower, received glowing feedback, or are the subject of a public flogging, be sure to respond promptly and professionally to each message. Send a genuine thank you, not an automated one, to your new followers. Recognize and appreciate the satisfied customer and ask the unhappy one how you can clear up the misunderstanding offline.
10. Give credit where it's due. You'll endear yourself to your audience when you share news articles, blog posts and other relevant content and cite the source of the information. After all, sharing leads to more conversations, which creates more opportunities to engage.
If you follow these 10 best practices, you'll further hone your ability to tune into the needs and interests of your audience. This, in turn, will help you successfully build awareness for your business and grow your customer base.