Social Media Do’s n’ Don’ts
By Renee Quinn
Social media has become the fastest growing online phenomenon. Millions have flocked to Facebook and LinkedIn and Twitter. Businesses of all sizes, entrepreneurs and individual inventors from nearly every industry have chimed in.
But as with any business strategy, all of your time money and energy are wasted if you don’t know what you should do and what mistakes you should avoid to get the most out of your online efforts.
DO Listen to What Others Are Saying About You
Search the Internet for reviews of you, your business, products and services and see what others are saying. When you find comments, good or bad, respond right away and maintain professionalism. Send personal messages to the person who posted the comment if you can. Otherwise, leave a brief post addressing their concerns and include your contact information. If you see a consistent pattern, address those concerns on your profile so that all current and prospective clients can see that you that you are listening and are taking them seriously.
DO Build Your Brand
Simply having a profile on, say, LinkedIn, is not going to bring people to you. Think of your social media profiles as a way of inventing your brand. You are your brand so you have to always be thinking, “What do I want people to think of when they hear my name, see my logo and products or think of me?” When you create your profile you need to make sure it consistently reflects the brand you want to portray.
DO Know Who Your Target Audience Is
If you don’t know who your target audience is, how can you know how to tailor your marketing strategy? There are so many sites, applications, tools and avenues that your target may or may not be using. Not knowing whom you are trying to reach can result in wasted resources including time, money and energy.
DO Engage Your Contacts
Social media is about building relationships. Send personal messages to those you have connected. Connecting with someone on a personal level is the best way to “break the ice” and bring down barriers. Set your notifications to receive social media messages in your email inbox. As people respond to your inquiries, or seek you out, you can reply right away. Because customer loyalty is fickle, people always respond best to those who reply quickly to inquiries.
DO Promote your Social Media Profiles
One of my favorite ways to promote my social media accounts is through the “signature” that attaches at the end of all of my personal and professional emails. It gives people I communicate with the opportunity to learn more about me.
As my emails are forwarded to others, my signature usually goes along with it. If you have a website or blog, include icons with links to your profiles for each social media account you use and consider including your profile URLs in all of your printed business materials when you need new business cards or other promotional materials.
People often pass this information to others they think may be interested, putting me in front of a new audience.
DON’T Be Inactive
The biggest mistake made with social media is inactivity. You cannot build it and forget it. Infrequent updates and allowing your efforts to stagnate will result in few followers, fans and friends. Updates, new photos, new statuses, and other new information is what keeps readers coming back. Don’t build more profiles than you can monitor. Consistency is key to social media success.
DON’T Fail to Plan
The biggest social media myth is, “If you build it, they will come.” You have to have a plan; knowing who your target audience is, setting goals and knowing what you want to accomplish. Do your research. Where can you reach your target audience, what do they already know about you, and what are they already saying about your brand? Plan your campaign around the answers to these questions.
DON’T Post Boring, Unhelpful Content
Post informative, well thought out, solution-based and relevant information. Weak, unhelpful, boring content is a sure way to turn off your readers. Consumers search the Internet for solutions. Give them what they are looking for by becoming a useful resource for them. Use key terms in your posts to make it easier for them to find you in their searches.
DON’T Spam or Try to Hard Sell
One of the quickest ways to turn off current and potential contacts is to inundate their inboxes with spam and hard sales pitches. As easily as consumers can let you into their profiles, they can just as easily kick you out, block you and add you to their spam folder. Unsolicited advertising emails, particularly auto generated ones, are usually just deleted. One of the goals of social media is to promote your business, products and services. Although it is a necessary evil to provide incentives for people to come to you, if the only thing you do is toot your own horn you are making a huge mistake.
DON’T Give Up Too Soon
Social media is not something that works on its own. I liken it to a garden. You can’t just plant seeds and expect them to grow, unless you are playing Farmville. You have to cultivate your garden; prepare the ground by plowing, dig holes, plant the seeds, fertilize and water everyday.
In social media, you need to do your research (plow) to see where you are most likely to reach your target audience, sign up for your accounts (dig holes), build your profile (plant seeds), personalize your profiles and tie them to your existing website/blog (fertilize).
The most important step then is to post new and relevant content consistently (watering the garden). Finally as with a garden, once you make your connection (harvest) you need to engage your contacts, (plant new seeds) to keep it growing.
Like a garden, social media requires dedication. When given the attention it needs, it will grow, resulting in harvestable relationships with your connections.
But it will take time and giving up too soon could result in lost business opportunities. Again, what you put into it is what you will get out of it.
Social media is a relationship-building tool and like most tools, if you do not use them properly, you will get little benefit out of it.
Editor’s note: This article appears in the April 2011 print edition.
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