As you've probably already figured out by now, ignoring social media sites won't make them go away. Facebook alone now boasts more than 500 million members, with Twitter and LinkedIn catching up very quickly. The men and women who log onto them – often daily – aren't just looking to chat with friends and see photos from summer vacations. They are also checking up on potential vendors, asking for product recommendations, and otherwise using them like search engines that can help them decide what and where to buy.
And if your company isn't participating, then it's probably already costing you a lot of money in the form of sales you will never see.
With that in mind, one of the things we like to remind business owners of is the need to actively play the game; you can't afford to ignore these sites, and the potential customers they represent. But as strong as those reasons, and the numbers behind them, actually are, there is actually one thing that's much worse than neglecting to try social media marketing in the first place: only giving it half an effort.
You can always tell the companies and owners who are phoning it in when it comes to social media. They have half-completed profiles, make posts that have all the spice and appeal of soggy bread, and use every available opportunity to bring the conversation back around to what they sell.
You don't want to be one of those people, and your customers don't want you to be one, either. To really make your mark on Twitter and Facebook, you need to create custom pages that reinforce your company's brand and personality.
Post consistently, but not for the sake of posting consistently. Yes, it's important to update your social profiles on a regular basis, but don't use that as an excuse to post something just for the sake of posting it. Take the extra time and creativity to find something that interests you and your customers. Otherwise, you are only wasting everyone's time.
Show off a bit of personality now and then. Not everything has to be about your company or industry. Mention your pets, your kids, or how that marathon training is going. Anything that makes you seem like more of a person and less of a faceless organization can only help your customer relationships.
Ask yourself the one key question that matters most. Following the golden rule of social media marketing is a simple as asking yourself, "Would I take the time to look at this?" If you would, then what you’ve written has value; if you wouldn't, then go back to the drawing board and start over again.
Work to develop friends and contacts first, customers second. For most parts of your online marketing plan, few things are as important as the metrics. Study the numbers closely enough, and you can be sure the new business will start flowing in. Social media marketing is a little bit different; while you can monitor how many friends or followers you have, what really matters is attention, not web traffic. Do what you can to be interesting and engaging, and you can be sure that the bottom-line business results will catch up later.
Thomas J. Holzkopf
Certified Internet & Digital Marketing Consultant