Many businesses struggle with social media because they try to apply the rules of Internet marketing to social media marketing but the truth is that social media resembles a cocktail party or the town square much more than it resembles Web 1.0.
So the way to be successful with social media is to embrace the simple but tried and true rules of relationship and word-of-mouth marketing. After working with hundreds of companies over the past six years, I can tell you that these five rules can help generate effective social media marketing for your business organization.
1. Listen First and Never Stop Listening
For years, listening at scale was impossible. Now social media allows you to listen at scale to your customers, to your prospects, to your staff, even to your competitors. So listen before you join the conversation. Use Twitter’s search function to search keywords that describes your business. If you’re a lawyer, for example, you can search “need a lawyer.” You can literally listen to the people that are asking for your help.
Until social media, marketers and business owners didn’t spend 50% of their resources in communication and listening. They spent 5% or 10% at most listening. They did focus groups, they did surveying, and they did market research. But now with social media you have a 24/7, 365-day focus group to listen to.
2. Tell Don’t Sell
Storytelling has always been a key asset for businesses. But before social media, there were only two ways to tell stories at scale. The first was to hire an expensive PR agency to tell your story to the media and the second was to spend a lot of money on advertising. Those tools were and are time-consuming and expensive and also hit or miss. With social media you can tell your story with a picture, a thirty second video shot with an iPhone, or a “tweet.”
If your story doesn’t resonate, you can tell a different story tomorrow or the next hour. Unlike traditional media storytelling, there is little to no barrier to entry in social media storytelling and little to no penalty for telling a story that doesn’t hit.
What story should you tell? There is an endless list. Tell the story of how you were founded. Tell the story of a customer that has overcome an obstacle thanks to you. Tell the story of a staff member that has grown with you over time. Tell the story of a charitable partnership that you have or acts of service in the community that your team does.
3. Be Authentic and Transparent
This is the hardest rule for older generations to appreciate but the reality is that in the social media age there are few if any secrets anymore. The more open and transparent you are, the more people will trust you. And the more people trust you, the more they’ll want to do business with you. The more authentic you are--showing your true self, your personality, and even your mistakes and vulnerabilities--the more people will be drawn to you.
4. Respond to Everybody
The four most important words in social media are “Thank You” and “I’m Sorry.” Everyone knows companies make mistakes. But the problem isn’t when businesses make the mistakes, it is when they don’t take responsibility. Be prepared if and when customers complain about you on social media. Embrace it, say sorry and fix the problem. When you do that, you not only solve one customer’s problem, you tell the world that’s watching that you’re the kind of organization that cares about customers. Online customer service quickly becomes marketing if you are responsive.
On the other hand, saying “Thank You” is even more valuable when customers have something nice to say. If somebody commented on your business and product in person, you thank them. You might even give them a hug or a coupon. So don’t ignore people that have nice things to say. Instead, say thank you in your own authentic voice and think about how you can reward those customers.
5. Be Valuable
People aren’t interested in your business; they’re interested in helping solve their own problems. They’re interested in their days being made a little brighter. So think about how you can provide value to your audience. Are you educating them? Are you entertaining them? Are you making them smile or laugh? Establish yourself as a thought leader in whatever you do by giving away lots of valuable articles, insights and tips. When people have a need for you, they’ll know you’re the expert and come to you.
As told to Matthew Wong.