Whether your company sells cookies, widgets, or consulting sessions, social media can be a force--and it's not as hard as you think.
I am still amazed at the number of companies that use social media badly (or ignore it altogether). The rules of social media are simple, and if you ignore it you the risk the fate that befell those who ignored the telephone in the late 19th century and the Internet at the end of the 20th.
If you're just getting started, you're late--but you can still catch up. And I'm not just talking about trendy, consumer-facing companies. A study published in February by the CEB's Marketing Leadership Council reported that 57 percent of B-to-B buyers research your company on their own online before they pick up the phone or email you for a sales pitch or more information. This stark reality makes it more important that you embrace social media--now.
Here are some simple tips I have learned as I have worked to master social media for my different enterprises:
This is huge. Don't be afraid: jump in. Yes, your first posts will be awkward, but you have to start somewhere.
2. It Takes Time
Many business owners I meet who are new to social media get frustrated with it too quickly. Building an authentic and engaged audience takes time. Don't allow yourself to get snowed under by frustration--think of it as you would building any part of your business. Being patient is important to the success of this effort.
3. Don't Try to Do Everything
Find the channel that feels the most natural and focus on it. I love Twitter and use it all the time. The short bursts and speed of information fit my style. I am a casual visitor to other social media channels and will often share what I learn in those avenues back to my first love, Twitter.
4. Be Helpful
Share content or information that you find helpful. If you are reading an article on a site or attending a conference and you find a piece of content compelling, others will too.
5. Don't Focus on Feedback
Don't be worried about getting responses. I am always amazed when I run into people who regularly read my updates and find them useful, but never respond to me.
6. Share Something Personal
Especially if you are tweeting from your own account. I often tweet about the funny things my daughter says and does--she's affectionately known as "Teen" to my followers. These updates let others know that there is a person behind my account.
7. Avoid Social Media Blindness
As a business owner, only tweet things you have read. Resist the temptation to set up a feed that tweets everything related to a topic or an interest. Not only can this be very annoying to your followers, it lessens your credibility. It's embarrassing when someone asks you about your opinion on something you shared and you have no idea what they're talking about.
8. Ask for Advice
A secret tip that has worked for me is both asking for advice from others and intentionally looking to answer questions posed across social media. This is a great way to learn about a topic and start a dialogue with someone new.
9. Say Thank You
It's true in life and it's true on Twitter: If someone takes the time to retweet something you post--certainly if they take the time to make a specific comment--a simple thank you back goes a long way.
10. Pay Attention
It's about lasting connections: If someone you follow posts something that interests you or moves you, be sure to reach out.
11. Encourage Sharing
Especially when you use Twitter, leave room for other people's comments. You think 120 characters is tough? Well, the ideal tweet is 120 character or fewer. Simply using the words "share this" have proven to be a strong call to action.
12. It's About All of You
Nobody likes spam. When users decide whether to follow you, most evaluate the totality of your social media account. They will look at your last page or so of updates. They want to see that you are interesting, engaged, and that what you share is useful.
ERIC V. HOLTZCLAW, author of Laddering, is CEO and founder of Laddering Works, a marketing and product strategy firm. Holtzclaw’s weekly radio show, The "Better You" Project, shines a spotlight on entrepreneurs’ business journey. about.me/eholtzclaw @eholtzclaw