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Your 4 Biggest Social Media Questions--Answered

At the Inc. 5000 conference, business owners got a chance to ask a panel of experts anything they wanted to know about social media. Here's what they learned.
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"Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing."

Those words pretty much sum up everything you need to know about using social media well, "Twitter for Dummies" author Laura Fitton told the crowd at the Inc. 5000 conference in Washington, D.C. And they come from the greatest social media strategist who ever lived--Benjamin Franklin.

"People think, 'It's this brand new thing. My brain is exploding,'" Fitton, who's also the inbound marketing evangelist at the marketing software company Hubspot. "But really, it's a lesson as old as time."

After her onstage talk, Fitton and a panel of social media experts, including Robert Michael Murray of National Geographic, Jodi Gersh of Gannett Publishing, and marketing strategist Geoff Livingston sat down with a room full of entrepreneurs to answer their burning questions about how to get the most of social media.

Here are four questions you've probably asked yourself:

Should the public relations team run my company's social media?

"I don't think PR should be on social," says Murray. "It's not that PR shouldn't have a role, but the reality of things is you're going to have the [Edward] Snowden effect if you operate social media as command and control." In other words, employees will start talking anyway, and you might not like what they have to say. "Smart organizations are making social the same as email," Murray says. "Everyone has a communication channel and you have a code of conduct for how to behave on social media. My title, VP of social media shouldn't exist. It exists because it's a new communication form. You don't have a vice president of telephone."

My company has a social media presence, but how do I get anyone to pay attention to us?

Fitton's advice: "When you see people who are really on topic for you, just follow them. Don't wait for them to follow you. Follow them first. It's a little tap on the shoulder. Answer their questions. Share their stuff. A lot of people forget to let the audience lead."

And remember, says Girsh, "Don't just sell, sell, sell. Don't just try to get customers. Try to build a relationship and provide people resources, without wanting anything back, and they'll come to you."

Why invest in social media, when I'm already investing in Google AdWords?

"Think of AdWords as renting, versus owning," says Fitton. "Traffic you've earned through organic content like blogging and Facebook sharing, you own that traffic. Meanwhile, the day you stop buying AdWords, all that traffic goes away." Which would you prefer?

What constitutes "good content" on social media?

Livingston's advice is to start by thinking of the questions your clients typically ask you in sales meetings or that customers ask about your brand. "I'd start by trying to answer those questions with a very high quality article. Write just what you would say if you were answering their question in person. If you do that, it'll be spread around socially."




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