Social media for businesses has become a blight upon the world. Companies thirst for your attention with the most asinine, pointless, promoted posts, offering webinars and "white papers" that you'll never read or care about. Their budgets and actual reach are lower, and often the attention they get is actually detrimental. The signal-to-noise ratio isn't friendly to the entrepreneur, and the guides are, well, lacking. If you're working on Facebook and Twitter, here are some seemingly obvious but rarely followed tips.
1. Have a strategy.
A lot of people take social media strategy to mean "we must plan every tweet and Facebook post exactly." The beauty of social media is that it's meant to be a form of communication that connects, theoretically, the brand to the person. What a great strategy consists of is planning around events (in-person or a company event) and what cool things you can show from said event, and how it's going to work on a timeline. If it's a one-day event, plan three days around it. It's important for you to also know you won't magically attract followers without the right event or content --this can mean a celebrity, or a good deal, or simply having the right kinds of followers. Younger followers may use Instagram over Facebook or Twitter, for example.
2. Participate like a human.
Unlike traditional advertising, social media is not one-way messaging where you can't confirm -- sometimes a comforting feeling -- whether someone actually read it. If you want to make the most of your campaign, make an effort to talk to anyone willing to talk to you. Your first social media campaigns, especially as a new company, will often be with only a few people, and you want to make sure they feel welcome. If a post's getting comments, respond to them and have a conversation with the people inside. If one post is getting a lot of likes, perhaps that's a sign you need to post more things like it (and possibly comment on it and say "Glad everyone liked it!"). This also defuses the potential for "empty room syndrome" -- when nobody wants to be the first to a party, a.k.a. your feed or Facebook page looks like a social graveyard.
3. Use social media tools.
Even if you've got someone dedicated to social media, I'd really recommend one of the many social media dashboards. If I have to run anything for a client, which I am loath to do, I'll always keep a separate dashboard that I can automate. This is partly to hide them from my own terrible tweets accidentally going into their feed, but also to let me queue up thoughts throughout the day. The key is that you can use them to post to multiple places at once, or at least queue up several posts to several places. I'd actually really, really recommend that you do not send the same message to different social networks. Tweets rarely translate well to Facebook, and Facebook posts often look very strange when seeded to Twitter.
4. Ask them to follow you. No, really.
In some industries this may seem desperate, but in businesses around sales and deeper tech you should find as many opportunities as you can to let customers know about it. Don't just put a tiny little Twitter bird on your site, though -- graphics like social media stamps can go on your website, online store, social media pages, print materials, and in-store signage. But don't do it in a way that's merely "follow us on Twitter"; put some effort into it.
5. Make it worth their while.
People need a reason to pay attention to what you're doing. You can make it worth their while by doing the basics -- social-media-specific discounts, contests that reward shares, sign-ups, and so on -- but you should also think bigger. Long-term, active followers can be promoted on your channels (if they're the right kind of follower), which lets you very clearly show your customers love. Giveaways are useful too, but make sure they're not meek little discounts or $10 Amazon gift cards. Reward them monetarily, sure, but promote them as well. They'll love you for it.
6. Involve your customers.
The worst kinds of customers are the ones who are motivated only by that which they get free. Those are not fans, those are squatters. The best customers are those who engage and chat with you out of their own interest, and that means knowing them well by chatting with them and reading their tweets. Don't just retweet their every tweet, either. Reply to them, talk to them, and understand them. Promote their successes on your business's page if they're relevant. You can get them to tweet to be part of a contest, sure, but make sure said contest is in line with the ideals of the company, such as showing how they use the product or why they love it.
7. Measure success.
As a PR person, I'm constantly laughing at anyone saying "Oh, we need to get more data-driven." The truth is that most of the time PR can't be predictably analyzed. Social media can be very often broken down into analytical definitions -- retweets, replies, engagements (i.e., if someone read the post, Twitter's advertising section can tell you), mentions (where someone has simply said the name of the company). Everything you write on social media can be peered at through advanced social media analytics, which is currently sending some not-too-ethical social media people into a tizzy. Focus more on actual mentions and replies versus retweets, for example, as articles by big tech blogs often get many fake accounts retweeting them. If someone's replying and having a conversation? That's a lot more valuable.
8. Build a contact database.
Do you have someone who's a big client, who regularly communicates with you but isn't a big social media user? Make sure to keep an eye on anything they do socially and reply, retweet, and engage. A contact list isn't the same in social media -- it's about which of your followers are most important to you, which may not mean that they have the highest amount of followers or tweets. Capture customer information based on their follower count, but also pay attention to what they're saying, who they're saying it to (and who follows them), which may be far more influential than just follower count alone. You can give them special discounts ad hoc, or invite them to exclusive premium newsletters that not everyone gets involved with.
This goes both ways; you may have a customer you barely talk to who sings your praises on social media. That person is rare, but a diamond -- you may not know and yet they're happy to say how great you are. That's someone to take off social media and have even a face-to-face conversation with.