No matter where we go these days, social media surrounds us. It seems everyone is saying, “Follow us on Twitter.” “Like us on Facebook.” “For More Information Scan Our QR Code.” Just this week alone, I have seen at least a dozen places in my everyday life where social media has come into the real world — at church, on my drive home from the airport I saw signs on the back of hotel shuttle vans and at my local coffee shop, to name a few. Social media is here to stay and businesses of all sizes know it. But what many smaller businesses do not know or care to realize is that there are several bad habits that still need to be broken in order to make the most out of their social media strategies. Following is a list of these common bad habits and what small business can do to break away from these same old mistakes.
Social Media Hard Sales
Social Media is not the place for hard selling. You may recall in a previous article, Top 10 Mistakes Businesses Make with Social Media, I listed hard selling as #5 on the list. But it seems that so many businesses cannot seem to break this very bad habit. I am not saying do not promote your businesses, but people do not want to be “sold to” anymore. With the Internet and social media making it so easy for consumers to go somewhere else, there are other, far more productive ways to promote your business than with the hard sell.
One of the best ways to promote yourself is by sharing information that your audience will find relevant and helpful. If you give them the information they need and want to read, they will continue to come back to your profile to learn more. When you post information on your social media profiles on topics that are also featured on your blog or website, you should share links directly to that information on your blog or website. Direct links will give your readers easy access to learn more about you and what you have to offer.
Social Media is not about the hard sell, it is about building and maintaining relationships. So in order for it to be successful, you need to reach your target audience and engage them in conversation that is welcoming, informative and helpful. You should make it easy for people to leave comments on your blog and even encourage it within your posts. When people take the time to comment on your blog, you should offer a response in a timely manner. Share great content from others in the industry within your blog posts and statuses including links that open in a new tab or window. You don’t want people to loose track of where they came from. Finally, ask questions, create polls and encourage participation.
Talk Less, Listen More
As I say so often, people want to work with people they like. Translation: consumers will give their business to those within the industry they feel are worthy of their loyalty and business. To be liked, especially in business, you have to be honest, helpful, compassionate, willing to listen, genuinely interested in others and what their needs are and not dominate the conversation. It is critical in business to recognize that sometimes it is better to listen more and talk less.
Obviously one of the goals of social media is to promote your business, products, services and overall company brand. But what you should not do is talk about yourself in a “It’s all about me” manner. Minimize your “Self-Promotion” all together. There is no need to “Toot your own horn” so to speak. Rather, let the information you share, the expertise you demonstrate and the brand personality you portray do the talking for you. The more helpful you are to others the more likely they will seek you out for additional information later on, bookmarking your social media profile, blog or website in the process.
Start asking your followers questions such as why they follow you, what they think of your products, services and brand, what is the first thing that comes to mind when they hear your company name, what products do you own that they love or would prefer to do without, what other products and services would they like to see you offer and how do they feel your company could improve overall. Then really listen to what they have to say and address each concern as they come. This not only gives your customers a voice, but also shows them that you really care about what they think and that getting it right is important.
Quality Verses Quantity
Since the inception of social media, 100’s of platforms have come and gone. You do not have to be everywhere so do not feel you have to join each new platform as it comes out. Even trying to maintain profiles on the top few can seem overwhelming. Instead, choose one or two of the most relevant platforms and effective channels to reach the customers and consumers you want most to reach and focus on.
Again, it is actually better to have no account at all on a social media platform than to let it get stale and old. Plain and simple, if you do not have the time and resources to actively manage a profile and participate then you should not have one on that site at all.
Looking Big Does Not Mean Requiring aHave a Big Budget
Companies such as Panera, Apple, Coca Cola, Nike, Dell and others have very large marketing budgets. Small businesses often try to compete with the big guys only to fail in generating the buzz they hope to achieve. Although it is a necessary evil to provide incentive for people to come to you, you don’t have to keep up with the Big Brands and do exactly as the Big Brands do in order to give your followers a reason to keep coming back.
Creating giveaways and contests is one of the most effective ways to generate new likes and improve overall engagement, but rather than investing $500 into a new iPad to give away, why not give away one of your own companies products or services? It may not be as sexy as an iPad, but it will definitely create more buzz about what your company does and offers. It will likely generate interest from consumers who have thought of using your products and services but who have yet to try them.
Social Media Is Not “Free”
Although it does not cost you much if anything in terms of dollars and cents, social media is not “Free” when you take into account the time and energy that you must put into it to get something out of it. Social Media requires commitment and consistency in the things you post and the timing of those posts. In the beginning, social media takes the most time; setting up profiles, completing profiles, getting the word out, making connections, generating posts consistently, building your brand and so on. But once you’ve gotten past the start up phase, be sure to keep yourself active in your social media. Some things you can do to stay active are to keep your content fresh, engage your online community, seek out new connections, request recommendations, offer recommendations, share interesting, informative links, post blogs and send and answer emails. May sound like a lot, but even 15 minutes everyday can make a huge difference.
No matter what stage of your social media strategy you are in, there is always room for improvement. Following the above steps, (which can be summarized in the following Do’s and Don’ts) will help you get there much quicker!
Do: Be consistent, Be genuine, Be helpful, Be honest, Be compassionate, Listen to others.
Don’t: Be inactive, Pretend to be someone you are not, Post solely the works of others, Toot your own horn, Think the Internet world revolves solely around you, your company and brand.
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