Seven Tips For Using Social Media

Loose talk on social media damages your businessAlthough their impact on sales is still small for most of us, social media like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn, along with your blog, are useful marketing tools if you want to make a connection with customers and build brand awareness.

They allow the kind of instant news and direct conversation with your customers that was previously quite difficult. Better still, you will be forming a closer relationship with some of your best customers, ones who care enough to follow you and talk about you.

Many organisations feel they ought to be involved with social media but there’s no point without the resources or understanding to do it properly. It’s a waste of time and potentially damaging to engage in social media unless you are fully committed and understand clearly what you are trying to achieve. It can damage your organisation if you don’t respond to people who try to engage with you or if you are perceived as fake in some way, because bad new spreads quickly and widely on social networks.

Marketers use social media to increase brand awareness, build loyalty and spread word of mouth. It requires a huge change in approach, from the traditional marketing role of leading your customers to a brave new world of being led by them. Social media are a conversation: you can’t control it and you may not like the way it goes. My strong advice is, if you can’t or don’t want to do it with total commitment, don’t do it at all. But if you use social media properly, you will have an effective tool for building long term loyalty.

Social media take time. There are many advantages to social media in the all important task of building customer relationships but they are hard work. To succeed you have to become an essential part of a community. Most of us are receiving so many Tweets, Postings and Pins each day that they are easily missed. Restrict the social media you use to, say, Facebook as a social network, Twitter as a microblog, YouTube for video sharing and Instagram for photo sharing. Pinterest is worth considering if you have products to sell and LinkedIn if you’re in the business-to-business business.

Then you need to send between four and a dozen Tweets, a daily Facebook post, two or three pins a day and a weekly upload to YouTube. Tweets should be spread throughout each day to get noticed (provided they are interesting). And they need to be postings that your followers really are looking out for. Don’t sell– these are social media not sales media. Don’t boast– retweets of compliments make people cringe. Be funny– social media are a leisure activity for most people. Post News– people use social media to be first to know and share with their friends and followers.

A great way of reaching new people is to take part in conversations in other social media such as reviews, comments and discussions which form part of many websites.

All of this means Social Networking can’t be tacked on to someone’s job description- it has to be planned for. It can also be wrecked by an ill considered post. If you haven’t the resources, you may be better not using social media or restricting yourself to the one most appropriate to your business.

So, when you use social media, you must have a clear strategy with rules. Here are some:
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[toggle title=”1. Decide what the purpose of using social media and stick to it.” open=”no”]You may want to increase awareness of your product, service or brand; you may want to engage with your customers; you may want to create word-of-mouth. You will need to be aware of your market, what they are looking for and how to speak to them. Create an appropriate persona (this used to be called house style). Then you can begin.

Twitter is great for an instant, no nonsense notification of something happening. Especially something amusing or a photo to catch attention in the avalanche of tweets that your customers receive. Think of it as a microblog.

If you want to build a community of people who want to talk about your business, a Facebook page has a family feel and you can post photos and videos and create a real feel for what you are about. I have found that Facebook is the best social media Generally people hate digital ads- they’re intrusive and interfere with your use of the medium. But, when you use Facebook, the targeting is brilliant and a sponsored post can fit seamlessly into the feed, if you handle it right.

YouTube is a highly effective way of promoting your organisation. Google Search loves it, maybe because they own it. A short informative film, especially presented to camera in the form of a vlog, can be more engaging than any other communication. It also seems to help your website’s Google ranking.[/toggle]
[toggle title=”2. It’s not about you.” open=”no”]If you are using a social network as a business tool, don’t treat it like a personal diary. Don’t talk about being stuck on the train, frustrated by your kids or angry at the government. Don’t use swear words, rude jokes or religious rants (unless that’s what your supporters expect). Adopt a consistent style but don’t sound like a corporate robot. Create a persona appropriate to your brand image and what your followers expect. If different people contribute to your accounts, make sure they adopt the same overall tone. It is important to sound like a human being by cultivating a style that is informal and personal. Many people will still judge you by how you say things, so watch your spelling and grammar. Some abbreviations are acceptable on Twitter when you only have 140 words but actual mistakes create a poor impression.[/toggle]
[toggle title=”3. Tell stories.” open=”no”] People like a relevant story- about the company, its products and people. Important news about the people involved in your company helps make it more human. Background information on products increases involvement. Competitions and games are a big reason for following. But keep your postings short (on Twitter, you have no choice). Members of social networks are often overwhelmed by the number of messages they receive. Use social networks to drive people to your website or other places such as your blog where there is more information. Make the posting intriguing so people want to find out more. Include a link to your website or blog (bit.ly and others provide a free abbreviated link service.) Photos are important on all social media, even Twitter, in fact especially Twitter.[/toggle]
[toggle title=”4. Make yourself an invaluable member of the community.” open=”no”]You will build your following by offering useful tips, bringing attention to interesting stories and retweeting interesting tweets with a comment (this latter is a quick and easy way to keep your name in sight).[/toggle]
[toggle title=”5. Make exclusive offers but keep selling to a minimum.” open=”no”]Many people will follow you for news on the latest products and, even more so, special offers, so don’t disappoint them. Social networkers are liable to Unfollow if you are hyping all the time without any clear advantage to them. Some experts say that only one in ten postings should be a direct promotion of your business.[/toggle]
[toggle title=”6. Cement your relationship with your followers.” open=”no”] Thank them for following or commenting. Be prepared for responses from them and make sure you have the time to respond to them. Ignoring them may lose a good customer. Show an interest in your followers by following them (not indiscriminately because there will be many who are only following you in the hope that you will give them some business). Make the occasional relevant comment or Retweet. Build your list of followers by letting people know you are on Twitter and Facebook (Both sites offer widgets that you can use on your website and emails). Use relevant hashtags (a topic preceded by a #) on your Tweets to attract followers. When you respond to or about a Tweet, use their @name.[/toggle]
[toggle title=”7. Think before you post.” open=”no”]Social networks enable you to post your thoughts without even thinking. And that can be a problem. Post in haste, repent at leisure, as the old saying doesn’t go. What you say on a social network is not only in the public domain, it is liable to be spread far and wide if you happen to have revealed a secret or shown yourself in a bad light. This especially applies to your responses to criticism, where your instant reaction may be harsh or even abusive. Take it on board and find ways to turn it into something positive. Getting angry or sarcastic will only make things worse. If you have a private Twitter or Facebook account, be just as careful, because there is no such thing as privacy on social networks and your personal posts can and will be used against you.[/toggle]
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If this all seems like too much work, you may be right. One business website I manage gets less than 4% of its traffic from social media. An engagement rate of one or two per cent is considered good. On the other hand, statistics also suggest that for every person that contributes there are another nine taking an interest. And some products, e.g. with a young demographic, are more suited to social media than others.

If you want some free advice on your use of social media or would like my business to run it for you, call me on 07946 981733 or email paullewis@sevenexperience.co.uk

This article was written by Paul Seven Lewis, owner of the marketing consultancy Seven Experience and former Head of Marketing and Operations at The Mayflower Theatre. You can connect with him on Google+ and LinkedIn.