Social media– 10 years ago, none of us knew what it was. Now, none of us can get enough. In fact, 72% of people on the Internet are active on social media. The majority of social media adopters skews younger, with 89% of those aged 18 to 29. But don’t leave Grandma out! 43% of people over the age of 65 are using social media, as well. It’s a fact that social media is part of our cultural identity. We use it for news, reviews, catching up, and keeping informed. But, as businesses, we can also use social media to evangelize our brands, connect with our customers, and build B2B relationships. What’s more exciting is that we’re just now scratching the surface of what social media is and what is can be. We do know that its significance is continuing to grow. Most companies devote at least an hour a day to developing their social media presence. If you’re building your brand, there’s no doubt that you should, too. However, using social media for business is much different than catching up with your friends informally, or posting bikini pics from Cancun. Let’s take a look at the 10 most important commandments to remember when it comes to social media for business development. (Of course, these tips are good enough to refer to for all social media posting, if you’d like.)
The 10 Commandments
1. Do Build a Marketing Platform
Yoel Ben-Avraham, Flickr Before you get out there and start posting willy nilly, it’s important to find your audience. Where do they naturally hang out? If you’re a photographer, maybe your audience is on Instagram or Pinterest. If you’re a designer, maybe Behance or Dribble. If you’re a SaaS, maybe Twitter. If you’re a traditional storefront, maybe Facebook or Google+. If your audience naturally hangs out on Pinterest, you’re going to be lonely trying to find them on Twitter. There may be some cross-over, but in general, most people are comfortable in one platform and rarely deviate. Your first step is looking for your audience amongst the different platforms. How do you find them? It’s actually easier than you think. If you already have clients or customers, go to the major platforms (Twitter, Google, Facebook, LinkedIn to start) and do a search for them. Also, do the same for your potential clients, those who you want to work with. Then, find leaders in your industry and see which one of these platforms they’re most active in. These three searches can help you determine where you should set up camp.
2. Do Interact Properly With that Platform
Stefan Leijon, Flickr Each social media platform has a different personality. On Google+, you can write out a lengthy blog post, but on Twitter, you’re limited to 140 characters. On Tumblr, you can share silly gifs, on LinkedIn, it’s all business, all the time. The platform you choose will dictate how you should interact with your followers. Let’s take a look at the different personalities of the top platforms:
- Facebook- With over 1 billion users, almost of a quarter of which log in five times a day, Facebook is the reigning champion of social media. That’s not to say that your brand or business belongs on Facebook. For example, Facebook membership for ages 13-24 is actually declining and, if that’s your demographic, it’s better to find another platform to connect with them.
- Google+-Just barely trailing behind Facebook, Google+ also has over one billion enabled accounts. Where Google+ excels is with integration with other platforms, such as GMail and YouTube (the second most popular search engine, behind Google). Additionally, Google+ is perfectly suited for direct interaction,
- Twitter– Who knew that restricting users to 140 characters could create such a popular medium? Twitter has over half a billion users, and approximately 34% of marketers use Twitter to generate leads. One of the benefits of Twitter is being able to tap into what’s happening right.at.this.moment. With the appropriate use of hashtags, you can join a global and vibrant conversation that’s sure to be a quick and easy read. This is the best part about Twitter– you get a small and concise understanding of what people are thinking.
- Pinterest– Pinterest offers its 20 million users a visual pinboard that is used for future projects and purchases. Pinterest is perfect for inspiring users to buy your physical products. The overwhelming majority of Pinterest users are women, and if that’s your desired audience, Pinterest should definitely be a big part of your marketing strategy.
- LinkedIn-Over 300 million people used LinkedIn, 40% of which check in daily. LinkedIn is often described as Facebook for business people. If you’re targeting other businesses, or simply wanting to boast on your own brand, LinkedIn is the place to go.
- Instagram- With 150 million active users, Instagram is an important visual medium that you should consider if your audience enjoys photography. Yes, Instagram is photo-driven, but that doesn’t mean it has to be inspirational pictures of the sunset. Many brands on Instagram increase engagement by posting behind the scenes photos. Another fun way to use Instagram is to showcase your product in a striking and unusual display. Use contests to interact with your audience.
3. Do Make a Great Profile
No matter the platform, you have an opportunity to display who you are with your choice of profile images. Don’t waste valuable real estate. For example, your avatar needs to clearly convey your brand message. Never leave your avatar blank or keep the default logo. Instead, use your logo. If you have more than one person representing your brand, consider letting them post with their own photos, as it gives a sense of personality and trustworthiness. Don’t be afraid to take your time when you’re crafting your tagline. It may be one sentence, but that one sentence represents you to your audience, and sets the tone for your interactions with them.
4. Do Share Valuable Information
Garry Knight, Flickr Now that you’ve decided where to post, you need to know what to post. Remember, people aren’t so enamoured by you that they’ll hang on to your every word– people connect with you because you provide some sort of value for them. That’s the secret sauce to continued engagement. And value isn’t always about linking to great articles, either. The beauty of social media is that you can almost quickly answer questions. Being a resource for FAQ is a great way to increase your perceived value to your audience.
5. Know How To Find Valuable Information
It’s one thing to know that you need to share valuable information, but how do you determine what’s valuable? Find out what’s trending on social media, and eavesdrop on what your clients are talking about. That gives you an indication of what you should be talking about. Social media is all one big conversation, and you don’t just walk into a conversation by talking. You first enter in, and listen to what’s being said, and then you state your piece. After you’ve scoured social media and found an interesting post, tweak it a little and share it. If it’s already popular, it’ll probably remain popular with your audience.
6. Do Self Promote, But Don’t Go Overboard
The number one reason businesses go on social media is to self-promote. We all know this, but shameless self-promotion is just that: shameless. And unsavory. Instead, only promote yourself 5% of the time. The vast majority of the time (95%) should be spent providing value and interacting in a meaningful way with your audience. If your audience feels like your platform is just one big advertisement, they won’t be swayed when you really have a product that you want to sell. If, on the other hand, you are judicious with your product promotion, a client is much more willing to hear you when you’re selling something.
7. Engage With Photos and Videos
Approximately 65% of people are visual learners, and most of us prefer to watch videos over reading text. Use photos and videos to stand out in a stream of text. Even if you’re linking to an article, attach a photo to your post to immediately attract attention. This is standard practice on sites like Pinterest, but it’s slowly happening on Twitter and Facebook.
8. Respond to Comments
(higher engagement = equal higher value perception) Approximately 90% of your audience will not comment, 9% will comment sometimes, and 1% will do the majority of your comments, but 100% of your audience will read your comments. Remember to respond to those who’ve commented on your site. It’s not just for them, but it’s also for those who don’t comment but will read. The more you nurture and respond to your comments, the greater your engagement. Readers will feel like they can trust you. And, equally important, they feel like you will respond to them, too. That will increase audience interaction. What a beautiful circle of life. Another benefit to increased engagement is that your audience will come to perceive your brand as valuable.
9. Don’t Feed the Trolls
Trolls are those wonderful individuals that hide behind the anonymity of the Internet and spew vile hatred just because they can. There’s no getting around it– you will have negative responders who attack you just for kicks and giggles. Instead of flying off of the handle, use restraint when responding to negative nancies. Sometimes value is determined by how well you interact with your clients. Remember, other clients are always eavesdropping on your conversations.
10. Rinse, Lather, and Repeat
It’s a fact of social media that not everyone will read your posts the first time around, or the second time around, or even the third time around. It’s okay to repeat your important posts, as long as you don’t do it in quick succession. And don’t just say the same thing over and over again, either. Find different ways to spin your posts, so that they will seem new, even if it’s the same old material. But, unless your followers aren’t following many others, they’re unlikely to even notice that you’ve repeated a tweet or post.
Now that you know the most important commandments, it’s time to follow them. Which of these is your favorite? Let me know in the comments below!