Whichever social media tool(s) you use, there are certain unwritten rules for using them. People don’t always like it when you break them. Understanding of the culture of social media is important. If you adhere to the following principles, you shouldn’t go too far wrong:
- Be authentic, open, transparent. If there’s one thing you take away from Get Up to Speed with Online Marketing, it is to be authentic at all times. That doesn’t mean you can be rude about colleagues or clients on Twitter. It just means you shouldn’t pass yourself off as something or someone you’re not. If you’re using a social media channel for business, then say so. Behave in a professional way, but don’t be afraid to use your personal voice. The good thing about being a small business is that you don’t need to get your communications approved by a committee or signed off by five people. You can just do it. Be yourself, be authentic, and people will trust you. We live in an age where trust is no longer in big institutions but in ‘people like me’.
- Don’t go for the hard sell. Don’t spam a LinkedIn group with your marketing message. Instead, provide useful content that your community will value. Ideally, create your own community online.
- Build social currency. The best way to get a feel for social media is simply to use it. What’s more, establishing a social media presence gives you ‘permission’ to use it for marketing. Once you have been on various social sites for a while, you have more credibility: people will take you more seriously and listen to what you have to say.
- Don’t view it as just another marketing channel. Social media is not a bolt-on extra – it is a fundamentally different approach to marketing. Using it is a commitment – not a tactic or a campaign.
- Don’t treat it as a one-way broadcast medium. Yes, you can issue press releases using blogging software but that’s not really a blog. You can just use Twitter as an automatic feed from your blog – and it is a great blog marketing tool – but that’s not the only or the most engaging way to use it. Share other people’s content too. Social media becomes much more interesting, and effective, when it facilitates a two-way conversation between you and your community of interest.
- Be clear about responsibilities. If you are a micro-business or sole trader, it will probably be you maintaining all of this. But if there are several of you working on the business, it pays to be clear about who is responsible for updating what, and how often.
- Be patient. Social media needs a long term approach. A new blog takes a good six months to establish itself and build a following. It takes a while to build up Twitter followers or Facebook fans. You will need to spend time and effort building and maintaining your online presence before it translates into sales. But that online presence, once established, will continue to build and provide you with an essential source of potential clients and customers, highly targeted within your community of interest, who will come looking for you.