There was a day when Twitter was just a tiny site with a 140-character blank box. Today, the messaging service is now home to more than two billion tweets per month. The company's CTO Dick Costolo recently announced that they're signing up 135,000 new registrations a day. With so much conversation on just one website, it's tough to know how to get your business stand out from the online chatter. I just published a book called Power Friending: Demystifying Social Media to Grow Your Business, and it demystifies social media to help grow your business. Although it's a 50,000 word read, here are the top ten tips from the book that should entice you to learn more.
1. Act authentically. A few years I worked as a social media consultant with Tony Robbins. As a leading speaker, entrepreneur, and coach, he is one of the busiest people I know. Still, today, Tony has time to manage many of his own social media efforts. As an active Twitter user (@tonyrobbins), he shares honest and compelling personal and professional messages. When he recently celebrated his 50th birthday, he took the time to record a friendly audio message for his fans. Being honest, accessible, and authentic is a key ingredient to social media success.
2. Make time. People complain endlessly about not having time to roll social media efforts into their lives. Let's face it, many of us are short on time. As many highly effective people will attest, you always have time for the things you put first. Take the Tony example, I'm quite sure he doesn't have time to record friendly audio and video messages for an audience but he makes time because he knows it's important for his business.
3. Be consistent. As much as you want to run away from your email and the web for a few days here and there, to ensure that your online marketing efforts are getting results try to participate in the social media world on a regular basis. That doesn't mean that you have to stay glued to your computer 24-7, but try to respond to comments within twenty-four or forty-eight hours during the work week.
4. Tell stories. If you're looking for content ideas, there is nothing better than a good story. Whether you're sharing photos on Flickr or blogging on Blogger, people love to look inside the lives of people at home and at work. Although you don't want to share anything that makes you uncomfortable, a little personality goes a long way online.
5. Plan ahead. When I interviewed the face of Ford's social media efforts for my book he explained that a strategic plan kept his company on top. "A solid social media strategy meant that we had a plan and were well prepared for the newfound attention we received," said Scott Monty. While you might not be experience a huge wave of social media activity right now, six months down the road this could change. As a result, you should be prepared.
6. Embrace criticism. No one likes negative comments, but may times this feedback can help your organization make appropriate changes. The worst thing you can do when someone lashes out with a complaint is to ignore them completely. Often times, the individual simply wants a reaction and someone to listen to their problems.
7. Listen well. To pick up on the last point, be aware of what people are saying about your brand or business. A free and easy way to do this is to sign up for Google Alerts, so you can monitor online conversations on a regular basis. Depending on what you hear, look to your plan to figure out how you want to engage.
8. Create a policy. As social media continues to grow quickly, and more than 400 million people worldwide continue to flock to Facebook, now is a good time for your business to develop a social media policy. This document can help your team determine what's appropriate to talk about online, and how they should interact in various situations. For example, Coca-Cola's social media policy includes a few smart guidelines, including advising employees that the Internet is permanent and that local posts have global significance.
9. Go mobile. Remember how quickly the mobile world is exploding. Within more than one million iPads sold since launch, the demand for apps on the go shouldn't be ignored. Consider developing your own application, either now or put it on your project plan for the future.
10. Have fun. Although the technology is constantly evolving, and often frustrating, there are lots of exciting opportunities in the social media environment. A few weeks ago I hosted a workshop where attendees were tasked with developing an online video campaign for a fictitious airline in under thirty minutes. Many groups pitched pretty traditional ideas, but one group dragged their chairs up on stage and acted out an online skit with "Amelia Earhart" leading the audience through their plans to go viral. In other words, the most creative and original ideas have the best chance to stand out.
Amber MacArthur is a social media consultant, speaker, and author of Power Friending: Demystifying Social Media to Grow Your Business. You can follow her on Twitter at @AmberMac.