Do you think social media is overrated? If you work just as hard and get the right marketing message, won’t customers beat a path to your door?
Well, I hate to break the news to you, but social media isn’t going anywhere…and it’s where your customers are hanging out. I don’t care if Facebook makes your skin crawl or Twitter annoys you, your customers are using those social media tools.
Over the past five years I’ve used social media and I have to admit that it’s a huge way to get more business. Here are some of the ways I leverage it.
Forget about ROI and sales
I’ve notice that social media gives a lot of CEOs and CFOs fits over return on investment. Of course it’s their job to make sure that the money they spend is used wisely.
In response to one company’s question about the ROI on social media Gary Vaynerchuk said, “What’s the ROI on your mother?”
While that makes us laugh there is a lot of truth to it. It’s hard to measure and say exactly what our relationships are worth. But nobody would deny that they are worth something, right?
So when you get started on using social media to drive business to your company set aside the desire to see immediate results. Instead, build relationships.
How you build relationships is important. Just because you are a business doesn’t mean you have the right to hard sell everyone on your social networks. People will see through you and you’ll look like a spammer or one of those bots that do it automatically.
Here are a few tips on how to build relationships:
- Talk to people and not at them.
- Promote people and not just yourself.
- Share your stories.
- Contribute to discussions.
- Say “thank you.”
- Ask meaningful questions.
Don’t chase followers
Back in 2009 when Twitter was all the rage it was easy to follow somebody and to get them to follow you back. That strategy doesn’t work as well in 2011.
The reason it doesn’t work is because so many businesses abused those followers with spam. Those companies failed to contribute to a discussion or give anyone anything of value. They were doing business with a me-mindset and not a “you” mindset. Besides, chasing followers makes you look desperate.
What should you do if you’re not going to chase followers? You should provide great content and discussions on your social networks that make people want to join.
For example, on my blog I try to provide practical “how-to” information that you can use. I also try to answer every single comment whether it’s a question or just a thought.
On Twitter I try to share articles that might benefit you, and reply to as many questions I can.
On Facebook I like to have a little bit of fun and make statements that might stir the pot a little. Why would I do this? People are hard at work and like social media because it’s a valve where they can let off a little steam. If you pressure them with sales pitches all day, then they’ll leave.
Offer free advice
One of the things I like most about social media is that it offers an opportunity for you to learn for free. Learning is something you should be doing all the time, especially if you’re an entrepreneur.
On my blog I like to give you advice about starting a business because it’s satisfying to share what I know and it helps me re-learn lessons in the process.
But blogs aren’t the only place you can give away free advice.
Twitter is perfect for giving away simple business tips in little proverbs or quotes of famous and successful people. Twitter is also great for searching hashtags to find topics people are discussing, which then gives you ideas on how to help customers.
Facebook is like E-mail 2.0 and allows you to really dig deep into a topic. Let’s say you post startup advice as a status and people start commenting. Well, like a forum people really start to help each other or it may be just you and another person carrying out the thread. Unlike an email, however, that information is out there for everyone to see.
Plan for engagement
You have a business to run and you don’t have time for social media. I understand. But you have to plan to get involved.
The funny thing is most people get in trouble with social media because they don’t schedule times of engagement. Because they don’t have a social media schedule, they end up on it all day, being distracted from important work and then feeling frustrated and throwing in the towel.
Ever felt that way before?
You have to remember that you are the master of social media and you control it as a business generating tool. Your first step is to plan for engagement. There are a two ways you can do that:
- Set aside an hour or two a day to check on all your social media sites.
- Set aside an hour from each day to one particular social media site. For example, Monday could be for LinkedIn, Tuesday for blogging, Thursday for Twitter and Friday could be for Facebook.
Engage local customers
You probably have Internet friends who live all over the world, like Canada, South Africa, India or Columbia. No wonder it’s so easy to forget about people who are physically close to you when you are on the Internet!
But don’t neglect them because they could be a good source of business.
How do you go about meeting them? Make sure you have your location set on all your social media networks. And it’s best to be as specific as you can. Mine is set on Seattle, Washington.
Another way is to ask a question on Twitter about business building, but you have to make sure to put the hashtag for your city in the tweet.
Another way to engage local customers is simply to ask where they are and if they want to meet up. You can always post on Twitter or Facebook, “Hey, going to the deli on Fourth. Anyone want to come?”
“Checking in” is a great way to announce where you are in case somebody is nearby. If you happen to see a client you know having lunch at a restaurant down the road, shoot him a quick message and ask if you can join him. If he accepts, forget about ROI and hard sales and give him lots of free advice while asking him how you can help.
Engage LinkedIn groups
I’m a big of a fan of LinkedIn because it’s more professional than it is social. Joining a group is a great way to connect with lots of like-minded people. But the trick to generating business when it comes to joining groups is to join a group that your customers hang out in.
Once you are in the group, start answering some of the questions people are asking. Your job is to use your experience to help people solve their problems.
And as you solve their problems you will quickly rise to the level of an expert in that group and people will start coming to you for direct advice. It’s important that you have a desire to help people, because if you don’t you’ll only be wasting your time and their time.
Get personal on your Facebook business page
It may sound like a pain in the neck to have so many different Facebook accounts to manage, but it’s important to bring attention to your company so people recognize you with the business.
What this means is it’s okay to show your personality on your Facebook business page. Redhead Writing and Copyblogger Media do a great job of this.
Like I said above, people love to mix business with pleasure, so do it on your business page, but make sure not to get emotional on it. Keep your emotions out of it!
Act like a person
If you want to attract followers and create a good feeling on your social media sites where people like to hang out, you have to act like a person. If all you do is send out sales messages, then people will think you are a spammer or worse, they’ll think you are a bot.
What’s the best way to act like a person? Here are some ideas:
- Let your followers know what you are thinking about current topics.
- Take a stand against something meaningful.
- Talk about causes you support.
- Mention your family and friends on occasion.
Bots can’t do that and it’s why people hate them. Your customers will more likely do business with you if they feel like they can trust you, and when you act like a real person, you are building trust.
In the past I’ve encouraged entrepreneurs to be independent. That meant that you should learn how to do things on your own. But that doesn’t mean you should re-invent the wheel.
See, if somebody is already out there doing something successful, you should watch and study what they are doing and then do what they do.
When it comes to social media, people like Chris Brogan and Darren Rowse are great people to study. Michael Stelzner and Guy Kawasaki are two more guys you should study.
You have to be careful that you don’t plagiarize these guys or come off as an exact copy of them. You’ll lose credibility if you do that. Instead, take their ideas and turn them into your own. Here’s how you can do it:
- Watch someone successful.
- Take notes.
- Underneath those notes write out your own version of the idea.
- Execute on that idea.
- See if the idea worked.
- Tweak the idea until you have a winning formula.
This may sound time-consuming, but remember if you want to succeed then you must be willing to work.
I love the new Toyota Venza commercial where the girl worries about her parents “anti-social” behavior because they only have 16 friends. She says she has over 600 and then says, “People, this is real living.”
I like that because it shows you that social media is good for communicating, but real relationships, real life and real business is made offline. If you think about it, you couldn’t have a relationship with someone if all you did was exchange letters. You’d eventually want to meet that person.
At some point you’ll want to encourage your customers to meet you, whether it’s locally at a Tweet-up you hold, announcing where you’re going to get drunk or as you travel across the country to speak at conferences.
It could be even as simple as inviting people to hang out with you during your morning run or go see a late night movie.
It may not be easy, but I think social media is a great way to get more business, even if we don’t have the means to measure ROI exactly. Plus, you don’t have to be an expert at it…you just have to engage. Anybody can jump in and get started.
If you are too busy to do it for your business, think about hiring somebody to do it for you. There are lots of great part-time options. The investment can be worth it if you follow my ten tips above.
What other ways does social media get you more business?