For many, social media is mystifying. Sure, we all know we must embrace it in order to better connect with current customers, attract new clients and expose and expand our brands. But every week it seems a new social platform has launched, making a crowded marketplace even noisier and more confusing.
Entrepreneurs may know they have to use social media, but it’s hard to figure out how to build a social network, learn the best practices and implement a smart social strategy.
Luckily, you don’t have to be Nancy Drew to solve this mystery—you just have to go to the source. To help uncover some of the secrets of social media marketing, I spoke to a few of the social media experts who shared their best practices at the CEO BootCamp event in New York City on November 3, 2014. Here are a few of their top tips.
Rieva Lesonsky: What's the best way to start building a Twitter network?
Brinn Sanders and Jimmy Hang (small and midsize business (SMB) marketing managers, Twitter):
- Look at what other businesses in your field are doing. Notice how they interact with their followers and what types of content they post.
- Be proactive in marketing your own Twitter presence. Don’t expect people to find you on Twitter. Prompt them with visual cues, like embedding a Follow button on your website or adding your @username to store signage. Then engage in real-time conversations that are relevant to your followers.
- If there’s an influencer you’d like to become your brand advocate, Tweet at them with content they’re likely to find interesting. Twitter is live, public and conversational—leverage these qualities to connect with your target audience.
Rieva Lesonsky: What's the best way to start building a LinkedIn network?
Lana Khavinson (small business marketing lead, LinkedIn) and Davis Schneider (marketing manager, LinkedIn):
- Create a profile and a Company Page. Company Pages build credibility and get your business found. They are foundational to building a brand presence on LinkedIn and act as an information hub for visitors to learn more about your company. And, like LinkedIn profiles, Company Pages are optimized for search and appear among the top results on search engines.
- Invite people you’re already connected with through email.
- Use LinkedIn search to bring your offline network (work colleagues, college friends, partners, customers, etc.) online.
Rieva Lesonsky: Can you share some Twitter best practices?
Brinn Sanders and Jimmy Hang:
- Less can be more. Tweets under 100 characters get more engagement.
- Be visual. Rich media (photos and Vine videos) can drive significantly more engagement.
- Talk with followers, not at them. Make it a two-way conversation by asking questions, then showing followers that you’re listening.
- Create a content calendar that aligns with your marketing plans. Whether it’s for a product launch, seasonal sale or special event, plan your Tweets ahead of time to drum up anticipation. Also, tap into real-time moments (like TV show premieres or sporting events) to engage in conversations around your followers’ shared interests.
- Track your results and then optimize. The Tweet Activity Dashboard shows businesses how each of your organic Tweets (Tweets that are not promoted or paid for) are performing.
- For additional best practices, visit business.twitter.com.
Rieva Lesonsky: What are some best practices for LinkedIn?
Lana Khavinson and Davis Schneider:
- Create a winning profile, written in the first person. Include a photo (profiles with pictures get 14 times more views), an attention-getting headline, the best search terms so people can find you, recommendations and a summary (profiles with summaries get 10 times more views).
- Updating your status regularly shows you’re “someone in the know.”
- When you meet new people, add them to your network and interact with them.
- Look at the search terms people use to find you. You can do this by going to your LinkedIn homepage and clicking the "Who’s viewed your profile" link in the profile tab. Then click on any of the tabs: viewers found you from; viewers who work at; viewers with titles. All of those will give you a breakdown of how people found you.
- Know what’s working and what isn’t and tweak your profile accordingly.
Rieva Lesonsky: How can you take advantage of LinkedIn groups?
Lana Khavinson and Davis Schneider: LinkedIn groups are a great way to connect with others. What’s the best way to find relevant groups? Head to the LinkedIn Groups Directory page where you can manage the groups you’ve already joined, as well as find new groups to join. Or search to find groups in your area of interest.
When you’re considering joining a group, look at the discussions taking place. Are they relevant to you? Are new discussions being posted regularly? Are other people engaging in these discussions? The more active the group, the more you’ll be able to get out of it.
Be selective when you're picking groups. Join five to ten groups,engage in them for a week and then evaluate if they’re right for you.
If you’re thinking about starting a group:
- Plan ahead. Are you forming a group to engage with prospective customers, existing customers or other leaders in your industry?
- Research to see what groups exist and how you can differentiate your group.
- A group takes time and attention in order to thrive and provide value. Make sure that you’re ready to invest that time.
- Get comfortable participating and initiating conversations in other groups before taking the plunge on your own.
Rieva Lesonsky: Is it more effective for a small business to Tweet under the business name or should the owner Tweet as him or herself?
Brinn Sanders and Jimmy Hang: That depends on the nature of the business. If you run a professional services company and you are your own brand, it could make sense to Tweet from a personal username. However, if your business sells a product, or if you run an online store or company, it would likely make more sense to Tweet from a business username.
Not using social media? You're in the minority
In case these tips from social media experts don't have you convinced, a recent report from advertising consulting firm BIA/Kelsey shows social media is the marketing method SMBs use the most and spend the most money on.
Twitter's Sanders and Hang say there are millions of SMBs using Twitter "for a range of things, including: connecting with their target audience, highlighting a new product or feature, showing industry expertise, and customer service." A report from LinkedIn released earlier this year shows that 81 percent of SMBs use social media, and of that group 94 percent use it for marketing.
There’s no question that creating a social media strategy takes time and effort, but the end results are worth it.
OPEN Forum: CEO BootCamp is designed to help women entrepreneurs reach their full potential as CEOs and grow their businesses. To learn more about OPEN Forum: CEO BootCamp live events, exclusive content and online networking communities visit openforum.com/ceobootcamp.