Social media is important for any business or non-profit organization. You must be engaging your clients or your customers online in order to thrive in our digital world. It’s no longer a question of whether you should be participating in online conversations, but how you should be doing it.
There are two main areas that I want to focus on in this post: The Tools and The Rules.
First, you have to decide what social media apps or channels you want to use to build your brand. There are plenty of options available and it can be overwhelming. The second aspect relates to social media etiquette and how you should engage your audience online. Let’s get started!
How to Get Involved in Social Media
The first step you have to take, if you haven’t already done so, is choosing the social media tools that make the best sense for your business or brand. It’s not important to be on every app available in our digital world, but it is important to be committed to whatever you decide to use.
The problem with so many businesses is that they get spread too thin when it comes to social media channels. They don’t keep up with the accounts they’ve signed up for and this is worse than not having the account at all. If your audience thinks your channel is dead or neglected, they might feel that your business doesn’t care or has failed. It’s better to choose one social media app and be very engaging on it, than to have three or four apps and never update them.
What social media apps should you be using for your business?
This is a great question because not all social media apps are created equal. Each tool has a different purpose and you have to find the right one for your intended use. Plus, the options available to you are endless. New social media apps are born weekly and it further complicates the decision making process for you. This is why it’s critical to ask questions before determining what social media channels you will invest in.
- Do you prefer to build a community of followers who exchange lengthy conversations around your idea, content, products, or service?
- Should you keep the dialogue focused and concise?
- Would showing photos or images engage your viewers more than your written words?
- Who is your primary audience and how do they prefer to communicate?
- Why do you feel you need to use this app? What is the purpose?
Asking the tough questions from the very beginning is going to keep you from spreading yourself too thin and will also yield better results in the long run. There is also one other rule you need to keep in mind. Choosing a social media app should never be based on popular opinion or what your competitors are doing. What works for others may not work for you. Make your decision based on what will be meaningful to your audience and what will be easy for you to stay committed to.
The Best Social Media Apps to Consider
There are already volumes of books and blog posts on the most popular social media apps being used today, so I am not going to go deep with my overview. I just want to give you a snapshot of what I would consider using for your own social media channels.
- Twitter: Twitter is simple to use, but you’re only allowed to type in 140 characters at a time, so brevity is key. It forces you to be short and sweet which isn’t a bad thing. Twitter is great for sharing information or quick conversations between you and your audience. You can easily keep up with any dialogue about your brand by watching mentions of your @twittername and you can respond appropriately as you have time.
- Facebook: Facebook used to be the choice for young people, but lately it’s become more popular for Baby Boomers and Generation X. This app is great for relationship building and deeper conversations. Facebook Pages are beneficial for building a brand community, but you really have to work hard at keeping the engagement level high. Before leaping into Facebook for your business, do your research to see if your audience will connect with you here.
- LinkedIN: LinkedIN is a professional networking app that gives you the ability to share your working experience and background, as well as other information you feel would be important to your audience. LinkedIN is excellent for connecting with people and building professional relationships. It isn’t as valuable for building a business brand.
- Instagram and Pinterest: I’ve grouped these two apps together because in many ways, they take a similar approach. Instagram and Pinterest are all about sharing images and photos. They are very popular with women and younger people and they get a LOT of audience engagement. If you can be creative with graphics or photos, then these apps could generate more ROI for you than any other social media app.
- Google +: Google apps are powerful, and of course, loved by SEO. Google+ is like a mashup of LinkedIn and Facebook, but with more features such as Circles, Hangouts, Communities, Events, and Local. Even though interest for Google+ has never reached that of Twitter or Facebook, it is a valuable tool and one to really consider for your business. The downside is that Google has been killing off some of their offerings, especially ones that don’t perform well, so it’s possible that Google+ could go away in the future.
- YouTube: YouTube is the second biggest search engine next to Google and it can be very lucrative for your business if you can produce great content. Videos are very popular among all age groups and they provide your audience with a way to see your brand in a personal way. Video training, customer testimonials, and marketing messages are valuable to your business and YouTube is one of the best tools to get this done.
There are more tools available to your business than these popular apps, so I recommend that you do some research or partner with a professional content creator to help you determine what the best strategy and solutions would be for your business brand.
The Rules of Social Media
There are social media guidelines or etiquettes that you should know and be aware of as a business owner. While it’s tempting to set up a social media channel and start blasting your messages to the world, it can be extremely detrimental to do so without the right thought process behind it.
Your target audience or your fans know that you have to market your business. There’s nothing wrong with sharing your enthusiasm about your products or services. But the people who choose to follow you online don’t want to be marketed to all the time. They want to feel connected to your brand. They want to see that you care about them and that you are willing to listen. They want to discuss topics that might not even relate to your business at all. In short, social media isn’t really about marketing as much as it is about engaging people in conversations.
A few important rules to consider:
- Don’t always talk at people, talk with them. When you connect with your followers online, speak to them like they’re your family or friends, not like they are a number in the sales machine.
- Balance your marketing messages. Every message you post online shouldn’t be a sales pitch. Share ideas and content with your audience that you find valuable or interesting. I feel that for every marketing message you share, you should share eight more that have nothing to do with your business services or products.
- Be real and be personable. Nobody wants to follow and listen to corporate jibber jabber. Give your brand some personality and stop being stuffy. Show your followers that you and your team are real and personable.
Perhaps the best book I have ever read when it comes to social media tools and guidelines is Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World by Gary Vaynerchuk. I recommend that you purchase this book because it’s filled with valuable advice and actual samples of social media ideas that have worked and failed for others.
Remember, it’s no longer a question of whether your business or brand should be involved with social media, but how will you get involved with social media. Your company’s future just might depend on it!