By Eve Mayer
Small and medium-sized businesses that “get it” are very, very heavily involved with social media, with the vast majority using blogs, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and other social media channels for business purposes.
And yet, most smaller companies STILL don’t know how to use social media to effectively grow their business.
Here are ten basic rules for what to do and and ten big ones on what “not to do:”
- Don’t jump in if you have major product weaknesses or customer support issues. Using social media makes good products smash hits, and weak products … dead. But don’t sit around — address the problems and get in gear!
- Don’t accept the connection request of a person you’ve ever dumped or fired on LinkedIn.
- Don’t just sell, sell, sell. Educate, enlighten, inform, and entertain your audience — position yourself and your company as an expert in your field.
- Don’t let your teenager post that last vacation video of you with that really bad sunburn when you danced to the Marcarena on YouTube.
- Don’t “set it and then forget it.” This is worse than doing nothing. Once you’re going, KEEP it going. Just don’t overwhelm your followers with too much — everybody’s got a busy life and nobody enjoys getting “Twitter-ria.”
- Don’t set up a Facebook page and only Friend yourself because you need quality time alone.
- Don’t expect to fully control the conversation, and don’t be a generalist. Social media isn’t an ad, it’s a conversation. With millions of blogs and sites to choose from, users can tailor their consumption to their interests. Focus on one topic and do it well (the narrower the better, OWN it!).
- Don’t let your employees tweet your Board of Directors with compelling questions like “Boxers or Briefs”?
- Don’t set up a Facebook fan page devoted to your cat who likes to give stock tips and inadvertently slips in tips with insider training.
- Don’t check in on Foursquare and earn the six-martini lunch badge just before the staff meeting.
- Google yourself regularly (and your products, and your employees, and your company).
- Invest time and resources into a strategic social media plan focused on trackable business goals. Detail your target audience and nail down how you’ll create value for them. Map out your strategy for every space (LinkedIn, Twitter, blogs, etc.).
- Listen and learn from users and community members for a few weeks before just blathering away. Even down the road, spend about twice as much time listening as responding.
- Realize that business-to-business companies can leverage social media to grow the bottom line just as much as B2C and Nonprofits.
- (Ugh, if you’ll forgive our use of the old radio adage “PIE”): Showcase a little Personality, and make your content Interesting and Entertaining. Yes, yes, it’s cheesy, but still true: People buy from people.
- Remember what mom said in grade school: Beeeeee yourself! Never before has a medium and its users been more adept at smelling a rat and turning on the offender.
- Always keep in mind: Social media needs to be a conversation (see “Don’t try to control,” above) and NOT a constant monologue blast of sales messages. A good-faith conversation builds trust; trust will equal more sales.
- Remember that “push” is out and “pull” is in. Direct mail, traditional advertising, and unsolicited e-mail are forms of “push” — the content producer chooses who to target. “Following” on Twitter, “subscribing” to a blog or podcast, or viewing a video your friends “liked” on Facebook are forms of “pull” — the content consumer decides what to listen to. In today’s information-rich world, people want to opt-in, choosing where to spend their valuable time. Give them a reason to choose your content.
- Take the opportunity to learn from your audience — they’ll spit out valuable ideas that you’d never cook up. Keep your team ready to quickly adapt your products accordingly.
- Keep those peepers open! Use Google Alerts, search.twitter.com, relevant LinkedIn groups, Facebook circles, and other sites to follow every single post or updated thread about your company, industry, and competitors.
Social media has quickly become the primary vehicle for interacting with your customers, partners, suppliers, and even employees. Soooooooo … what are you waiting for?
Eve Mayer Orsburn is the CEO at Social Media Delivered and author of “The Social Media Business Equation: Using Online Connections to Grow Your Bottom Line.” Eve is a Vistage member and speaker who focuses on social media for CEOs working on business growth. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published: Sep 8, 2011