Social media for fun and social for business are totally different and honestly, a large number of entrepreneurs don’t realize that. The rules are different and with a new social media platform popping up seemingly every other day, it can all be overwhelming to keep up with. But, having a solid online presence in 2013 (soon to be 2014) generally includes some sort of social media, regardless of industry. It’s important to know how to play in the sandbox and the unspoken rules of engagement.
Whether you’re starting off fresh or have been building your social presence for a while, think about what your parents taught you when you were in school. Some of the best, fundamental lessons still come from there:
Know who you are.
Before you get to typing and posting, what do you want your online presence to be? What do you actually want to say to people and what is your purpose for being on here in the first place? Approach social media the same as you would any other marketing campaign or project—start with your message.
With each new business I create (or help someone build) that requires its own separate social media accounts, I ask myself the following:
· What is my business or project really about?
· Who am I targeting and why?
· What does its voice sound like?
· In what ways will I be similar to or different than others in my industry?
· How exactly will by social media efforts relate to my overall business goals?
Answer these questions, keep them nearby, and you’ll always keep that essential connection from the real world to the social realm.
Learn the basics first.
Remember how you had to learn addition and subtraction before you could hit the big dogs—multiplication and division? Well, similarly, although there are a million different social networking sites that you can engage in, get an awesome grasp on what you’re doing and how you’re going to do it first. For most industries, Twitter is one of the biggest sources of intelligent conversation, while Facebook has traditionally dominated the areas of event promotion, images, and video so Twitter and Facebook are often both great, safe “starter” platforms to help businesses get their feet wet.
There are also platforms that may offer greater benefit for special industries. If you create individualized crafts or are a great event planner, Pinterest is definitely for you. If you’re a musician or in a beauty field, then making great YouTube videos is your way to go. Know which ones are common and which ones your competitors are in. Take that knowledge and focus on those first. You can always expand to other platforms once your comfort level increases and you have your routine down.
Treat people how you want to be treated.
It was the golden rule that your parents and teachers probably said to you every day that sometimes slips from our consciousness. Even when talking to brands and companies, there are people behind each and every profile. How you actually interact with other users in the social space dictates your social etiquette. Although it may be difficult in our busy, busy world, you have to make an effort to talk to those people, just as you would on the phone or in-person.
So what does that mean? It means that you should always respond, be nice, remain positive, and listen to what others have to say. Be mindful of syntax, word choice, and even what punctuation you use. Refrain from sarcasm or anything that may be read wrong, as well as anything that could possibly be misconstrued as offensive. In every post and in every circumstance, make sure that you’re covered.
You are the company you keep.
Going back to the sandbox, make sure you choose your social media friends wisely. Stay away from people that are troublemakers and that start problems. When interaction is necessary with them, remember who you are and what your brand represents and act accordingly.
Yes, I know, that sounded totally like what your mom used to say, right? Well, that’s because she was totally right. Even online, in a place where there is no physical meeting place, there is still a huge “meeting of the minds” and you want to be categorized with a certain group. Whether it’s your personal account (which is still not personal because you are your brand) or your business account, people are watching you. And yes, they are judging to see if you are worthy of their connection, or specifically in the case of customers, their money.
It doesn’t always have to be what you personally post that could offend someone. What if you like a racy picture on Instagram that someone else has posted, allowing a potential investor to sees the update in their news feed think of you differently? Or what if a potential customer is turned off by the fact that you follow a bunch of people on Twitter that tweet offensive remarks about other people? Negative people are like viruses—stay far away.
Nothing is truly ever private on social media so just keep it positive and build smart circles. Kapeesh?
It’s not always about you.
The most important social media lesson of them all: when creating and sharing content, it’s not about you. Your purpose is to provide information that your target audience wants to see, not necessarily what you want to just push out to them. Pushing out info about yourself and your business that you want to share is great, but they probably don’t know you very well just yet and what they want to know are things that can help them.
When people log on to their social accounts each day, they want free information and if you can position yourself as someone that can provide it, you’ll win them over before they even really speak to you.
If you’re a beauty salon, you need to be seen as an expert in beauty. To do that, you need to show your potential customers some of what you know so in addition to constantly telling them who you are, help them out and give them free advice. “It’s winter! To avoid extra breakage, remember to condition more frequently.” If you’re a new tech company that sells apps, what’s the best way to get in front of tech lovers? Share new and pertinent industry news as well as information on how an app can help businesses grow. Instead of just talking about yourself, give the gift of education—teach something.
See, some things never really do change.