Why and how: using social media for your business

Every week I hear from business owners who tell me, “I’d love to start using social media, but I don’t have time to learn it.” They also say, “I tried social media once and it didn’t work.” My response to every one of them is the same; “Stop with the excuses and learn how to use social media correctly in business—as a means to an end. The life of your company depends on it.”

Five years ago business owners could get away with not having an online presence—either a web site or social media platform (e.g. Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook). Today, that’s simply not the case. Too much has changed in how we communicate, both personally and professionally. And yet I still get asked “…But WHY do I need social media?”

Here are some simple reasons to start using social media in your business:

  • It’s where the discussions are happening – In the B2C world, consumers have taken firm control of conversations about products and services they are buying or considering purchasing. They post pictures, write reviews, and share comments—both good and bad—on an hourly basis (it’s not even daily or weekly anymore). Business owners can’t stick their heads in the sand as if these discussions and postings aren’t taking place. In some cases, you want to thank people for supporting your brands; other times, you may have to deal with a disgruntled customer to mitigate negative comments posted about your business.
  • It’s NOT about you! One of the biggest mistakes businesses make in using social media is thinking it’s all about them. Don’t treat social media like a megaphone—where all you do is post content about your business and talk about yourself. Use the platform to thank your customers, to support your partners and vendors, and to share content from other people who play a role in your company’s success. Recognition of others is a key component to your success in social media.
  • It’s here to stay—The first social media workshop I gave to business owners was back in 2008. At the time, people asked if social media was a fad or trend. I told them I didn’t know, but I wasn’t taking any chances. Today, most people realize just how much social media is a part of our everyday lives. It is here to stay—so start learning how to use it successfully as a business tool.

Hopefully you are now convinced about the “why” behind using social media. The next question to tackle is “HOW do I make time for incorporating social media into my sales and marketing campaigns?”

Here are a few steps that will help you use social media correctly without making too many time-consuming mistakes.

  • Talk to your customers first. How do they want to interact with your business online? It doesn’t make any sense to spend all your time on Twitter if your customers and prospects are congregating on Facebook and Instagram.
  • Start slowly with 1—2 platforms. Remember, you will not become a social media expert in 30 days. If you take the time to learn how to use each social platform correctly, you will build a solid foundation, see early results, and continue to use it as a tool for sales, marketing, research, and customer service.
  • Listen before you tweet. Apply the 2/3 vs. 1/3 rule to social media postings. Two-thirds of your actions should be supporting the people and companies that help you achieve your goals in business. This list includes: customers, prospects, partners, vendors, advisors, and referrals to name a few. The rest of your social content is either original information that comes from the bank of knowledge in your head or it is curated content that you share on your own timeline and comes from respected industry sources. You can find this content in blogs, newsletters, and newspapers or industry publications.

One important reminder is to set monthly goals for your social media programs and chart your progress. Take note of an increase in followers and likes. Did a hard-to-reach prospect or client take action on one of your social messages (e.g. they liked a post or retweeted it)? These are “little victories” in the campaign to build your social presence. You can set up your progress report on an excel sheet to track your monthly goals. When you are reviewing your progress, also look at which platforms are successful and which ones aren’t working. Increase your time and resources on the successful platforms (e.g. Twitter or Facebook) and put less effort into the platforms that aren’t responding.

Now you have the “why” and the “how” to start using social media correctly in your business. It’s time to take action!

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