ONE PERSON I KNOW has a mistaken impression of how to successfully use social media for his business. Many people would consider this individual (who we will call John) an expert in marketing, since he is a V.P. of product management and marketing for a division of a $1 billion software company.

John is very knowledgeable about almost every area of marketing, but he thinks social media should be used in much the same way as direct mail or email marketing.

Social Media for Small Business

When it comes to social media for small businesses, you can learn from John’s mistakes.

“There’s nothing new in marketing,” John likes to say. Still, social media does have some significant differences compared to other marketing disciplines. Fortunately, we can all learn a great deal from the four major social media mistakes that John is making.

Mistake #1: Assume that Growing the Size of Your Network is Top Priority

John has made the goal of growing his company’s friends and followers as the top priority of his social media campaign. This is his first mistake. John has come to this course of action by drawing on his success in email marketing. He has seen how growing an email list of prospects is typically an easy way to grow sales. For example, if you have a list of 10,000 qualified prospects and you send them an email, then typically a certain percentage of the list will buy your product. If you double the list to 20,000 qualified prospects, then twice as many people will buy your product.

The results in email marketing are sometimes so consistent that some marketers call their email list an “ATM machine” because every time they hit their list, they get to make a withdrawal.

Mistakenly, John assumes that social media works the same way. If you double the number of high quality followers, then you get twice the results. As a result, one of his favorite tactics is to grow his followers through giveaways and contests. Contests are a great way to grow followers quickly, but often you end up with people in your network that don’t really help your business – unless your contest is very targeted to people who are interested in your offering.

Unfortunately, social media marketing works quite differently than email marketing. In social media, the quality of your relationship with followers and the level of engagement with followers are two much more important factors.  In other words, it’s more productive to have fewer, strong, active relationships than it is to have many weak relationships. This is an important social media marketing point that many business owners don’t realize.

So how do you develop strong social media relationships? Let’s look at the second mistake that John is making.

Mistake #2: Start Selling Right Away

John thinks that he can immediately start selling his products to his followers and that’s just not how it works. It takes time and investment in your network to build a trusted brand and community. If, like John, you self-promote before you’ve built strong relationships, then good luck getting followers to help you in the future.

Before you ask for anything from your network – e.g., post your blog article, retweet your content, review your product, buy your service — you need to have relationships that are win – win. More specifically, your followers need to see that you are doing things (and continue doing things) for them before they even consider doing something for you.

Here are four ways you can start to do this:

  1. Help others by sharing their content. This means sharing on Facebook and LinkedIn or retweeting on Twitter and repining on Pinterest.
  2. Try to help others when they ask. This usually requires more time and effort than simply sharing others’ content, but it often means that the bond between you and that person will be stronger. When it comes time to ask for something, they will be more likely to help.
  3. Don’t just read that post, leave a comment. Bloggers share their blog posts with the hope that you will click through and read it. Let them know that you have read it by commenting on their blog or a social media channel. But you don’t want to just say anything in the comment; make sure it will benefit others that are reading it, too. That way, the author will know that you are contributing to their effort.
  4. Prove that you are the expert in your field. If you answer questions with the very best information and share the very best content and leave the most insightful comments, then smart people will take notice and recognize that you know what you are talking about.

Mistake #3: Not Being Personal

John wants everyone representing his company to use the company logo as an icon when posting to social media. He feels that this will help build the company’s brand. While using a consistent logo on marketing materials is a very good idea, it’s not appropriate for social media.

Social media users build relationships (one-to-one) with people, not with companies. People understand that a company cannot truly participate in social media; it has to be individuals who represent the company. If people don’t know who is behind the logo, the relationship will start with a certain level of mistrust. Individuals will have more credibility, and people will respond to company representatives more cordially when they are communicating with an individual.

Mistake #4: Ignoring Social Media Customer Service Requests

The final and maybe the most important mistake that John is making is instructing his people to ignore customer service requests via social media. He wants to force all customer service and technical support to his phone lines, where they are better prepared to support customers.

What he doesn’t understand is everyone is watching when his people don’t respond, and this sends a strong message to potential customers that his company does not listen. There may be no better way to influence large numbers of prospects than for a customer service representative to resolve a customer problem quickly and efficiently via social media. It says to the world: we have customer service issues just like everyone else, but we will communicate with you about these issues using the media of your choice, and we will do a good job and resolve your issues.







Thank you Jennifer Kamerman

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