What businesses want from social media

“More paying customers” is a typical answer, which seems quite a reasonable response.

“No, no” says another “It’s about raising brand awareness”

“It’s about creating communities online who will, in time, help spread the word about your business” pipes up the business owner who’s just attended a training course in working with social media course.

The above are typical responses I hear about what businesses want from social media, or hope it will deliver. However, being less enthused and more confused about using social media for business is the general ‘state of play’ for many.

Making time for using social media

Lack of time is something we seem to experience more the older we get. Spending time pondering theories of the relationship of age to speed of passing time just wastes more time, better spent on using social media to benefit your business, perhaps!

When and where to have a presence on social media is a confusion I find many businesses struggling with. I can talk about target markets, but actually I see a lot of businesses who really don’t understand their target market at all and/or haven’t given much/any thought to considering where their potential customers are likely to be online and at what time of the day.

I suggest approaching using social media online in the same way as attending networking groups where you, presumably, fairly quickly form an opinion as to the relevance and value to your business of being there? Or maybe you just enjoy the food at one more than another, which is the incentive to attend?

People buy from people they know

The above might sound flippant, but it actually mirrors what I experience with businesses favouring a particular social media network because they “like it” rather than because they have taken time to really consider how and why it could benefit their business.

People buy from people they know and also like, so at networking events you have to  spend time getting to know people and also helping them get to know you. It’s exactly the same ‘game’ on social media where you have to make a concerted effort to engage with real people. even though you can’t exactly look them in the eye. Broadcasting messages, clever quotes, photos of cats etc will generally not be enough to create the engagement you might hope for.

Where to be on social media?

Wherever your target market(s) are online is where you should be too, talking with people rather than at them.

Start a conversation, join in a conversation, express a point of view, a helpful tip, deliver a compliment, express enthusiasm for a point of view or just say “hello, how are you today”.

Without understanding where and when you need to be online, it’s going to be very difficult to engage with people in real-time and automated social media postings, which I’m going to touch on a little later in this post, just don’t deliver in the same way actual interactions can.

What to say on social media

Whatever it takes to start a conversation with people you want to engage with, for starters! The danger is contracting celebrity-itis, over-estimating your self-worth and falling into the trap of expressing controversial views that are perhaps best expressed away from public scrutiny.

Free speech is a laudable state of affairs, but beware the resultant free-for-all-to-join-in responses that abound on social media can deliver more verbal bruises than you bargained for!

If you post content that’s going to be seen as valuable by your target market, e.g. through  providing insight/advice, then you’ll be over the first hurdle in terms of creating engagement through “telling not selling”.

Buying into online marketing solutions

Software solutions for the creation/management of social media campaigns beckon invitingly as solutions promising wish fulfilment!  These online marketing solutions can, to many a frazzled business owner, seem to offer an elixir  for social media success.

However, the power and time-saving that can be harnessed from these marketing ‘solutions’ is generally directly related to the amount of pennies put into the slot on the top of the machine. Many operate on the Freemium solution where you can start using the tools for free, but you’ll soon need to start feeding the machine to optimise much in the way of performance expectation returns.

The social media marketing jungle

There are a growing number of online marketing solutions ‘out there’., but it can be frustrating to try to discover, in plain English, whether the success and time-saving potential they dangle equates with financial investment required.

In answer to client demonstrations of enthusiasm for a particular content marketing software solution,  I might enquire whether they’re planning to:

  1. Enrol another member of staff to deal with the requirements of a new, all singing and dancing, content marketing ‘solution’,
  2. Delegate the responsibility of running the application on the member of staff, without actually understanding what they’re asking them to do.
  3. Lead from the front, take on the job themselves and give up on some of the perks of being the boss.! NB If you’re struggling to think what those ‘perks’  are,  I rest my case!

My advice is not to consider taking on the cost of a paid online marketing solution until you’ve been swimming in the social media pond for at least a year. That’s time enough to understand how and where online you might best maximize your inbound marketing potential. Then, if you feel you could benefit, look for a ‘solution’ that is geared to work best with your chosen social media network(s)

Confused, bemused and unenthused by social media?

If you’re feeling fairly overwhelmed and unenthused by the whole business of social media, here’s my top tips for paddling in the social media water, rather than just diving in and finding yourself struggling, out of your depth.

  1. Go on a long walk, or to a nice coffee shop, away from your business. Clear your head and ask yourself what you’re wanting out of social media
  2. Identify who you want to connect with and what’s the solution you can provide for the problem they have?
  3. Imagine you’re talking to them about how you can help them
  4. Think about where and when they’re likely to be online and get on over there and start conversations with them.
  5. Keep the conversations going by sharing information that’s connected with your business, but isn’t a Sales Pitch.
  6. Establish a habit, like brushing your teeth, setting aside time every day to be communicating with people on social media, even just 3 x 10 minutes to begin with.
  7. Take an interest in other people and they will take an interest in you.

Big Oaks from little acorns grow!

As in business generally, effective communication is the key to success. Start slowly and simply, you don’t have to write a long article or even a blog post to begin with; but in time, when you catch the social media bug, who knows?

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Other posts that may be of interest:

Connecting with the right people

How to cultivate the feel good factor

Tips for those considering using WordPress



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