By the time you finish reading this paragraph the staggering number of social media (SM) channels, and the number of active users they have, will have increased. Although most of us would be hard pressed to name a dozen, there are several hundreds of online social sites. In addition to countless personal and professional blogs, these include online destinations such as:
- Community-centric forums
- Social curation
- Social networking
- Special interest groups
The form, format and users of each differ, but they all align (one way or another) with the concept of interactive sharing.
Online websites, applications and related communications platforms for the purpose of input, interaction, text and/or video content sharing, collaboration and participation where there is an exchange of information, ideas, personal messages and other content.
Shape your expectations…
If your social media efforts are just beginning, or working on improving, or if your program is well established, it’s important to have a clear understanding about what to expect. As a baseline for all of us, the key considerations include:
- If social media is your only marketing strategy, please revisit your marketing plan. A SM strategy is a vital component in service to a comprehensive plan.
- The process of finding, attracting and engaging prospective new customers takes time and effort. Social media requires an ongoing commitment and it does not produce results in an overnight flash.
- The energy core of social media is connectivity and interaction, and providing interesting, informative and sharable information. (It is not about hardcore sales messages.)
- Focus on quality over quantity. A smaller, highly targeted, common interest audience is far more valuable than trying to reaching everyone/everywhere. Only people who have a reason to care are important.
- It’s about them, not about you. Listen first; understand what your target audience needs and wants. Discover their passion and support their purpose.
The Rules of the Road for Social Media Success
Use several social outlets. An active social media plan will embrace four of five avenues to reach and engage your target audience. Most often, these are Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and LinkedIn, depending where your goals most strongly align with audience activity and sharable content.
Have a unique voice. Define your purpose to serve the audience. What do you want to be known for by your audience?
Provide value. Share information that’s authoritative and useful.
Work it. Get into the ongoing conversation, or inspire a new one, several times each day and at different times of the day. Do this consistently.
Visualize the individual, not the masses. There may be hundreds in your audience, but frame your information as if you’re talking to only one person. That’s who’s reading it.
Actively engage in conversation to build relationships. Ask and answer questions, pose new ideas, and look for ways to originate and/or exchange useful information. It’s a dialogue, not a monologue.
Include visual elements; pictures, video. Images capture attention and are instantly engaging.
Understand and use analytics. Every social media platform provides information about user activity. Draw on this insight to better understand and serve the needs and interests of the audience.
Conversation leads to relationship. Building a relationship (and a reputation, for that matter) is vested in conversation and content that is sharable. By definition, interaction is the purpose of social media, and the outcome is a continuing relationship.
Although getting started in social media is relatively easy and low cost, an important secret to success is contributing meaningful, timely and interesting content.