Did you know that more than 94% of SMEs use social media for marketing needs? One of the top reasons for using social media, according to a post on LinkedIn, is to maintain an online presence and identity.
Companies also use social media is to generate word-of-mouth, to deliver content, engage with potential customers, to advertise, and to generate new leads.
More than 61% of these businesses find social media useful in gaining new customers. Consumers (about 49% of them) in turn, use social media to access a network of peers, experts, and thought leaders. They seek to learn from experts within the industry, obtain insights, and learn best practices.
Almost everyone uses the social web to ask questions, to find answers, and to help others with questions. In fact, social media is one of the most influential touch points for businesses in many industry verticals including travel, hospitality, and finance.
Social media, however, is an animal very different in nature from traditional media. It throws your pitch out into the water. It embraces the collective voice of the audience. It runs on people, not on products. It works on your relationships and not on your business itself.
Such is this animal. So how do we tame it, you ask. Here are a few tips.
Show up first
Nothing ever happens unless you show up. It’s easy to think that you are there, but the question is: are you there enough? Starting with a fully-functional ecommerce store that’s responsive and that renders well on all devices consumers can conceivably use to access your website is almost always the first step.
You’d then have to show up everywhere else your customers are expected to be, and that includes multiple social channels. Twitter is expected to make ecommerce a possibility. Facebook already has a way to plug your ecommerce store right into your business page. If you use a popular online retail solution such as Shopify, you also get an easy, plug-and-play functionality to sell your products on Facebook.
Showing up online relates to how many potential customers visit your store; know about your business, and like what you do. It gives you basic insights on how your potential customers perceive your business and how they relate to the problem you are looking to solve.
Relate first, pitch later
When you are in business, you are likely to go pitching at the first available opportunity. It’s habit. It’s the way we’ve been doing business for a long time now. Things, however, changed with the rise of social media and today it’s more about how you relate to a potential customer (and the incumbent customer) than it’s about completing a transaction.
The word “social” really has some weight here and that’s at the very core of social selling. Stop selling. Don’t pitch. Don’t even bother “asking for the sale.” Instead, maintain small conversations. Ask if you can help. See if you can solve problems. See where you can provide value to the relationship. Often, the length of time for the conversations to lapse until a transaction takes place depends on how long it takes for each customer to decide to make that transaction.
The easy bit is maintaining those meaningful conversations. The hard part is that no amount of pushing for that transaction will help.
In fact, participating in social conversations should be a standard part of your digital marketing strategy. You need a steady presence on communities, forums, and Q & A sites that relate to your niche.
Do you see the difference in the approach you need to take?
Publish with a purpose
Whether you are on Facebook, Twitter, or on LinkedIn, it’s important to publish with a purpose. As a set of platforms, social channels are the strongest vehicles for content distribution and social traction combined. If the purpose were to work on your branding, attracting traffic, or conversions, you’d still have to produce content assets with these purposes in mind. Then settle for specific tactics such as using the right visuals.
Consider SlideShare: the site gains a massive 60 million visitors a month and over 3 billion slide views per month – about 1140 slides a second! According to Jason Miller, visual language helps tremendously with decision-making, information dissemination, and boosts overall views.
SlideShare also has a way for you to generate leads. So, if you were to publish your decks on SlideShare, what purpose would that be for? Would it be to generate leads? Would it be to build your brand? Would you publish to nurture your relationships with your present customers?
Think about it. Never publish another piece of content without knowing what that piece of content should do.
Take the paid route
At the time of writing this, all social networks allow for paid advertising. While we know that these ads work best contextually depending on the advertisement itself and all of that content that backs up every campaign, all businesses now have access to a huge mass of people through each of these social networks. Facebook allows for sponsored updates and direct ads.
Twitter allows for promoted tweets, promoted accounts, and even control of content with its Cards feature. LinkedIn allows for sponsored content, ads, and a plethora of parallel content assets such as company pages.
Social ads only work well in context. You need the utopian “good content” to back up your paid social strategy. And that content has to come in a steady stream to build on the trust factor before your ads even begin to work for you.
No matter which of these social channels you use, picking the right process for doing justice to your campaigns is a must. For instance, no amount of paying for these ads will ever work without using optimized landing pages and launching campaigns for ultra specific goals.
What do you do on social media? How do you make it work for your business? What are some of those mandatory tasks on social media that your business day won’t go by?
About the Author Rohan: is a serial blogger and digital strategy consultant at E2M Solutions, a full service online marketing agency. He also helps startups develop remarkable user experiences at OnlyDesign.org. You should follow him at @searchrook on Twitter.