Social media platforms have become an important marketing channel for small businesses. To make the most of them it’s important to use them appropriately. In the first part of this article, let’s look at the overall approach…
Perhaps the most important thing to realise is that you cannot use social media to simply broadcast information to an audience. Social media platforms have fundamentally redefined the relationship between consumers and brands. The more traditional channels (like TV, radio and magazine advertising) were one-way communication mediums: you told people what you wanted them to hear, and they had no way of replying – at least not via the same medium.
Social media platforms offer a two-way medium. Your audience can communicate back to you – in real time. This means that you are no longer broadcasting information to your audience – you are in a conversation with them. It’s important to understand that your audience knows this and expects it. So if you don’t accept the conversation and engage with them, they will feel ignored and affronted – which is not good for your brand and your relationship with your customers.
You cannot afford to simply post things on social media and leave it at that.
One of the frustrations that many companies have when they use social media is that they feel it is not helping them to make sales. This has very little to do with the way they are pitching on social media, and everything to do with the fact that social media platforms are not sales channels. They are information distribution channels and engagement channels. This is where you build relationships - not where you make sales.
Imagine you’ve just arrived at a friend’s cocktail party, where you’re introduced to some people you’ve never met. You’ll exchange some small talk, perhaps strike up more in-depth conversations, even make a few new friends. You wouldn’t dream of launching into a sales pitch for your products within 10 minutes of being introduced.
The same holds for social media. You’re there to form relationships. The sales will come later, because people are more likely to buy from someone they trust, someone who has engaged with them meaningfully. Your aim is to be that person – and social media gives you more power to do this than anything that has come before
Decide which social media platforms to use. Don’t just assume that you need to be on Facebook just because it’s so popular. It may not be where your best audience is. Take some time to discover which social media sites your customers and potential customers frequent, and why they use them.
If you offer B2B services it may be more beneficial to concentrate on LinkedIn, which is more business oriented. Whereas if you sell hair care products directly to consumers, Facebook may offer better engagement opportunities.
Just as you tailor your communication style in everyday life to the context in which you find yourself, you should do the same on social media. Business communication on LinkedIn needs to be a bit more professional, whereas you can perhaps afford to take a more casual, familiar approach on Facebook, and use shorthand, telex style with Twitter.
That covers the basic approach – the mindset that you need to adopt, if you will. In Part 2, we’ll get more specific about your actual engagement…