If you follow the headlines in online marketing, you’ve doubtless heard numerous “gurus” touting that social media marketing is not only effective, but it’s as simple and easy as selecting a good option from WordPress themes and then leaping right in to the world of social media.
You head over to Facebook and make a page, create an account on Twitter and let the sales and success just roll right in. While that might be the mantra being shouted by some, it’s far from the truth. What’s the reality here?
Social media marketing is effective
First, understand that social media marketing can be enormously effective. The gurus aren’t wrong about that.
In fact, it’s so effective that international Fortune 500 companies are routinely making use of it. Of course, if you’re on Facebook, you know that just from the number of ads appearing on the right hand side of the page.
You’ve also doubtless seen updates from those brands that you’ve “liked” on your own – they pop in your stream all the time. So, social media can be effective as has been proven. The real problem here is that putting it to work for you isn’t as simple as some make it seem.
The first thing you’re going to find when you create an account on Facebook (or Twitter for that matter), is that it takes time and effort to build a following. Just because your account is there and active doesn’t mean that people are going to flock to it in droves.
You have to actively promote your social media account and make people aware that it exists. Make sure you link to it from your website and blog, and cross promote your various accounts from other social sites (tweet about your FB page, for instance).
Promote your business page from your personal page, invite friends and business colleagues to like it and generally make people aware that the page is there. Of course, you shouldn’t spam others – that can backfire and you’ll find that growing your social media following is almost impossible.
The most important thing is for you to have patience. It will take time. Understand that from the outset and be prepared to put forth the effort to grow your following.
Put out great content
One of the best ways to improve awareness of your social media presence is to put out great content. Put out content that your audience wants to share.
Consider ThinkGeek – they produce products based on pop culture, science fiction and fantasy and have really conquered “geek chic”. Their Facebook and Twitter accounts are incredibly popular because they routinely put out content their audience wants to share – the more shares your post or tweet has, the more others get to see your name and the greater the chances you’ll get a new follower or friend.
What constitutes “great” content, though? This is where things get tricky. You need to put out things that appeal to your audience.
To use ThinkGeek as an example once more, they routinely post about new products, but they also post humorous Internet memes, share pictures from their fans, involve their fans in contests and more. Your particular business or industry niche will determine what constitutes great content for you.
Do more than share – communicate
Sharing is great. It’s a wonderful way to ramp up awareness. However, it’s not the end all, be all of the situation.
To really get the most out of social media, you need to do more than just share on a constant basis. You need to become part of the conversation.
You need to communicate with your audience directly. Don’t be afraid to bring a little personality to the table here – your followers and friends will not only appreciate the humanizing factor, but it’s actually expected.
Respond to comments on your Facebook posts, thank people for retweeting on Twitter, greet new friends and followers. Get involved in the discussion and you’ll find that your following grows much more quickly.
Maintain your brand
One of the most important things to do when growing your social media influence is to maintain your brand everywhere. Your Facebook, Twitter, G+ and LinkedIn accounts all need to be branded alike.
That doesn’t mean you need to post identical content constantly (though this is necessary sometimes), but that all of your accounts feel like part of the same established brand. You don’t want Facebook followers to find you on Twitter only to feel like they’ve connected with a totally different company. Maintain your brand at all times.
Social media success can be had – there’s proof of that. However, it takes time, dedication and patience. Don’t become discouraged when success doesn’t materialize a day after you make your first post. Develop a plan for long-term success and stick to it. But most importantly, keep sharing and keep connecting – success will come.