When it comes to online marketing the common wisdom is that you need to get on social media to succeed. What you rarely hear about is how that exactly translates into more business for you. Most of the advice surrounding social media marketing goes like this:
- Step 1: Get on social media
- Step 2: ???
- Step 3: Profit
But wait, what is step 2 exactly and how does that equal profits? The few articles that do cover this step give vague hand-wavy advice about becoming a "thought leader", going viral, and being part of "the conversation". That stuff means nothing to most of us. It's all snake oil. That's not to say social media marketing doesn't work, it's just that the way most people tell you to go about it is all wrong.
We don't do Facebook here at Clever. When we first started we did but over time we found that it was a waste of time, energy, and money. At first, we felt bad about this. Like we somehow were missing something or doing something wrong. After all, everyone else is raving about this social media stuff and talking about how it does wonders for their business meanwhile we got absolutely nothing from it.
Over time we found out how to do social media right the hard way and today we're going to share it with you.
Step 1: Know your audience
Social media marketing works when you get in front of the right audience. Let's say you're a comedian and the common wisdom is that if you want to succeed as a comedian you need to perform on stage. Okay, you say, then go off and begin performing on every stage you can find. Your first stop is the local opera house. You get on stage and do your routine and completely bomb out. The audience is not amused. "Why so?", you wonder. Well, you got the part about performing on a stage right but it turns out it just wasn't the right stage. The same applies to social media marketing.
Step 2: Post appropriately
Each social network is used differently and you'll need to adjust your posts to account for that. Facebook is for sharing relevant content and announcements about your business. It's great for small boutiques and people selling products. It's not as good for anyone selling professional services. People aren't really going to follow lawyers or doctors on Facebook because they're the type of business that you don't really need every day and, let's face it, are pretty boring to most people.
Twitter is for having conversations. It's open nature is great for injecting yourself into conversations others are having. The trick is to not be so pushy. When it comes to Twitter you want to post links to content created by you as well as by others who are already respected in your field. We're big fans of Twitter because there's a big community of designers and developers out there we can connect with. We aren't expecting to attract a single new client through Twitter. Instead we're just posting helpful information that others will find useful and being part of conversations that others are having. It's good for our brand, tiny as it may be, and could eventually turn into business relationships that are beneficial to both parties. If you sell products then Twitter is a great place for you to show off the behind the scenes stuff that goes into your business and announcing sales, contests, and other non-pushy interesting things.
Instagram is great if you have something interesting to contribute. Posting pictures of your 50% off sale banner is lame, boring, pushy, and something no one will care about. No one will follow you. Instead, try to post interesting photos of you and your customers having a good time. Before and after shots are also a great way to promote your business on Instagram. What you want to be doing is making your business look attractive to people who see your photos. Don't expect people to read your captions. You need to have a visual impact immediately.
LinkedIn is for... let's be real. LinkedIn is lame. It's all spammy business people trying to look like they're important. You can definitely market your business successfully on LinkedIn but in the interest of keeping things real like we always do, we're going to go ahead and skip this network that leaves a bad taste in our mouths.
Step 3: Don't be boring or pushy
When people do social media marketing for themselves they make two huge mistakes:
- They self-promote too hard. Don't make your posts about you. They should be about your customers. You're in business to help people, not just to make money. Your status updates about your new sale or how great your business is comes off as pushy. Remember, you have no history here. You need to build credibility and trust before you launch into a pitch.
- They're annoying. The only thing worse than self-promoting too hard and being pushy is doing it once an hour all day long. Don't post useless updates to your social networks too often. Don't inject yourself into other conversations just to self promote.
The secret to social media success is adding value. When you add value to a conversation and make useful posts you'll build trust and get more followers.
Step 4: Commit to the right networks
We don't do Facebook because it doesn't help our business and we're not helping anyone on Facebook. People are on Facebook to connect with each other, not interact with brands. It can and does work for a lot of companies but not us. The lesson is that you need to determine which social networks are worth pursuing and go for them.
Once you know which networks you're targeting you need to commit. There's nothing worse than a brand social media profile that hasn't seen an update in months or years. Create a post schedule and stick to it. Tools like Buffer can help with this.
Social media works great for business if you have a little patience. Just be sure to know who and where your customers are, take the time to build trust, and be sure to commit some time each week to growing your presence.