By Scott Duffy
In social media, you must not only engage but also engage consistently. The key to building meaningful relationships is to join the conversation. By reaching out to people in your community and responding to their comments, you can set the agenda.
Pick one platform to start with, whether it's Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, or another from the growing list of choices. Learn a little about the channels before you decide. They do have different characteristics and are therefore somewhat different in how you can best present yourself. For example, LinkedIn is more popular in the business world and has a very large international following. Meanwhile, Instagram is more visually oriented. Twitter is very newsworthy, with quick comments and responses, and Facebook has many businesses, but the approach is more social. Each also has slightly different user demographics. Most important, find out which social media platform is the one your customers spend their time on -- because that's where you need to be. Go find them and engage.
These tips will help:
Be yourself. Share and tweet and post the things that interest you. Don't try to be what you think others want you to be. And don't work too hard to make everything perfect; if you do, you'll either never put anything up, or worse, break trust with your customers. Whether it's Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest, what matters are your thoughts. Post things that genuinely interest you and your community.
Engage, engage, engage!
The primary goal of social media is to build relationships and add value. This is where most people fall down. They work so hard to create content and push it out, but then they fail to step in and engage with their audience.
That means don't talk to people but post what you think is cool. Talk with people and really engage. Respond to comments. Jump into communities. Share your perspective and point of view.
Document -- don't produce.
Overproduced content tends to turn people off on social media. Plus, you need so much content (video, audio, blog posts, quote boards, pictures, etc.) that most people don't have the time and resources to put it into production and make it look fancy. People don't care. And they don't care about what you created last week. They want to get to know you, experience your day with you and relate to you. As a result, it's much more powerful to document your life in real-time than it is to take a bunch of time honing and polishing one piece of content to a high sheen.
You know that guy at a party who always wants to sell you insurance? Don't be that guy. Get to know people, engage honestly, and join in the conversation ... don't dominate it. Giving advice and offering suggestions will make you seem helpful, knowledgeable, and trustworthy. Get people to ask you about yourself, rather than telling them about yourself, and they'll be more receptive.
Commit yourself to a daily "hour of power."
Getting started with these technologies is quick and easy. Opening an account costs nothing, and posting is free. In a few minutes, you can be up and running. Within an hour, you can reach out and connect with friends, co-workers, and customers.
Spend one hour per day during your launch engaging with the community. That's it. In one hour a day, at zero cost, you can build an army. The cost in time and money is negligible, but the potential payback in exposure and attention is incalculable.
Monitor and protect your brand.
Make sure to regularly frequent the sites, feeds, and pages that discuss your industry, product, or service. Look for posts that mention your company. Respond to comments and complaints, using them as opportunities to engage, build trust, grow your brand, and collect market research. If you pay attention, you can get ahead of potential problems.
Invest in sound.
If you're posting video or audio content, keep a couple of things in mind. Even though your color, background, and production values may not be perfect, good sound is very important. Buy a lavalier microphone for quality sound and, whatever the source of your video, be sure there's enough light for people to see you clearly. You don't need to spend a lot of money, but this is one detail you should invest in.
Tell them how to reach you.
Make sure your fans know how to get hold of you. If possible, give them your web address, email address, phone number, and social media handle. If possible, use the same handle on all social media platforms.
Social media offers you the chance to build a massive sales force that will be more effective than anyone you can put on staff. Your crowdsourced sales force will be out there telling other people who are interested in your product or service all about you. People are much more likely to trust your brand and make a purchase based on a friend's referral than by listening to anything you have to say.
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