Many business owners seem to have bought into the fiction that if they simply build a social media site, customers will magically arrive. But that doesn’t work. Having a Facebook site does not produce customers by itself nor does Pinterest automatically drive traffic to your website. You can’t simply create a site, do a little posting, or even purchase a few thousand followers and then sit back and relax. If you do, you will be frustrated and convinced that you have wasted both time and money. Establishing a social media presence is only the first step. To reach your audience and convert leads into customers, you must engage them. In today’s world, that’s what your customers expect. If you are on a social media platform, you must participate regularly. It will take time and thoughtful activity to build trust and a loyal following. But once you do that, the results can be amazing. Loyal customers can become your best sales people.
Here are 10 things you should do (or not do) to develop trust and build and retain a loyal following:
- Decide on your goals and strategies–then make sure your posts promote them. Are you building your brand’s identity? Creating interest in a new product? Looking to get more local customers? Once you know your goal, you can plan the type of original and curated content that will best further that goal.
- Maintain a presence on multiple platforms so that your audience can check out your business but make sure you are expending most of your time and energy where your customers are spending their time. For instance, if you have a B2B company, you may discover that your customers spend most of their time on LinkedIn or Google+. You will want to have a presence not only on those sites but other main sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest—so wherever they look, people will find you. But focus most of your time on the 1 or 2 sites where your potential customers are most active. For instance, if your audience is on LinkedIn, you should be—commenting in groups and posting updates on your profile or company page. But you will still need to share 1-2x a week (or more) on other social media sites. (To find out where your audience is on social media—try asking current customers where they hang out or conducting online surveys to find out.)
- Establish a posting calendar and follow it. I recently recommended an excellent contractor to a friend. When I asked the friend if they connected, she said no. She’d gone to the contractor’s Facebook page to see what he was doing and the most recent post was 2 years old. So she went on to another contractor. Stale posts on sites can turn potential customers away. If you are on a site simply to make sure people can find you, post there once or twice a week while you focus most of your attention on the site your audience likes best.
- Provide entertaining and/or educational content. You need to give your customers something of value to keep them interested, build trust in you and inspire them to follow you. This includes not only discounts or special offers but also useful insights into your business and products as well as information that will make their lives easier or more interesting. Some of it should be original material that you have created but you will also want to include content from other sources (curated content). The appropriate medium will depend on the platform but where possible, be sure to mix it up. By now you probably know that pictures greatly increase the likelihood that a post will be read. But many platforms support not only pictures but also videos and slide presentations. You don’t have to create them yourself. There are a lot of places that you can find articles, infographics, pictures and videos that your audience will identify with, like and share. (For help finding sharable content, check out some content curation sites, for instance, Alltop or SmartBrief .
- Remember the 80-20 rule—80% of your posts should provide valuable information to your readers. Only 20% (and some would argue less than this) should be used for specifically marketing your services and products.
- Engage with your customers. Ask questions, respond to comments, follow them if appropriate, thank them for following you. Never let an opportunity escape you to have a one-on-one conversation. This is not a waste of time—just the opposite. This is how you build loyalty, create trust, and turn followers into your sales people. Today more and more people seek out friends’ recommendations before they buy. You want your followers to pitch your business for you. Never ignore a negative post—and generally do NOT delete it. If appropriate, apologize and offer something of value to make up for whatever bad experience the user had. But do not start a war of words. That can backfire badly. Dealing promptly, genuinely and politely to a negative comment will often defuse the situation and turn a negative into a positive for your company. There are tools that can help you monitor your online reputation. For instance, check out Sprout Social or Klout–just to name a couple. And make sure you post your own social media policy on your sites that describe the type of posts that you permit and what type of posts will result in you banning the poster.
- Know the best practices, etiquette, and rules for each social platform you are on. There is nothing worse than getting your account suspended – or worse getting banned – because you have crossed the line and violated a social media platform’s rules.
- Do NOT buy likes or followers. The purpose of getting likes and followers is to engage with people who are interested in your products and services, to nurture them with interesting and valuable content and to convert them into customers. Having a large number of followers you bought does not do this. Those folks are not interested in your business and won’t be engaging with you. Buying them is simply a waste of money. Even worse, many are fake accounts that may result in a platform banning your site and your audience questioning your integrity and trustworthiness. There really is no upside. Numbers of followers by itself is meaningless.
- Monitor your analytics. Most platforms provide their own analytics and Google Analytics is also an amazing resource for your business. Which of your posts are getting the most attention? When is your audience most likely to respond? What type of media attracts the most viewers? Check this out at least weekly and adjust your strategy and posting schedule to reflect the data.
- Don’t rely solely on social media to get the word out. In addition to a website, you should also have an email list and be emailing regularly. Despite predictions of its demise, email marketing is still alive and vital for converting leads into actual customers. Remember, you own and control your email. Don’t underestimate the importance of this. This year Facebook has made numerous changes that severely limits organic reach and required major adjustments to many companies marketing strategy. Platforms will change and can even disappear. But you control your email. Social media is an important tool for marketing but it is NOT the only one. It should be one arrow in your quiver—not your entire arsenal.
And if you need help with getting your social media marketing started or want to fine tune it—just give me a call.