Social Media – The Clue is in the Name

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EVERYONE who’s anyone has woken up to the power of social media. But some businesses are forgetting one essential element – it’s meant to be ‘social’.

Social media is a two-way conversation, it’s about engaging with your audience, talking with them not at them, listening to them as well as speaking.

Yes, it’s important to have the right content, to present your business in the right way and to encourage sharing.

But just like face-to-face business networking, social media is about developing a long-term relationship based on “like, trust and respect”; you have to nurture the relationship and not go for the quick, hard sell.

Tell followers what you’re doing, by all means, but also ask them questions. Let them tell you what they think about your products and services – good or bad – and let them suggest new initiatives. After all, it’s potentially a cost effective way to conduct consumer research.

Throw out a few questions … “What if we did this?”; “How would you feel if we did that?”; “Which new products would you like us to develop?”  You might be pleasantly surprised by the answers.

If you’re really serious about it, don’t expect your audience to come to you; you may have to go in search of them. Use social media monitoring tools to listen for mentions of your brand or topics of interest and then join in the conversation if it’s relevant – but, again, resist the temptation to use this opportunity to ‘sell’.

Listening in this way will help you identify where your customers ‘live’ online – is it Facebook, Twitter, in forums or on blogging sites? Once you know where they hang out you can target your efforts much more effectively.

Above all remember the three E’s of social media – make everything you do either entertaining, educational or engaging. And preferably all three.