Social media is a very powerful thing, but only if used correctly. Always remember that social media is build around being social. That means that being personable, honest, and entertaining is the best way to get users to interact with and about a business. The clue is to get users to trust and be entertained by your company, product, slogan, or marketing campaign… and then they should do the rest of the buzz work for you. Here are three basic things to avoid so that you can build trust and get people talking about and involved with your business.
Rule #1: Don’t be Dishonest
As internet users, every one of us has probably been taken in by false posts or pranks. The feeling is a disappointing and embarrassing one at first, and so most of us have developed an acute awareness of duplicity, as well as extreme annoyance at overtly dishonest posts, comments, etc. This doesn’t just apply to false, promotional reviews of a product (which are very easy to detect, so just don’t do it) but also to advertise-like promotions disguised as comments or feedback.
The other side of this rule is that internet users appreciate straightforwardness and honesty. Instead of responding to a negative review with false positive reviews, why not publicly respond to the reviewer? Offer them discounts or a way to fix the problem, and you might win over a vocal customer who can potentially do far better work for you than any PR department or reputation manager.
Rule #2: Don’t be Annoying
Remember the chain emails of the early 2000’s? Sure, those things went viral quickly, but nobody appreciated them. In the same way that you don’t spam your customers’ inboxes with useless information or advertisements, don’t spam their Twitters with less-than-brilliant blog posts or promotions. Focus on making your promotional content engaging and internet users will do most of the promoting for you. Watch what promotional techniques other companies are using to get users talking. A popular tactic these days, for instance, is to give away a free service. A generous promotion like that will build trust and loyalty with users, and also might be the best way to get them talking about your site or business with their friends.
Rule #3 Don’t Fight Against the Nature of the Internet
Promoting a product or a service online is a tricky business, as there is so much free stuff, piracy, theft, collaboration, and sharing. If you have a product or service that is threatened by the “openness” of the internet, then maybe it’s time to take a different approach. Look at the music industry, for example. Since music is so easy to come by for free, musicians have shifted their emphasis onto live shows, and now often give their recorded music away for free, in order to gain a following and get their name out there. They then largely rely on social media and fans to get the word out about them and get fans to their live shows. Decide how you will make money, and then perhaps you can decide what services you can afford to “give away” in order to grow. Think about it — most of the biggest companies online, including names like Facebook, Yahoo, Google YouTube, and Pandora, offer their services for free. If you can adapt to fit to this new model, in which the relationship between social media and advertising is fundamental, rather than relying on pre-internet models of profitability, you’ll likely do well on the internet.
Rule # 4 Don’t Think Social Media Will Solve All Your Problems
Social media is merely one tool for a business. Sure, it can be used for advertising, for gathering customer feedback, for getting your brand out there, etc. but it should be used only in concert with other movements. Consumers are smart – they’ll get tired of your products and services if you simply keep promoting the same ones. Remember to encourage innovation and creativity in all parts of your business (such as product enhancement, new product creation, new ways to provide service, and new markets) and use social media to promote your products that are new, fresh, and exciting. Consumers will quickly begin to associate your ads and promotions with boredom if you keep vamping on the same old campaigns and product lines.
Rule # 5 Don’t Treat Each New Media as the Holy Grail
Focus will greatly help you consolidate your forces and not get too stretched out over too many different social media outlets. Of course it’s great to have as many promotional outlets as you can, but if you have more than you can handle and let one or two stagnate (and fall into the murky, frightened depths of abandoned websites) you can do great damage to your image as an active company. The other danger is jumping right in to each new social media fad of the moment. Try focusing on what works and then spreading outward with purpose, after you figure out how best to use each new tool.
Remember that users of social media want to interact with people. They all have their own motives and designs, whether it’s to impress their friends or find a job. If business professionals and marketers can remember that (and also remember to treat viewers as they would like to be treated) they’ll likely have a far greater success using social media.
Guest Post by Randall
Randall Gates in a business professional who specializes in quality management systems and software. He frequently writes on these topics and currently blogs for cebos.com, a provider of electronic document management systems.