As the social media wave continues to pick up steam, businesses are taking a closer look at sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to see whether there might be a way they can turn friends and contacts into customers. It’s a good question; with hundreds of millions of people using social networking sites, it’s clear that your prospects are out there. But to find and reach them, you are going to have to take some cues from businesses in other industries that are already making it work.
Here are five things you can learn from other businesses about social media.
Social media takes some time… but not necessarily a lot of money. You would think that large, multinational corporations, with their extensive public relations teams and market research staff, would dominate social media, and some do use networking sites effectively. But in many cases, it’s the smaller players – family-owned candy companies and Main Street specialty stores – that are using the personal nature of their businesses to meet the big boys step for step. To make social network marketing work, you’ll have to be patient and invest some energy, but not necessarily a whole lot of cash.
Connect with your best customer. One of the reasons those smaller players are doing so well is that they typically don’t have any trouble finding focus. Given that there are literally hundreds of millions of social media users, trying to target them en masse is never going to be effective. Instead, think of who your very best potential client would be and then arrange a profile that speaks to them. You can’t sell to everybody online, but you can use social media to attract good customers.
Keep your marketing messages subtle. You’ll hardly ever see movie stars and musicians advertise on social media, but they’re always promoting their latest projects. You can do the same. Since social networking sites make a poor outlet for outright advertising, try to layer your sales pitch within informational articles and other “soft” forms of content. Once people are familiar with you, it’s only natural for them to take the next step and buy from you in the future.
Be fun. In the same way, take a cue from our friends in the public relations world and try to blur the lines between marketing and entertainment. Social media marketing is really about winning attention, and there’s no substitute for being fun when it comes to drawing readers and followers online.
Stick to the plan. If there is one thing you want to borrow from the corporate giants, it’s this: focus on the bottom line. The advertising departments of Fortune 500 companies don’t spend much time worrying about how many friends they have; they just want to know how social media is supporting their other online and offline marketing goals. Your thinking should go the same way. Social media is fun to use, and it can be effective, but only if it works along with everything else you’re already doing.