Truth: Social Media can be useful, can be profitable, can be effective and can be productive. It can also be a waste of time, a waste of money and a pain in the butt.
So what makes it one thing or the other? It depends on the way you approach it, and the fact that Social Media might not be exactly the best strategy for what you want and need. As a private user, my recommendation is this: just use social media responsibly*. As a business, use it responsibly and intelligently.
Truth: Social Media will be there, whether you need it or not, you want it or not. So the first question is: how should your business approach Social Media?
Even if you don’t want anything to know about Social Media, Social Media eventually would like to know about you. A client that is really happy about your product would like to share it with his/her friends (that’s good!), but so would a client that wants to complain about your service (that’s not good). So in one way or another, Social Media will be connected to your corporate life, and to one degree or another, you will need to deal with it. Does that mean that you should worry about the number of followers? Or that you need to post every day? If you are an influencer, of course; if you are a steel supplier, definitely not. “Ok, sure, that’s basic common sense, but what if I’m a restaurant, a soap maker or a book store?” In that case, keep reading…
Truth: If your first impression is that Social Media might be a pain in the butt, it probably will be. In that case, remember: there are other alternatives.
So let’s be clear here: if you don’t think that Social Media is something that your company needs, you will hardly perceive it as something worth your time and effort. It could be that you are really missing an opportunity, but it could also mean that it’s just not necessary. Simply remember that there could be other alternatives. Be open to different strategies and evaluate your options before making a decision.
If you just want to do it because everybody else is doing it, it won’t work. Why? Because:
Truth: What works for others might not work for you. And maybe is not even working for them.
Ok, so you have a competitor that has 25,000 followers on Instagram. That doesn’t mean that they are selling to 25,000 people. It could mean, instead, that your competitor is spending time and resources on something that is just not generating anything other than followers and likes.
Even if you have your own Instagram account with “only” 1,500, maybe those 1,500 are more engaged with your brand, and you even sell twice as much as that competitor. So, stay away from appearances on Social Media, because your customers might just not care about it.
And that’s basically what determines if a Social Media strategy is necessary, or if it will be successful: how much you listen to your customers.
Truth: The (not-so-secret) ingredient for a successful Social Media experience lies in just two words: Be Social.
Crazy, right? For some in our own industry that is something really hard to understand.
Social Media success, like any other (and honest) way of making business, lies in giving your customers what they want. Basically, caring about their needs, listening to them, keeping them engaged, etc. If you are going to use Social Media, that means that you need to be social. If your customers go to Social Media to complain about something, listen to them and reply properly. That’s actually an opportunity for you to show how good are you helping your customers when they have a problem. Maybe your customers just want to be entertained, so entertain them.
In any case, listen to your customers and give them a reason to keep in touch and motivated. Just sharing photos of your product might not be enough.
Try to follow the famous 20/80 rule on Social Media: 20% of your social media posts should directly promote your business, while the other 80% should inform, educate, and entertain your audience. Obviously these ratios can ±change, but you get the idea.
Truth: What matters is what they say about you, not what you say about yourself.
Social Media is not about you publishing how wonderful your products are, it’s about your customers sharing with their friends your good name and your great products (hopefully on a daily basis). So, your first goal should be to make it as easy as possible for your customers to share information about your brand, your products or your services.
If you sell online, be sure to have a “share this” option visible by your products. If you are a restaurant, you could ask your patrons to take a photo of their meal and share it on their Social Media personal accounts (some businesses offer discounts: e.g. share a photo of your ice cream and get $1 OFF).
But again, that’s completely up to you. Maybe you are actually tired of your customers taking photos of their food or even their asking your personnel to take photos. Maybe your customers even appreciate your revolutionary “no photos” policy. The point is that you can use Social Media in very different ways, sometimes not even using it at all.
Truth: More Followers ≠ More Sales.
As I said before, more followers does not necessarily mean more sales. That’s a common -big- misconception. Unless your business model is based on the number of followers (e.g.: influencers, YouTubers, etc); don’t even worry about it. Yeah, it would be great to see thousands following your Twitter account, but don’t expect all of them (not even a third) to come to you, ready to use their credit cards. Yeah, it could -potentially- generate more sales, but it generally doesn’t. I know this is not what other digital marketing companies or community managers told you, but that’s the dark and honest truth.
Truth: More Engagement = More Sales.
And by engagement, I’m not talking about just keeping your followers engaged. You don’t even need followers, just customers (yes, customers) talking positively about you, sharing their good experiences, sharing your products, willing to say wonderful things about your brand through their Social Media accounts. That means more and better business, because you will be able to reach a bigger portion of your market.
But be smart about it. For example, sometimes you will see Facebook sending you a message saying something like: “Eh, this post that you published the other day is generating some good noise, you should pay us $10 to promote it among thousands of users!!” Don’t fall for that. The truth is that you may see more views and more likes, but if that post didn’t generate any sales among the number of followers that already saw it “organically,” meaning not paying, it hardly will generate anything among those “thousands more.” Don’t take my word, just pay them those $10 and see for yourself.
Targeted Advertising on Social Media is a different beast entirely, but you must be really smart about it if you don’t want to see your budget disappear like rain in the dessert. When I say “a different beast,” I mean it. That beast can be dangerous if left untamed.
*About USING SOCIAL MEDIA RESPONSIBLy:
Just understand that you are basically sharing your life, so be cautious about it. Needless to say, don’t be a bully, a troll or simply an a**hole. Also, know that “anonymity” doesn’t really exist anymore, just because you think you are “hiding” behind a computer or a smartphone. And most importantly, use your judgement and be critical enough to reach your own conclusions and to not be manipulated. This is not limited to Social Media, but it is where we are most vulnerable nowadays, precisely -and sadly- because there are others not willing to use it responsibly.