Playing Nice In Social Media World

The whole “social media” craze – and the ever-expanding number of websites and applications that fall under that umbrella – can seem more urgent and overwhelming than staring down a blank tax form on April 15. But unlike taxes, social media strategy has a warmer, fuzzier side, and many of the ideas that make it work are concepts you learned when you were a kid. Include everyone. Share. Be nice. They’re timeless ideas with the power to help you make friends now just like they did back then.

To make social media more approachable, think of the social media sites as friends. Facebook is your retired aunt who wants to share her favorite casserole recipe; Twitter is your fast-talking cousin who speaks in fragments and sometimes switches topics mid-breath; and LinkedIn is your mom, intent on putting you in touch with others who will ensure your permanent well-being (so she can stop worrying about your future).

Like your colorful spread of friends and family, social media sites have distinct personalities, but they have just as many commonalities. They’re best enjoyed in groups (the more the merrier), they should be OK with sharing (that’s taking and giving), and they are often grounds for sharing memorable events.

To connect with your customers, you can set up groups and fan pages on Facebook, share your 140-character-or-less thoughts on Twitter, post thought-provoking question and answer threads on LinkedIn. Whether those you communicate with are called friends, followers, or contacts, the goal is the same. And there’s strength in relationships.

Let them mingle

Introduce Facebook to Twitter, Twitter to LinkedIn, and so on, and then let them talk. If you were an auto repair shop, for example, you could Google “Toyota recall” to find a credible source (ideally via the official Toyota site) for which makes and models are affected, and then post a link to the article and open up a relevant discussion on your Facebook page.

Next, you craft a 140-character Tweet that links to the Facebook post, and finally, you compile a list of questions your Toyota drivers might have, and answer how your shop will be able to handle their concerns and repairs. (For the greatest effect, resist the urge to cut and paste the same update to each site; it could make you look lazy and diminish the message.)

This is how it might work: Your friend Jane sees that Megan is a fan of your business, makes a “curiosity stop” on your page to look around, and upon noticing that you’re sharing valuable information, decides to become a fan herself. With a well-thought-out business plan and a little luck, your business makes several hundred new friends/contacts/followers virtually overnight – for free!

Foster two-way communication

Of course, like a good conversation, the success of this strategy hinges on the concept of give-and-take. Use the social media sites to share information, pass on tips, and promote special frequent-buyer discounts. But insist that each post have a valid reason for sharing.

To determine whether the information you’re posting is relevant, put yourself in your customers’ shoes and ask, “What’s in it for me?” When you’ve touched on a worthwhile topic, you’ll know: Your page will soon be inundated with feedback.

This is today’s version of return on investment, and it’s known as “return on engagement.” Businesses that engage their customers and respond promptly to their queries and concerns build trust, and often, a loyal fan following that will sustain their business through tough times.

It’s what you say, and how you say it

Keep in mind, the word “social” is the more meaningful component of the term “social media,” so watch what you say. Remember mom’s words of wisdom: “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” That advice is especially relevant today, when what you say online gets recorded and catalogued for anyone’s future search for content related to your business.

In a perfect world, your scores of new online friends chime in with outrageously great praise for your business. In the real world, there’s bound to be a few who feel that they didn’t have the best experience, so when you see negative feedback, use it as the opportunity to make things right.

This is your friend whose feelings you accidentally hurt, but by voicing her concerns she’s giving you the chance to respond, to shake hands and “make up.” Ultimately, this friend is more likely to remain your friend than the one who was wronged and elected to just stop talking to you.

Keeping friends takes strategy

The next time someone asks you about your social media strategy, instead of worrying about whether you’ve read all you need to read on blogs, tweets, fan and group pages, social networking, updating your profile pages and cross-referencing your posts, distill the process down to its most basic element.

It’s about making friends by extending your hand and saying, “Nice to meet you” to those who walked in your front door, and then building those relationships.

Because once your new friends pay you a visit, it’s up to you to extend the hospitality that will make them want to stick around. If you’re not prepared, this is where relationships can get a little trickier. A solid social media strategy requires forethought, guidance and putting it on paper so that everyone involved knows the plan and can maintain it over the long term.

And this is when even your best friends will tell you to get professional help. Because according to digital marketing site Econsultancy, more than 350 million users Facebook, 75 million Tweet, and 50 million are LinkedIn.

Your new friends are online. Won’t you join them?

Source: NCBR