I think this whole social media thing may be here to stay for a while. Social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. have created a whole new playing field for promotions and connections with your audience. If you haven’t embraced social media sites to share your personal or company brand, now is the time to get on that band-wagon.
Before you take to marketing on social media, or even if you’ve started already, it’s important to take a step back and think about how you can more effectively use the different sites available. Too many people take to social media with no clear goal in mind, or without thinking about how they present themselves.
It is easy to get caught up in the moment, especially on Twitter, and put something out there that will be regretted later. It’s equally easy to get caught up in new trends. You may find yourself trying to get in on something that doesn’t necessarily fit in with the message you want to portray.
It is important, especially if you are trying to brand yourself, that you approach social media with clear concise goals. Social media as a marketing tool requires the same level of thought and strategy as any other aspect of your business or brand.
So how can you approach social media strategically? Let’s look at five practices to get the most out of your efforts on these sites:
- Focus on the right sites for you.
- Engage actively with your followers.
- Keep shared information relevant to your message.
- Create a theme for your message.
- Think before you post.
While there is an abundance of rules out there for using social media, implementing these five rules will be a great start to refining your message.
Focus on The Right Sites for You
You may have heard the term ‘shiny object syndrome’ at some point. If not, this is the term used to portray a person that gets easily distracted by something new and shiny. This phenomenon is easy to fall into when it comes to starting a business. If you tend to want to jump on everything new that comes along, you may have shiny object syndrome.
If this is you, just know you’re not alone. Many new businesses fall into this trap. For social media, you don’t even need a business to fall into shiny object syndrome. There are so many social media sites out there, and new ones are created regularly.
You want to reach the widest audience you can, so you start creating a page for every site you can think of. You join Twitter because you’re told that’s where everyone is. Then you must be on Facebook because, well, it’s Facebook. Of course, Pinterest may be useful, and then you see many people using Tumblr or Instagram. Before you know it, you’re trying to keep up with six or seven sites just to make sure you don’t miss out on a possible follower.
Think about it, though. Is it better to be everywhere for the possibility of one more person in your audience? Or would it be better to focus on a few key sites to help define and refine your message to your most likely audience?
Hint: It’s better to focus your attention to the most likely audience.
This is where it’s important to determine who that audience is. I discuss the concept of Journaling for Entrepreneurs regularly, and defining your audience is one of those places that this tool comes in handy. Take the time to answer some questions about whom you want to reach:
- What are their interests?
- What is it that you want to offer them?
- Where are they most likely to go for information?
- Where are you most likely to connect with them in the way that best fits your message?
These are the questions you want to ask yourself before you start creating your social media presence. If you make a point to plan your message, focusing your attention and creating a message for a specific audience, you can better plan where to share that information.
The key here is to pick one or two platforms to start with, refining your message to the audience you are connecting with. Play around with how you use these sites, finding the best way to connect. Perfect, as much as possible, your connection on these key sites before diversifying your platforms.
It may seem counter-intuitive, but focusing your attention in a smaller area is more likely to get you a return on your time or return on investment (ROI). Remember, your time is an investment in your brand. Make the most of that investment.
Engage Actively with Your Followers
Once you have defined your audience and determined where they are most likely to hang out, you need to be active in connecting with them. This doesn’t just mean promoting your products or services, but actively engaging with them.
Yes, you will want to promote yourself, that’s what you’re there for. But if all you do is promote, people will tune you out. Think about it, which brands do you like to follow? Do you follow the brands that are constantly saying buy this or buy that? If you’re honest, you are more likely to follow brands that entertain and connect with you, sharing information and humor, asking and answering questions, and taking the time to get to know you.
You need to apply that same principle to your message. Spend time talking to your audience and get to know the people that follow you.
Ask them questions, take part in discussions, share funny anecdotes relevant to your brand, let them see behind the scenes on occasion. Give them opportunity and encouragement to participate with your information. Take the time to share your expertise without necessarily trying to sell them something.
Take the time to learn from what they engage in as well. Pay attention to which posts get the most engagement and focus on those topics and ideas. Sometimes, even just ask them what they want to hear more about.
If you will take the time to get to know your audience better, and refine your message to their wants, you will get a better return when you do promote yourself. They want to know and trust you before they are willing to give you their money or devote too much attention to your brand.
Keep Shared Information Relevant to Your Message
Remember that shiny object syndrome we discussed? This is not just about overloading your platforms. Shiny object syndrome can also affect the things you share with your audience.
When you see something go viral, it is tempting to jump on that band-wagon, trying to incorporate whatever the viral message is into your own message. Sometimes this can work, but you can’t just incorporate something because it is viral. Not everything that is shiny will fit into your message.
If you participate with viral videos or information just for the sake of adding your name to the new trend, you can confuse your message. For example, if you are creating a brand around fashion, sharing a viral video of a homeless man dancing in the street is probably not going to fit in with your brand. Now, if a video of a homeless man getting a makeover went viral, you could probably share this.
I know that’s a bit of a silly example, but you get the idea.
You don’t just want to keep your information relevant to your brand though, you also want to make sure it’s relevant to the platform you’re using. You will want to refine your delivery for each platform based on the “rules” for each one.
- Twitter is a platform for getting to the point. You want to deliver your message with the fewest words possible.
- Pinterest is about sending people to your website with a description that will grab interest.
- Instagram is about sharing photos and videos relevant to your brand.
- Facebook allows for more wordiness, but this platform is more about personal connections.
There are different etiquette rules for each site. You may have to play around some to determine your best means of sharing your message for each but understanding the basics will help you get started.
The main thing is making sure what you share is relevant to the message you want to send. You don’t have to follow every new trend, no matter how tempting it is. Find what works for you.
Create a Theme for Your Message
When sharing your brand with the world, you want to have a clear theme or voice to connect with your audience. This is about how you want your brand to be seen and/or recognized. This voice will carry over to each social media platform.
While you want to refine how you share your message for each site, you want there to be a clear theme across all of them.
Do you want your message to be inspirational, humorous, educational?
Do you want it to be about connecting and sharing, or do you want it to be about sharing your expertise?
Is your message more about words or about visual media?
These are the questions you want to answer before you start publishing content. The theme is about two things:
- What makes you comfortable?
- What will connect better with your intended audience?
You always want to keep that audience in mind. While you will want to have some idea about your preferred voice, this is something you may have to play around with as you move forward. You can combine more than one theme as needed, but make sure that theme transfers across all your platforms.
Trying to have a different voice for each site will confuse your audience, especially since many of them will want to connect with you on multiple platforms.
Another important thing to keep in mind is, don’t try to be everything to everyone. While a wider audience is good, you want the audience that will be most connected to you. Finding your voice will help you connect with those who are going to stick around.
Think Before You Post
When you get ready to post or comment on something, think about how that message will be perceived. While you do want to share the things you are passionate about, you don’t want to do so in a rude or obnoxious way.
Let’s be honest here, there are many people looking for reasons to be offended on social media. While you cannot keep these people from being offended by something you say if they are looking for a reason, you can cut down on their ability to call you out. This doesn’t mean you should not be honest, just you should think about how you share that honesty.
This means you don’t want to be taunting or purposefully rude with your posts and comments. You want to have respect for how the information you are sharing will affect your readers. You don’t have to water everything down, and don’t even have to conform to the people who want to be offended. You do need to think about how your message will be perceived, especially by your intended audience.
This doesn’t just go for possibly controversial topics. If you are sharing big news or a new idea, ask yourself, “how would I want to hear this information.” If you post based on how you would want to receive information, you are more likely to be respectful to your audience.
For a quick example, let’s go back to that fashion brand idea. If you are posting about a new trend that you find ridiculous (and let’s be honest, there’s many ridiculous trends) Think about how you share your opinion. Some of your followers may be all for the new trend and will take great offense if you go all out on how ugly or stupid it is. If instead you make a point of how it’s not your personal taste, they will be more understanding.
Being respectful and kind will take you further than being volatile and overly opinionated.
Clear Communication is Key
If you will take the time to plan out your message and how you want it to be perceived, you will get the most out of your social media interaction. I’d love to hear what you think. Would you add anything to the list?
For more information about online etiquette, you might want to check out my article about online communication best practices.