Ten Ways to Make Your Social Media Rock

If you don’t listen to what’s being said to you or about you, then you’re not ‘being social.’

September 13, 2013

Social media may have a low cost of entry—but it’s not easy to do well.

Small businesses are struggling to adopt social media, according to a report by eMarketer, which reports that only 24% of small companies have integrated social media in a structured way into their operations.

Knowing where to start is perhaps the No. 1 obstacle. Knowing what to do when you get there is a close second.

Whether you are new to social media or looking to improve your efforts, here are 10 ways to make your social media activities rock.

1. Pick the site(s) that works for you

New social media sites spring forth almost weekly, and it’s easy to become distracted or lost in the speed of change. So where to focus your efforts?

Erica Ayotte, social media manager with Constant Contact, advises companies to start with one channel and then diversify.

“Spend a little time each week exploring new platforms and figure out if they might be for you,” she advises.

2. Share interesting and visual content

This is one area that really does take time. What’s interesting, anyway?

Start with the basics. If you have something newsworthy to share (i.e., something that impacts your customers directly) then go ahead and share it—things like holiday opening times, new offices, charity events, etc.

Then, share something you do well that will help you stand out in a crowd: blogs, white papers, tips, or quick “how to” videos hosted on YouTube or Hulu. Use social media to amplify it.

Feel free to share content from others (without breaking copyright) if it is relevant to your fans. And don’t be afraid to ask people what content they want you to share.

3. Listen

Great content drives engagement and grows social communities, but equally important is the art of listening. Think of social media as a form of conversation—a two-way dialogue.

If you’re not prepared to listen to what is being said to you, about you, or with you, then you simply aren’t “being social.”

In addition to listening to your customers, carve out time to listen to influencers in your business, to your competitors, and to those who can help you perfect your social media strategy—Hubspot, Mari Smith, and Social Media Today to name a few.

4. Be authentic

Again, be social. Drop the corporate marketing speak; people like dealing with people.

So don’t be afraid to loosen up a little and when responding to problems or complaints, and sign off with your first name.

NEXT: Foster fan-to-fan engagement

5. Foster fan-to-fan engagement

Some of the strongest social networking communities are based on supportive relationships and information-sharing between fans. If you post interesting content, this will follow naturally as fans start to engage with others based on common interests.

To encourage these relationships, listen to fans, chime in when you can add something interesting, respond to comments, encourage fans to share photos and experiences, and communicate authentically.

6. Don’t overly automate

There are some great free tools that can help you automate your posts. But don’t over-rely on these to get you through the day—it will show.

Instead, set aside two to three time slots a day to post content, monitor, and respond to fans.

7. Commit to social media

To succeed in social media, you must take it seriously and be committed to it.

Don’t treat social media as an aside to be used when you want to get the word out about your latest offer. Commit to a content strategy and involve people at all levels of the organization in your social media strategy.

8. Treat social media as an arm of customer service

Social media is an essential part of your customer service strategy. If you are on Facebook or Twitter, be prepared to monitor and respond to questions and complaints.

9. Don’t neglect other marketing channels

Social media may be free, but it only works as part of a wider, integrated marketing strategy. Don’t neglect your website, and remember the continued importance of email.

10. Measure

Use third-party apps or Facebook’s Insights tool to monitor click-through rates. Compare these across posts to see if there’s a trend as to the type of content that’s popular.

Measure engagement by tracking how many likes and shares your posts get (measured by Facebook as “reach”). Use this data to inform and adjust your content strategy.

CARON BEESLEY is a small business owner, writer, marketing communications consultant, and community moderator for the Small Business Administration. Follow her on Twitter via @caronbeesley.