As digital media continues to integrate into our lives, business executives, freelancers and professionals from all walks have started to use social media to engage in content marketing.
And while some of us have more experience than other in the social media game (I had very little when I began exploreB2B), as we accept the need for our participation and the reality that the social landscape is ever-evolving, part of us must come to terms with the fact that often the best way to learn – is simply by doing.
Throughout this learning process, there will be misunderstandings for those just entering the world of social business. Here are some I have encountered along the way, which (most of us) seek to avoid.
As you manage your social business and content marketing presence online, bear these in mind:
1. Content = Product Talk
“Content is king” is one of the first things you are told when starting with web 2.0. Whether starting a blog, using social networks, or wanting to use other means to get noticed in web 2.0 – strong content is your best bet to get shared and receive a positive reaction from your audience. This “content” may relate to information about your company, products or services – the chief mission should be to educate and entertain.
Selling a product description is a marketing technique of the past. Take the time, energy and resources to establish your professional reputation, tell your company story, and engage your audience.
2. Contacts = Business Connections
Contacts, followers and connections in social networks help you spread what you have to say. (There is no denying this.) However, it does not help to collect uninterested and unrelated “friends”, “contacts” or “fans.” These people will not share and spread your content if they are not intrigued by the type of information that is most useful for you to share. You can buy fans and collect contacts – but you cannot purchase a meaningful dialogue or longstanding relationship.
A handful of real connections are worth more than thousands of uninterested “contacts.” Real connections have an investment in your content, will interact, and spread the word. Fake contacts will remain ghosts and do little other than haunt your network.
3. Starting a Blog = Being Heard
This is one of the hardest facts in social media and web 2.0: participating does not mean having an audience. The more people and companies start using a blog and becoming active on social networks, the harder it is to make pages visible. Many people and companies become frustrated when they realize that all their good content does not get the attention the author hoped it would produce.
To get attention to your newly established blog, you have to work very hard – for a long time. You must be active in many more ways than simply publishing on your own blog: you have to comment on others’ blogs, write guests posts on established outlets, build a following within your social networks, connect to industry leaders, and spread your content through as many networks as are relevant to your business.
4. Shouting louder = Getting attention
In many social networks, it can be hard to get attention. If you post a Facebook status update, it will eventually (if not immediately) get lost in the massive flood of updates clogging the stream. The same goes for Twitter and LinkedIn (groups).
The solution to this problem is not to shout louder; in social media could mean repeating the same status update multiple times in a short span or writing in CAPITAL LETTERS. The result will be annoyed friends/followers likely stopping to follow you. Instead, be consistent and persistent with strong material. Keep producing high quality content – people will eventually notice it.
5. Contacts = Newsletter Subscribers
I have been a victim of this. Many times I have accepted contact requests on LinkedIn and instantly been bombarded with newsletters, which I did not register for, nor was asked for permission to be added to the email list. This will not work to achieve audience loyalty or a professional reputation. Here, you end up with unhappy unsubscribers, or flagged as spam.
6. Paying more = Getting More
There are offers running everywhere: “X Facebook Fans for Y $” or “XXX twitter followers for YYY $.” Do not be fooled. This kind of fan-buying (throwing around money with no intended target audience or focused plan) is a great way to waste time and money.
If you want to spend money on fans, use ads – not faulty agencies with false promises and fake profiles. This way, fans at least are real, targeted people, more likely to become interested in you or your business.
Still, the best way to build a social media following is the natural way: being visible with good content amongst people invested in your knowledge and interests.
7. Having Connections = Having Conversations
There is a rule in social media that only one percent of participants will create content or start discussions, 9% will response and 90% will do neither. Accept this fact and do not be disappointed if not all your audience converse with you.
It is hard to find the first reader that will start a conversation. Once you found a starting point it will get easier. You can help with being open, always respond and include some discussion points into your content: ask questions, mention controversial viewpoints.
8. Infographics = Social Media Strategy
There has been a rise to infographics production, partly due to the increasing popularity of Pinterest. Infographics are a great way to share relevant information in an organized way, but do not rely on infographics as your sole, social media strategy.
While inforgraphics can be an engaging way to present complex information, especially if you do the job of the inforgraphic well, your audience will eventually crave for more than can be squeezed in your graphic. Do not limit yourself to an Infographic heavy campaign because you have had success one time (or have witnessed the virality if others). As you should be open to more than one outlet to present your content, you should also be open to more than one type of content.
9. Cats = Content
Pictures of cats are the most frequently shared item on Facebook. Reddit has a category “Advice Animals” for exactly this kind of content. Do not be fooled by the cute or witty creature.
You will not successfully brand a company you wish to be taken seriously, or get many relevant business deals, by creating animal images. Throw in one or two, but do not make these animals (prepare pun:) the meat of your campaign.
10. Numbers on Infographics = Real Statistics
With statistics, there are always two sides to the story: (1) was the data recorded and later interpreted or (2) was the data chosen to prove a point? Do you see the difference? If you want to prove a point, you will certainly find some numbers that seemingly say what you are trying to prove. If you conduct an experiment to gain knowledge about your hypothesis, you have to base your insight on those results.
11. Statistics = Facts
As we mathematicians say: statistics are always as good as the one making them up. Whenever you see statistics, ask questions: where is the data, how many samples where taken, how many people asked, who was asked, what characteristics did the asked people have? And so on. Do not blindly believe the interpretations of numbers being shared – and certainly, do not share these statistics if you are not clear on how they were derived or what they mean.
12. Followers = Audience
A social media following is essential for gaining exposure and enlisting a loyal audience. The more followers you have, the more likely it is that someone will listen. But not all your followers are your listeners.
If you already have followers, fans, friends and contacts, ask yourself: do you see and pay attention to the updates of each of your follower’s? The larger your following, the less you will notice each of their posts, and the more important direct contact becomes. On Twitter, sometimes mentioning people will get their attention, but choose carefully. Overdoing it means loosing impact with these people and (most likely) loosing a current or potential follower.
13. Following People = Marketing
True: you will get more attention for your content, the more connections/followers you have. Hard truth: connecting to random people does not get you the kind of attention that helps propel business.
Finding thought leaders from your industry/field of expertise and connecting to them is a good start for building your social media channels; however, online and content marketing involve a much more involved process. Marketing is the careful interaction of different channels, well placed content, connecting and communicating (with the right people) and eventually building relationships to potential customers.
14. Engaging in Social Media = The Masses are Listening to Me
Does a big network with many users automatically mean a large audience? If only it were so simple.
Within the largest social media giants, it is possible to consistently and thoughtfully talk to yourself for ages – remaining in total isolation. The reason?
You must be actively engaged before you see results of your “talking” efforts. In some networks, you can easily find related content and initiate a repertoire with the author or whoever posted the article/photo/video/etc. In other networks, you have to rely on contact and connection with people you already know, to avoid drowning the excess content. Regardless of which network you want to use, you have to connect before you can expect people to listen.
15. Communication = Talking without Listening
Many old-school advertisers are used to promoting slogans. Under these conditions, there was no need or reason to actively listen. Involvement then meant waiting for the numbers from the selling department to determine if the campaign worked out.
In social media, sharing information without listening to the existing conversations of your audience – and partaking in these dialogues yourself – is social suicide. You must listen as much as you talk; you must communicate to connect.
Start listening (and responding) and your social media channels will eventually get you the exposure and ROI you desire.
Social media and content marketing are not quick and easy solutions for business success. Take the time necessary to develop your online reputation and understand that it’s not a one, lane road. Social media engagement is a multi-way highway that requires precision, stamina and awareness.
Remember also, it helps to enjoy the ride.
Guest Author: Susanna Gebauer is one of the founders of the social publishing and content marketing platform exploreB2B. You can find more of Susanna’s content on her profile on exploreB2B. You can also find Susanna on Twitter.
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