Social media success can seem like a distant goal for many local business owners. You may have read articles from self-appointed social media gurus saying “you’ve just got to be on Facebook” and “what do you mean you don’t understand Twitter?” There’s a difference between knowing how to send a Tweet or post an update on Facebook and using social media effectively for business. So you’ll jump straight in with all the best intentions but no real idea about what you’re doing. Tweets, posts and updates go unseen and you wonder whether all this talk of engagement and social media marketing success is really just a myth.
Unrealistic expectations and a lack strategy are the killers of social media for local business. Social media isn’t necessarily about opening up the doors to your business and watching customers flood in. It’s about building trust in your brand, personalising your business, making connections and generating leads. All that takes time, which is something many smaller local business owners don’t think they have. That brings stress and frustration into the equation which means that social media stops being social. It’s no longer fun and becomes more of a chore. As Profiles and Pages become neglected they can almost give the impression that the business has ceased to exist. And that’s not productive for anyone.
There are plenty of websites with helpful articles on how to use social media successfully. There are also plenty of articles dominated by social media “do’s and don’ts”. Some things you can get away with on a personal profile could seriously damage a local business profile, especially on Twitter (excessive swearing for example). So instead of putting together a big long list of rules I generally recommend clients stick to these two:
1. Be Yourself – whether representing yourself or your brand it’s important to stay true to yourself. Be sincere and be authentic. As I mentioned above, one of the key things that social media can do for your business is build trust. So be consistent with your tone of voice, with your values, your message and your brand. If you stray too far and try to become something you’re not, that just sends mixed signals to potential customers and erodes any trust you’ve worked so hard to build. Your message will resonate with some and not with others but there’ll be absolutely no BS and that makes things easier for everyone.
2. Be Useful – which broadly means don’t fill your profile just with sales messages. People don’t tend to go on social media sites to buy stuff. They go there to be social. To connect with family and friends, to chat with people they find interesting, to ask for recommendations and sometimes to complain. Coming across a Twitter feed that does nothing but broadcast sales messages isn’t particularly useful to anyone. Think of a Facebook Like as being invited into someone’s house, or of Twitter as a coffee conversation or a chat down the pub. Tailor your messages accordingly and you shouldn’t go far wrong.
We’re social creatures and having conversations is what gets many of us going each day. Social media should be an extension of your brand and your business. Use it to make connections, not sales. If you’re being yourself and you’re being useful then the sales will come.