Finding Success on Social Media

Successful use of social media requires treating fans and followers like friends.

Successful use of social media requires treating fans and followers like friends.

Many organizations still use social media as just another advertising channel. They should view social media more like a community.

While social media platforms vary widely, they share a common characteristic of being community-based. People use social media to interact with other people. They weigh their engagement based on common interests and authenticity. Participation is personal and voluntary.

So pushing marketing messages on social media platforms can miss the point of social media. Participants don't check their Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Twitter feeds to listen to you; they tune in to engage.

Success on social media requires engagement. You can still be on a marketing mission, but you have to offer more than your key message. Here are some suggested avenues to success:

1. Offer something useful. It may be an update on fashion trends, a short how-to video on a vexing household chore, an invitation to a clever event or a visual explanation of the process to refinance the mortgage on a house. You aren't selling as much as sharing, with a goal of building or deepening a relationship.

2. Deliver something delightful. Share a backstory, pictures your customers took or key milestone. Make your posts personal to humanize your organization. Invite reactions and new shares from your community.

3. Create a conversation. A great way to start a conversation is to ask a question and acknowledge and interact with people who respond with answers. Some conversations may be frivolous, while others are more serious. Be quick to point out great ideas or suggestions. Be just as quick to address concerns or criticisms. Treat responders as if they were family.

4. Give them a place to click. Customer acquisition remains an underlying goal, so give your social media community clear directions of where to learn more about your products or services. It is usually a website, but it can be an online "newsroom" or a blog. Avoid making this a hard push. Cast it more like an invitation. Track those who accept the invitation, so you can follow up.

5. Treat them like insiders. Make your community feel special. Offer special deals. Give them behind-the-scenes insights. See yourself as the neighbor who hosts the July 4th barbecue and fireworks show on your front driveway. Make yourself irresistible to refuse.

Social media changes rapidly, so don't fall in love with any strategies or tactics. Algorithms can change overnight, requiring new approaches.

At the same time, don't be afraid to experiment. Being unique and different has value on social media.

Social media should be part of an overall marketing strategy, not an end to itself. It is much easier ā€“ and much cheaper ā€“ to try, fail and correct course on social media than in other forms of marketing.

Most of all, social media can be a lot of fun. You won't always accumulate a huge following overnight, but you can steadily build a loyal community of followers that becomes a brand asset.

Related Link: The Five Cā€™s of Social Media Success