Five years ago, simply creating a Facebook page or a Twitter profile was enough to qualify your business as engaging, customer-centered, and forward-thinking. But let’s face it: today, everyone and their mother is on Facebook, and Twitter isn’t far behind.
Simply creating a social media profile isn’t worth much anymore—because everyone has one.
This is a blessing in disguise for business owners who understand marketing, however. Because while most businesses consider their job done once they’ve created a Facebook account, savvy business owners understand that marketing is all about building trust and establishing a relationship. It doesn’t matter what the platform is. Direct mail, face-to-face selling, social media… the principles are the same.
You’ve heard me say that “people buy people”, and more specifically, people buy people that they trust and consider credible. That’s why we spend so much time talking about the power of a brand-centered website and a dynamic social media presence.
But there’s more to it than “just” looking like an expert. You also need to appear real. If you want to build relationships with your audience (which is the entire point of social media), you need to give them more than an uptight, carefully scripted persona to interact with. Below are five ways to do this—as always, not every one of these is a good fit for every business, but use what you can:
1) Ask your customers for feedback. Most businesses view social media as a “one way street.” They are happy to broadcast content for their audience to see, but they aren’t interested in actual engagement. Why? In many cases, because they’re afraid of opening themselves up to criticism online. And yes, that is a risk—but if you’re offering products and services that you’re proud of, the vast majority of the feedback is going to be positive. And even negative feedback represents an opportunity to show the world how seriously you take your customer service. Don’t fear feedback… ask for it!
2) Acknowledge your competition. Whether it is sharing an insightful blog post written by a competitor or posting a news story acknowledging their commitment to the community, praising your competition can be a real eye opener for your audience. They’ll quickly realize that you value honesty and openness rather than cutthroat competition, and that gives everything else you say a major boost in credibility. It also sends the subtle message that “We’re not afraid of the competition. In fact, take a look at them. We’re not threatened!”
3) Go off topic. Don’t make your social media presence all business, all the time. Again, customers want to do business with people they know and trust—and “letting your guard down” a bit is a great way to establish a relationship. Talk about your favorite sports team. Post pictures of your latest shopping excursion (there’s nothing I love more than showing off my latest pair of shoes on Twitter or Instagram ☺.) Talk about the weather, or your hobbies, or your family life. Yes, it’s off topic… that’s the point! Real people don’t talk about business 24/7, and your social media presence shouldn’t either!
4) Take a controversial stand. Again, this isn’t right for every business. But taking a stand on a controversial issue can be a great way to inspire loyalty and build relationships. This can be political (like Chik-fil-A this summer) but it doesn’t have to be. Being vocal about your personal faith, expressing your support for controversial causes, or embracing figures that are outside the mainstream can all be very successful from a marketing standpoint. The key, obviously, is knowing your target market and understanding the brand that you want to project. If taking a stance on an issue is going to alienate a significant amount of your target market, you should probably avoid it. But if you can take a stand in a non-offensive way, you’ll stand out from the crowd of bland businesses—and that’s what we’re all working towards!
5) Be funny. Got a joke to tell? Do it! Some humorous insight into a recent celebrity mishap or news story? Share it! It’s been said that “the shortest distance between any two people is laughter”, and social media is no exception! If you can make your audience laugh every once in a while, I can promise you that they will pay far more attention to your content in the future. And beyond that, a sense of humor adds to the perception that you’re a real person, not just another faceless business owner.
Do you see what all of this is coming back to? One word: personality. As any salesperson can tell you, building a rapport with your prospect is essential to making a sale. And you simply can’t build rapport without being yourself. So whether it’s your website, your social media presence, or a blog entry—don’t be afraid to be yourself.
However, it’s important that you don’t take a “random” approach to this process—or you’ll end up saying or doing something that doesn’t mesh with the brand you want. The first step, which you should do right now, is to take some time to define the brand and the image that you want to create online. Do you want to be funny? If so, what’s appropriate and what isn’t? Are you going to be vocal about your faith or your political leanings? Are you willing to open yourself up to feedback from consumers? Ask yourself these questions and write down the answers. This document will serve as a “guide” to ensure that you don’t go too far off script and end up undermining the brand you are seeking to build.
And most importantly… have fun! Social media offers the opportunity to get to know your customers and let them get to know you in a relaxed, informal setting. It can be a lot of fun… and even more importantly, it can be highly profitable with the right approach. As always, you know how to reach me if you’d like to learn more!