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Use Social Media to Connect, Communicate and Build Trusting Relationships

By Mark Lee As business owners, we’ve all become conditioned to accept that every marketing plan today should have a social media component. But many of us are at a loss as to what that really means and what we should expect from our commitment to this new way of touching our audience. There’s no question – social media like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube offer an inexpensive, far-reaching way to establish ongoing personal contact with potential customers. That’s what social media is all about – connecting with others, communicating, sharing and building trusting relationships. Facebook is used daily by millions of all ages, providing a great platform for exposure for your company and its products and services. LinkedIn is business-based and can promote opportunities for B2B sales, vendor connections, recruiting and other business needs. YouTube requires a bigger investment but offers a unique way to connect with your customers in an informative, one-on-one environment. Forbes Columnist Ken Harrington warns that social media isn’t “a magic solution that causes people to show up and fall in love with your brand.” Being effective takes time and commitment. It’s common for a business owner to set up a Facebook page and become obsessed with multiple postings each day. Too often, that passion lasts for a couple of weeks, then the owner gets busy or distracted and forgets about it. Before you know it, it’s September and my last post was in February. To be completely transparent, I’m guilty of this as well. This lack of attention can become a negative communication about your business – worse than if you had never started at all. Harrington reminds us that behind each of those profiles, handles and screen names is a real, live human being with the same wants, needs, passions and desires as any human from 10, 20 or 100 years ago. Your job is to connect with them, show them they can trust you and then make their life better in a way that results in profit for your company. If you’re not doing that, you’re wasting your time. The great strength of social media is in its interactivity. Unlike TV ads, print media and direct mail campaigns, social media allows your customer to get involved immediately – to respond to you in real time. Use this to your advantage. If someone tweets a question, tweet back. Expectations are important. We should remember that going viral isn’t easy. In fact, studies show that social media is much more effective at reinforcing an existing feeling or perception than establishing a new relationship. For that, there’s little substitute for shoe leather and a handshake. But, through social media, a “like”, a share or retweet can help you reach a much larger, more diverse group – people your brand might never have reached on its own. So, Harrington advises, think of social media not as a stand-alone solution but as an element of your marketing campaign that can amplify your reach and significantly improve your marketing effectiveness. So, how do you make social media part of your integrated marketing campaign? Here are a few tips: --Be available to your clients and prospects in all social media platforms. Create an account in every social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, You Tube and Blogs) so your customers can interact with you on the social media platform they prefer. --Be active on social media. Be prepared to spend at least an hour a day making posts, commenting on queries, creating new followers. --Use social media buttons prominently on your website to attract followers. At the same time, create posts that link to your website to help generate more traffic and increase visibility. --Add social media links to your email signature. This provides a welcome alternative for communicating with clients and prospects who may not like to communicate via email. --When you make a presentation to a small group, take your slides and add them to Slideshare. Promote it on your social media, creating the opportunity for it to be seen by thousands. --Social media is instantly interactive. Use it to ask your customers and “fans” what they think. Customer input can help guide future marketing and product development. --With more than half of all Americans using their mobile devices as their primary online tool, be sure that mobile is an integrated part of your marketing strategy. Optimize all of your digital assets for mobile viewing. --Promote your social media connections off-line as well. Include social media details in magazine and newspaper ads, business cards and brochures. --Study and embrace what’s new and what’s working in the world of social media. It’s a rapidly evolving world. Keep up!

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