Here is a ten-step game plan for effective social network engagement. These are ten practical guidelines that will make you a better member of the social networking communities in which you participate.
1. Pull, Don’t Push
One of the first lessons you will learn very quickly when engaging in social media is that traditional forms of marketing don’t work as well. Don’t come out of the gate pushing your products or services. New tools require new rules.
For example, don’t respond to new Twitter followers with a “Thanks for following. Visit my Web site for a free…[insert promotional message].” That’s a dead giveaway that the offender is new to social media and has yet to understand that it’s a “pull” medium, not “push.”
2. Win the Right to be Heard
Social media engagement is a conversation, and participation is the currency required. Your value as a participant is judged in keeping with the value you provide the community as a whole. Become a “glory hog” and you’ll garner very little attention. Share freely, and you will become a respected member.
3. Content Is Still King
Nothing beats well-written, informative and entertaining content in all its variant forms: blog posts, tweets, status updates, video, podcasts, images, webinars or whitepapers. Its benefits are numerous:
- Improved search engine placement. Google loves frequently updated content;
- Thought leadership. Content helps to position you as a knowledgeable expert;
- More effective customer engagement. Content targeted to the needs of your customers will keep them coming back;
- Becomes a sharable asset. Content created with some type of social media layer — social bookmarks, Facebook Like, “Tweet This” — can be shared by Fans and followers. In fact, no content should be created that does not have social sharing capabilities associated with it.
4. Authenticity and Transparency are Social Networking Cornerstones
Those words may seem trite, but I believe they remain the cornerstones of this new-media marketing paradigm. Be real. Be open. Be honest. Admit mistakes when you make them.
5. You Don’t Have to be on Every Social Network
It’s impossible to maintain an active presence on every social network and you don’t have to. You should be where your customers are, however.
6. Give and You Shall Receive
Have an attitude of helpfulness in your social network activities. Doing so will go a long way toward establishing a credible name for yourself in social media circles.
“Lose control of your marketing,” is how the author David Meerman Scott puts it. His philosophy is to give ideas and information away freely with no strings attached. Be willing to give up control of the marketing message and it will benefit you in the long run.
7. It’s Just One Channel
The rules of marketing still apply to one extent or the other. Social media is another channel to build your brand and market your message. It’s not a panacea nor should it be considered a replacement for every other form of advertising and marketing.
One thing I have learned is that there is room for integration. Email and search are still where most marketers spend top dollar, and for good reason. They both perform very well. Social media should be one part of a multi-channel retail marketing strategy.
8. Social Media Is a Mindset
You have to incorporate social media DNA into your thinking. Don’t just change your toolset (tactics), change your mindset (strategy). It does little good to know “how” to do something without, at the same time, understanding “why” to do it, as well.
9. Be Yourself
I recommend using your photo as your avatar and your name as your handle. That’s not to say you shouldn’t have an identity tied to your brand. It’s just that in social media, people would rather relate to and build trust with other people than brands.
Being yourself also means not surreptitiously pretending to be someone you are not. Remember commandment 4 about authenticity and transparency being chief cornerstones.
Though it does comes with a set of largely unwritten rules, social media does not have an set of philosophical or practical codes. There is still plenty of room for experimentation. In fact, that’s the only way the medium will ever grow.