The Key to Social Media? Be Social

Everybody wants to “win” at social media marketing, but not everyone knows how. You’re probably wondering as well — that’s why you’re reading this!

Here’s the secret — the key to winning at social media is the “Social.” Want to know how you can make it work for you? Read on!

Social Media Changes FAST

When we bring up social media from a business perspective, most people think of Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and maybe Pinterest or a few other sites and apps. Some of us probably remember having a cringe-worthy MySpace page or Bebo account, and while that seems like ancient history today, we can trace the concept of social media back to the early days of the internet and electronic bulletin board systems. That was before we got good at digitizing images or compressing data so there was no Instagram, and we didn’t carry phones in our pockets yet, so Twitter would have to wait a couple of decades too.

I’m not trying to give you a history of the internet, just illustrating a point — that social media has changed a lot over the years. From text on a CRT monitor, to immersive apps on a smartphone, the evolution of digital interaction is staggering. 

Not only has social media evolved and altered the way we communicate with friends, family, coworkers and even strangers, but it has also changed the way that we buy, sell, market and advertise.

That change is only going to continue. Right now Facebook seems like a permanent fixture in our lives, as if it will never go away. Yet we have no actual way of knowing that — lots of us thought that we’d be on MySpace forever. We have no idea what’s coming up just around the corner. With that uncertainty, it’s difficult to see how anyone can plan an effective long-term social media strategy.

What does that mean for social media marketing?

Well, first things first — there’s a lot of garbage social media marketing strategies out there. Every day, someone advertises a new way to “hack the algorithm,” or “game the app.” Someone will always happily sell you a new technique that they swear will make you go viral. 

Here’s the thing, all of those techniques and strategies may have worked at one point. The problem is that social media changes so quickly that by the time you develop, package and sell a course to teach a new strategy, it’s probably not that effective anymore. 

The second problem with social media marketing is that all of the attempts at “hacking” the secret to going viral miss the point of social media in the first place — engagement. Social media wasn’t developed primarily to sell things. Rather, people wanted to build a way to communicate on the digital frontier. Now that frontier has been settled, and most of us interact via social media every day. That’s what makes it so attractive to marketers. Everybody’s on it!

How can we do Social Media Marketing right?

Remember, the secret to successfully using social media is right there in the name. 

Be social.

For social media to work for you and your business, you have to engage with your followers. Too many people treat Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter like billboards, when they’re actually communities. The results? Less than stellar. 

Here’s a little hypothetical explanation. 

Imagine you’re at your favorite hangout. Maybe it’s a coffee shop, a bar, an arcade or even the gym. You’re there with friends, enjoying yourself and making conversation. Now imagine someone walking up and immediately telling you about their product or service. No small talk. No chatting. No engagement. Even if you would normally have an interest in what they’re selling, you’re probably not going to give them a call, just because of how they interacted with you. 

That’s how too many businesses approach social media. They just walk up and shout, “BUY MY PRODUCT!”

What’s the Alternative?

Put yourself back at that hangout spot. Imagine someone walking up and saying, “Sorry to interrupt, but I overheard your conversation and I find that subject very interesting. I’d love to hear your opinion on it.” This person shares interesting information, tells funny anecdotes and gives helpful suggestions. From your conversations, you know that this person sells a product or a service, but they don’t cram it down your throat. Then one day you complain of a problem, and they inform you that their business solves that exact problem at a reasonable cost. They offer to show you how it works if you’re interested but if it’s not right for you, no big deal. Whether you decide to become a customer or not, this person continues interacting with you in an enjoyable way. 

This is the right way to do social media marketing! By engaging with the community you hope to serve, and helping them solve problems. Cynics and skeptics read this and say, “so you want me to go pretend to be friendly with people just to make a sale?”

No. That’s not what I want anyone to do. Don’t pretend to engage — actually do it! 

Look back at the above example. The person who walks up and asks to chat isn’t faking it to try to sell you something. They’re simply trying to create a new friendship with an interesting person. Only once they know that your problem can be solved by their product or service do they offer to show you how it works to see if you’d be interested in buying. No high pressure sales techniques, no bait and switch. Just human interaction.  

Moving the Example Online

Of course it works out a little differently online, but the principle is the same. Here are the steps:

Engage.

Provide value.

Demonstrate how you solve problems.

Offer them your product or service.

Keep engaging.

EPDOK is a pretty crummy acronym, but these steps work when it comes to social media marketing. How you implement it is up to you. Different companies take different approaches — some serve as news aggregators, sharing information and articles that they know will be helpful to their audience, then interacting with commenters. Others provide entertainment value, even going so far as to tease some of their followers who comment — The official Wendy’s Twitter account is a great example of using jokes, memes and humorous reposts to engage with an audience. 

Does This Mean I Shouldn’t Post Ads?

It’s not that you should never post ads. There’s nothing wrong with a well-written ad, they just shouldn’t be your only content. Remember, social media is a community, not a billboard. If all you have to offer are ads, then you’re not adding much value to the community. Once you do create that value however, those ads will be received much more positively. Again, take a look at the Wendy’s Twitter account — you’ll see ads. You won’t see just ads. 

To successfully engage, you have to share content consistently. Not constantly, but consistently. Whether you share serious information, helpful blog posts or just entertaining stories and pictures, you need to share consistently. 

Why Most People Fail at This

Here’s the challenge; actively using social media takes time and effort. That’s why people love the idea of “beating the algorithm” or paying for likes and subscribers. It seems like a shortcut, but while it may provide some short-term traffic, it won’t ever offer any long-term sustainable growth or connection to an audience. 

Creating content to share, or sometimes just finding it, takes time. Posting it takes time. 

And all of that just provides the foundation for engagement! The actual interactions — likes, comments, shares, follows, etc — take time too. 

Which is why we started Automate Your Social. We help you develop that social media foundation, build an audience, and demonstrate value so that you don’t have to do it alone. This frees up time and energy to actually engage with your audience, converting the right people into customers. 

Ready to find out if Automate your Social is the right fit for you? Contact us for a consultation and we’ll discuss what we can do for you!

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