As I was reading an article written by a friend and fellow blogger, Kfir Pravda, entitled “What Companies Are Missing in Social Media Marketing“, I started to think about Twitter, social media, and whether all the hype was really justified. My conclusion, as I am sure you know by now, was that yes, social media can be an amazingly effective tool and can assist you in reaching a wider and more relevant audience then any other tool; IF USED CORRECTLY.
I have spoken to many people over the past year who are either running or starting a business and wanted to use social media as their primary marketing tool. They always assume that you can simply update your status on Facebook or send out a few tweets, and this will bring in the revenue. This is of course completely wrong and not only will this never happen, if you try to use social media in that way, you will damage your reputation, thereby ruining your chances of ever succeeding through the use of this tool.
There are some basic principles that must be implemented if you are using social media as a marketing tool for your business. The truth is most of these principles apply to non business users as well, but their importance are magnified when there is money involved. The “problem” is that in today’s day and age, people want to see immediate results, and think Twitter will deliver them. This could not be farther from the truth. It is true you can achieve amazing things on Twitter and other social networks, but just like more conventional tools, it will take time and effort. It might take even more time than tools you have used in the past, but at the end of the day, your return on investment will be like nothing you have ever seen.
Here are 5 basic principles businesses must implement in order to use social media successfully:
- Make Sure Someone Is Listening: I cannot emphasize this point enough. Twitter is worth virtually nothing if you do not have a serious following. When I say serious, I do NOT mean hundreds of thousands of followers. I mean you need to have quality and quantity. When it comes to your numbers, it is important that you tell this to yourself on a daily basis, Twitter is NOT a popularity contest, no matter how many people in your timeline tweet about the number of followers they have acquired. Numbers-wise a few hundred will suffice as long as they are quality followers. Quality followers means that they listen to what you tweet, and assuming they find it interesting, retweet you for their followers. It is also important to make your tweets interesting enough that people will want to retweet you. All it takes is one successful tweet, a few retweets, and you can reach a nice audience that might have taken you 3 months of paid advertising in a newspaper a year ago. The thing about Twitter is that you can have a huge number of followers, but if they are all bots or spam accounts, that is worth significantly less than a person who has a fraction of the number, but all quality followers.So here is the punchline for any business on Twitter. Before expecting to see any results, you must invest at least a few months in building up your network. That does not mean you cannot tweet about your business during that period, you can, but the full effect of Twitter will only be seen once someone is listening. The bottom line is, if you need immediate results, a newspaper might be a better option. If, however, you want to reach an incredibly wide and relevant audience, and are willing to invest your time in getting there, there is nothing like Twitter.
- Your Audience are People Just Like You: It seems that the number one mistake businesses make on Twitter is they forget who is reading their tweets. If you are a business and all you tweet about is how great your product is, with no interesting content, or any other added value, most people will consider you a spammer, and not only will they not buy what you are selling or even click your links, they will most probably unfollow you. No one said that just because you are selling something, it is forbidden to tweet about other topics. Keep your audience interested, engage your followers, tweet some funny articles, an interesting video here and there. It can even be about your industry, although it does not have to be. What is important is that when I look at your timeline, I do not see 100 tweets saying “Check out my new __” and a link, or “This guy saved $100,000 using __” and a link. No one is clicking that! Just like a non business user, you should think before tweeting “Would I click on a link like this?” before sending out every tweet.
- There is Selling and Then There is Selling: OK what?? What I mean is that there are really two ways of going about your tweets. You can stick to the regular spammy sales pitch, which is guaranteed to bring you worse results, or you can put the creative part of your brain to work and show your audience you spent time thinking about that last tweet. Make your sales pitch sound less like a sales pitch and more like you are offering your customers something from which they can really benefit. Now this is a touchy subject and I know what you are thinking. “Are you saying to trick my audience into clicking a link by using false advertising?” The answer is no, you need full transparency, no one likes to be tricked, but somehow you need to get across that you are indeed selling something, but it might very well be worth it to click your link. The thing is you are not trying to trick anyone because if you do not believe that your product is good enough that it will indeed benefit your customers, Twitter or no Twitter, your business will not succeed. If, however, you do believe in your offering and you are passionate about it, get that passion across in 120 characters (leave room for a retweet).
- Listen More Than You Talk: This is another fundamental principle of Twitter and social media. It is not about tweeting, it is about communicating. It is about dialogue, not monologue. If I had a dime for every person selling something on Twitter, who I replied to, and never heard back from, I would be able to support all the Twitter spammers out there. If you are selling something on Twitter, and not paying attention to your replies, you might as well close down shop. Do your tweeting, then pay close attention to your replies and DM columns and respond in a timely and relevant manner. Not only will this raise the level of your customers’ satisfaction, it will also give you a very good name on Twitter, and might even generate the exact hype you are looking for. If you consistently tweet about selling something, and never reply to tweets, you are just as bad as full fledged Twitter spammers, in fact, you are a full fledged Twitter spammer.
- Hear What People Are Saying: This is a continuation of listening on Twitter, but to the extreme. In addition to monitoring your replies and DMs, use Twitter Search to hear what people are saying about your company. If you are using a Twitter client like Tweetdeck, open a new column with a search for the name of your company, and pay close attention. I have heard many stories about companies responding to random tweets about their product. A friend recently tweeted about buying stale bread at a certain super market. She woke the next day, surprised to find a reply from the super market offering her to compensate her for the bread. Another friend tweeted about a nice car he saw on display at a mall only to be contacted by the company and offered to take the car for 24 hours. Lastly, a friend tweeted about his VOIP provider and how he was having problems, only to receive a very prompt response from the company offering their technical support. First of all, this is what it is all about, having a social presence, not just selling using social media. Let people know you are out there and listening, not just talking and selling. Second of all, the fact of the matter is I know of these stories since the person it happened to was so impressed, he/she shared it with his/her followers. At the end of the day not only will your customers feel more satisfied with your brand, having a true social presence will generate buzz and eventually bring you additional customers and interested parties. Isn’t that exactly what every business owner is essentially trying to achieve?
In conclusion, Twitter and social media are not secret doors to financial success. If someone tells you they are, they are lying and do not get it. It takes work and effort, but it still remains an unprecedented tool in its efficiency, and if you follow these rules as well as your common sense, you will soon understand that the buzz is very much justified.
Would love to hear your feedback. You can follow and contact me on Twitter here, or if you are not on Twitter yet :), feel free to leave a comment.