Taking the plunge: using social media to grow your business

Through tenacious amounts of research and trial and error, we’ve managed to become quite comfortable with social media and how everything works, but word on the street is that this isn’t true of everyone. We’ve realized that most people don’t truly understand social media or how it can be used effectively to grow a business.

We know first hand that social media is an extremely powerful tool that can help companies to reach their objectives. All it takes is a little education, a whole lot of practice, and the right team.

Although we’re pretty great at leading companies through the ins and outs of growing their business online, we can’t do it alone. Having buy-in from the internal team is an integral component to successful  efforts.

Here’s a (hopefully) helpful breakdown on what social media is, how we’d recommend you use it, and the role that you may be playing if you’re joining in with an agency A-Team.

Don’t be scared

At first glance, and especially if you’re not very familiar with social media, it might seem a little intimidating to you. That fear can sometimes turn into unnecessary resistance which can easily be solved by better understanding what social media actually is and, when used effectively, how it can really help you to build relationships and grow your business.

Here are some very important things to understand about social media:

Social media is a vehicle, not a strategy

It’s important to remember that social media is a tactic. It is a vehicle that can be used to help you accomplish an overarching goal that you may have for your company as a whole.

As you probably know, there are many social media outlets that can be used to facilitate your social media efforts. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ are the big ones, but there are many, many others that may be effective depending on what exactly you want to do. It’s important to note that you don’t have to be everywhere. Select (and participate in) the social media spaces that match your goals and the needs of your target audience.

And one more thing on this point: remember that behind all social media outlets are people. Actual live humans that you’re trying to connect with and, of course, build a relationship with. Making friends online is just like making friends offline. You’ve got to be real and authentic, earn trust, and forge a connection. This doesn’t happen overnight, and it certainly won’t happen if you try too hard. The key is to be yourself and be respectful. And always provide something of value.

Social media is full of value (if you look in the right places)

It’s not unheard of for people to think that social media is, at best, the online equivalent of small talk and, at worst, people sharing pretty lame, or maybe even obscene details about their lives.

We like to think of social media as the most amazing and dynamic knowledge source that you can possibly get your hands on. The way we use social media (and how we teach our clients to use it), is to focus on following the people and companies who provide value. In other words, content and information (blog posts, infographics, video, images, what have you) that is remarkable, fascinating, useful, and, of course, relevant.

In order to make social media work as this powerful knowledge source, you’ve got to do a few things:

  1. Follow the right people
  2. Share valuable stuff
  3. Participate and engage

That means that you’ve got to be reading a lot and trying some new things (like learning new stuff and making new friends online).

In a nutshell, this is what we’d recommend you do:

Read

Hopefully, you already know how to read. What we’d encourage you to do is make sure you’re reading consistently. Start checking a handful of reputable blogs in your industry on a regular basis. This is where you’re going to find all of the value (again, good content) that you’re going to share with your target audience (and also your internal team).

Reading consistently will make you smart and more creative (as if you needed me to tell you that). It will allow you to discover new opportunities and niches. The more you read the more ideas you’ll have that will benefit your customers and your company.



Share value 

Again, sharing value means showing other people important information that you’ve found that they might also find useful. When sharing value, we’d recommend the 80/20 rule. What this means is that 80% of the time you’re sharing stuff that other people (who you trust) have created that you know your audience would find valuable. Yes, you read that right. 80%. The beauty of this is that you’re benefiting your customers and you’re forging new relationships with the people who are creating this content.

Think about what your customers really need to know and might want to learn more about. Look for that kind of stuff somewhere out there on the web and use social media to share it with your target audience.

20% of the time you’ll be sharing stuff (again, awesome content) that you’ve generated. But the kind of content that we’re talking about here is not the overly self-promotional stuff. Sure, you can share stuff that helps people understand more about your product, your services, your company, your values, and your culture. But, your customers want to understand how that’s of value to them.

Keep the focus on your customers and their needs. Always be thoughtful about purpose and ensure that whatever you’re sharing provides something of value to your customers (and, note to self, you are not your target customer).

Engage
You’re going to want to talk to people (gasp!) online. This is the part where you get to practice being yourself. If you’re reading and you’re learning stuff, don’t worry. This means you will always have something to share or something valuable to contribute to the conversation.

You play a (very important) role

Even if you’re working with an agency, the work that needs to be done through social media cannot be done without you. It’s an agency’s job to always stay on top of the knowledge, lead you, and teach you, but it’s your job to ensure that you’re enacting the strategy and always keeping the bigger picture in tact.

In general, here are some of the roles that your internal team may play:

Community manager
Internally, you are going to want to assign one person as what’s called your Community Manager. This is your fearless social media leader. They are responsible for running your brand online. They will have very specific tasks to complete in order to manage and develop your online community. An agency will work directly with this person in order to facilitate the strategy that has been developed.

Influencers & thought leaders
The way it works online, it’s not enough just to have your brand name out there representing your company. You’ve got to establish what is called author rank. In other words, the person (or people) who are individually going to stand behind your brand. These guys are your industry experts. Your CEOs. Your internal gurus.

An agency will work with these guys (or gals) to develop content under their names so that people can start to recognize them and want to figure out what they’re all about. Eventually, through stellar content generation, these people in your organization will become known as influencers and thought leaders in the online space (a.k.a. social media) and will be a stellar representation of your brand.

Sales, marketing team, and other awesome contributors
Last, but certainly not least, are the sales, marketing, and any other internal people who are going to participate in supporting your web marketing efforts on social media. These are the team members that may be on social media to be on the look out for great content to share with their customers, or people that they want to establish relationships with, but they may not necessarily be part of the day-to-day tasks on social media.

Even if this group is not required to actively be on social media every day (or every couple of days) they still represent your company online. They still need to contribute to the team effort by assisting with content generation, ideas, relationship building, and making connections online.

The bottom line is, even when you’re working with an agency, your internal team needs to play a very active role in building, shaping, and growing your online community if you want your efforts to be a success. After all, it’s your company and your customers, and you know best. Agency’s are just the ones with the web marketing knowledge (and they’re always happy to be used for their brains).

Just remember, the force is with you

If you’re new to social media and your company is just starting to embrace its power, this is probably a lot to digest (and this is only the beginning). Don’t worry. If you’ve picked the right agency, they’re going to help you take baby steps and hold your hand the entire time (that is, if you like that sort of thing).

As you take the leap into the social media realm, here’s a few final (and important) thoughts:

  1. There’s a learning curve

    Remember that when you’re using social media, there is definitely a learning curve (especially because it’s a continuous moving target). We do this stuff all day, every day, and we’re still learning new things all the time. Be patient. Give yourself time to learn. Explore. Ask questions. Try things out to see how they work for you. The most important thing is to be consistent and don’t give up.
  2. Keep an open mind

    The normal reaction to all of this stuff is resistance. A lot of it. You already have plenty on your plate and when the new guy (that’s us) asks you to do more, that probably doesn’t make you too happy.
    I’m willing to bet that no matter who you’ve chosen to work with, their intention is not to make your life miserable. In fact, a good agency will help you find your groove in a new routine, and will provide you training so that you can use technology to make your job easier. All you’ve got to do is keep an open mind, come along for the ride, and be a contributing member to this new team.
  3. Rely on your agency team
    If you’re working with an agency, remember that they are your team. They’re your guide. There’s going to be a lot of things that you don’t know how to do and it’s their job to teach you the ropes. You’ve got a lot to learn. And we have every confidence that someday (hopefully soon) you’re gonna love it.

We hope you take the plunge. But if you do, make sure you’re all in. This stuff may seem very foreign and new, but it’s going to help you become a better company. So take the risk and let us know how it goes.

 

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