Over 1 billion people in the world are on Facebook, including over 175 million Americans, or 1 in 2 adults. Twitter recently surpassed 400 million accounts. LinkedIn boasts over 200 million users. Small business owners are trying to take advantage of these trends, but few are fully reaping the rewards.
For many business owners, the temptation is to use social networks to promote themselves and broadcast their messages. But if you stop thinking like a marketer and start thinking like a customer, you’ll understand that the secret to social media is in the “social” more than in the “media” – it’s in being human – being the sort of person at a cocktail party who listens attentively, tells great stories, shows interest in others, and is authentic and honest. The secret is to simply be likeable.
Here are 5 tips for small business owners (and business people at all levels, really) to be more likeable and ensure greater success using social media:
- Listen first and never stop listening. Before your first tweet, search Twitter for people talking about your business and your competitors. Search using words that your prospective customers would say as well. For example, if you’re an accountant, use Twitter to search for people tweeting the words “need an accountant” in your town. You’ll be surprised how many people are already looking for you.
- Don’t tell your customers to like you and follow you, tell them why and how they should. Everywhere you turn, you see “Like us on Facebook” and “Follow us on Twitter.” Huh? Why? How? Give your customers a reason to connect with you on social networks, answering the question, “What’s in it for me?” and then make it incredibly easy to do so. Note the difference between these two calls to action: “Like my company’s page on Facebook” vs “Get answers to your social media questions at NetLinked Solutions Blog here.
- Why ask questions? Wondering why nobody’s responding to your posts on Facebook? It’s probably because you’re not asking questions. Social media is about engagement and having a conversation, not about self-promotion. If a pizza place posts on Facebook, “Come on by, 2 pizzas for just $12,” nobody will comment, and nobody will show up. If that same pizza place posts, “What’s your favorite topping?” people will comment online– and then be more likely to show up. Make sure you understand Edgerank - Facebook’s formula for determining what shows up in people’s ever-crowded Newsfeeds.
- Share pictures and videos. People love photos. The biggest reason Facebook went from 0 to 1 billion users in 7 years is photos. Photos and videos tell stories about you in ways that text alone cannot. You don’t need a big production budget, either. Use your smartphone to take pictures and short videos of customers, staff, and cool things at your business, and then upload them directly to Facebook,Twitter and LinkedIn. A picture really is worth a thousand words – and a video is worth a thousand pictures.
- Spend at least 30 minutes a day on social media. If you bought a newspaper ad or radio ad, you wouldn’t spend 5 minutes on it or relegate it to interns. Plus, there’s a lot to learn, and every week, new tools and opportunities across social networks emerge. Spend real time each day reading and learning, listening and responding, and truly joining the conversation. The more time and effort you put in to social media, the more benefits your business will receive.
Above all else, follow the golden rule: Would you yourself click the “Like” button, the Follow button, or Retweet button if you saw your business or your content here? Would you want to be friends with your business at a cocktail party? Just how likeable is your business?