This is a guest post by Tammy Kahn Fennell, CEO and co-founder of MarketMeSuite . MarketMeSuite now has thousands of users and a fast-growing global customer base of small businesses and consultants.
As a business, you need to think of social media like fishing. Sometimes you put your pole in and the fish are biting; other times, not as much. Still, a lot of people approach social media marketing without any bait whatsoever.
So what is this 'bait' I'm talking about? Engagement!
Setting up a Twitter account and a Facebook page -- these are both a good start, but if you don't attach something tasty to the end of your pole, you'll be fishing for a long time for that viable lead. Here are five tips to optimize your social media participation for the best engagement.
If you're a business in, say, Omaha, and you operate in a specific location, or you're organizing an event, or you're just trying to get people in the front door of your establishment, then you're not going to have a lot of luck if you're marketing to New York. Conduct searches to determine who is tweeting relevant keywords in your location. A simple way to do this is by using Twitter's own search function on Search.Twitter.com . More advanced businesses may want to try a 3rd party application like MarketMeSuite's Reply Campaigns.
2. Ask Questions
Can you resist a question? If you answered that, or even thought about answering that, you've proven my point. We've embarked on this fishing analogy, so let's stay with it. Asking a question is premium bait! It's almost irresistible for someone who has been asked a question to reply. This works great on Twitter by @replying and works equally well on Facebook in comments on pages or even sending messages to potential customers. For example, if I see Sally Smith just commented on a Food Network fan page and I sell pans, I may want to send Sally a Facebook message like this: "Hi Sally, I happened to see you commented on the Food Network fan page, and I'm doing a bit of research. Do you mind telling me what your favorite maker of pans is?" There's a very good chance she will answer. You can then thank her for taking the time to answer you and offer her a coupon to shop with you in the future.
3. Be Useful
Monitor what people are tweeting and posting on Facebook , and lend a hand if you can. Set up searches for certain "problem areas" in your industry. A chiropractor may want to look for people tweeting about back pain, and a web designer may look for people having trouble installing WordPress. If you reply with something helpful, a person is very likely to stay in touch with you and follow what you have to say. Let's face it, people buy from who they like. This approach may not convert leads instantly, but it's well worth having some good karma irons in the fire.
4. Don't Automate Engagement
We are all busy people, but for a social media marketing strategy to succeed, you cannot automate the engagement side. Social media may be virtual, but it's still real human interaction. Think back to before the internet (yes, there was a world before the internet). Imagine people walking into a shop and being greeted by a tape recorder welcoming them to the store and randomly probing them for conversation. You cannot automate engagement. You can organize it, and there are a lot of useful tools for helping you keep track all of your social media marketing . You can also collaborate with a team of people to get it all done. But don't automate engagement.
5. Settle Into the Strategy
On a fishing trip, it's rare to catch a 5 pound fish just after you've dipped your pole in the water. Be patient. Once you embark on an engagement strategy, keep it going. You will see some early results, I promise, but don't get discouraged if your cash register isn't overflowing a few days later. Similar to how search engine optimization works, social media engagement takes a little time to convert. But once you get into the groove, you will be incredibly pleased with the world you've opened up for yourself and your business.
Key Marketing Takeaway
The same rules apply to social media situations as real life ones. Be real, be relevant, be useful, and people will want to talk to you. If you're the crazy person shouting randomness at no one in particular, you aren't going to get a lot of traction in offline situations. The same holds true for online situations. Find your customers, talk to them, find out what they want, and interact.
Image credit: maggiejumps