If you’ve been reading the news headlines about social media for the last few years, you may be tempted to think:
- Merely opening a Twitter account will triple your revenue this year
- You’re only one blog post away from a guest spot on Oprah
- If you build it (a Facebook/LinkedIn/Tumblr page), they will come (in hordes)
Then you look around at the real world and realize that, sadly, none of this is true.
The truth is, social media — when used strategically over time — is the most powerful form of marketing and market research the world has ever seen. But it’s not a magic bean that grows overnight into business success. It’s a platform for real work.
The art is knowing the best places to put that work so you get results and not just a lot of annoying people who think they’re your friends. That’s what we’re going to talk about today.
First, a definition
The term social media has always been somewhat lame and redundant.
Why? Because the internet has always been social. The tools are new, but communication and interaction are as old as humanity itself. That’s why so many essential principles of web communication haven’t changed much from the old days of face-to-face selling.
What the internet does change is the pace, scale, and cost of communication. You can send more messages to more people, more quickly and more cheaply, than ever in history. But what you’re going to say doesn’t change just because you’re using more efficient technology.
(For more on this, check out my article on Finding Your Village of Customers.)
Social media: what is it good for?
It’s probably obvious that social media (i.e. talking to people) is a great tool for the first pillar of Internet Marketing for Smart People — building relationships with fans and customers.
You might be a big company, a little company, or an individual. Any of these can use social media platforms to show your customers that you aren’t a fink. That you can be trusted. That you know your stuff.
The biggest factor that kills your conversions is lack of trust. Social media gives you an awesomely efficient, cheap, and effective way to build that trust — provided, of course, that you’re a good egg to begin with. (Social media also does a fantastic job of exposing lousy service, nasty business practices, and crappy products.)
The second and third pillars are direct response copywriting and content marketing. Those are two separate skills, but they work incredibly well when you blend them together, then use social media tools to widely share the result of that work. This article talks about how they’re different and how they work together:
And the final pillar of Internet Marketing for Smart People is to have something worthwhile to sell.
Social media actually works brilliantly for this as well, because of something most people forget too easily:
Social media is a tool for listening, not just talking.
Want ideas for products that are a surefire success? For the language your prospects use to describe their problems? For the most common objections people have to buying something like your product or service?
Just “grow bigger ears” (in Chris Brogan’s phrase) and listen on twitter, Facebook, blog comments (your own or someone else’s), forums, and anywhere else people congregate to talk.
If you never wrote a word on social media platforms, but used it purely for market intelligence and listening, social media could still make you a millionaire.
Don’t forget to listen.
Which social media platform is best?
The one your customers hang out on. There are millions of people still using “dead” social media platforms like MySpace, AOL, and Friendster.
Go fishing where the fish are. More specifically, where your fish are.
Where’s the ROI on social media?
Social media demands a huge investment — not of money, typically, but in time, which of course is worth much more than money.
So to get the best return on that investment, here’s where you need to put your social media focus:
- Gaining the attention of new potential customers. The best way to do this is to encourage sharing of your very best cookie content.
- Building your lists by bringing those new prospects to a “home base” asset. This must be something you control, like your blog (on your own domain name) and your email list. Don’t be a digital sharecropper — instead, use external media like Facebook and twitter to bring traffic back to you.
- Using social media to put a likable human face on your brand. This is optional, but can be highly effective. Remember, you don’t have to be perfect, but you do need to preserve your authority by acting with a reasonable degree of dignity. Be someone we can respect.
- Constantly working on conversion — on taking those fans and readers and turning them into customers. Steps 1-3 do you no good until you master step 4. Don’t worry, we’re going to be talking about conversion more in messages to come.
Watch out for this big, scary, dangerous pitfall
The first thing we all realize when we start playing around with social media is that it can be a brutal, ugly time suck. And too many bloggers never get past that point. They lose hours every day “being social” without anything to show for it.
That’s not what smart people do.
I wrote an article with some specific tips and techniques on how you can use social media effectively without losing most of your day:
If you start with these foundational principles of using and thriving in social media, there’s a good chance you won’t need Oprah.