Jumping into Social Media can be Great for your Business

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But without a strategy, it’s like swimming in the buff–with piranhas!

Social media has become the new way to network and build the relationships necessary to earn new business. Although plenty has been written about the need to jump into the social-media pool, less material exists about how to tread through the abundance of content without drowning, while also creating an important presence centered on business goals. To make the best use of social media, you must discover how to do both of these things, while also making your efforts effective in the short and long term.

Social media provides an easy way for people with problems to find help. In turn, those who can solve problems will find themselves building value-based relationships that will lead to a growing business. The key to building value-based relationships is authenticity. Without authenticity, you’ll likely find it impossible to establish trust and build the relationships integral to business success. Companies that use mascots or spokespeople to represent their brands online often don’t perform as well as those that use real people who actively and authentically engage online consumers. Similarly, many conversations that originate online and lead to business don’t begin as discussions about products or services. Rather, what’s important about these conversations is that they focus on solving customer problems.

Another important aspect of developing social-media acumen is frequency. A newspaper wouldn’t be much good if it only showed up in your mailbox or e-mail inbox every few months or so. Your social media efforts should be no different. In fact, engaging with social media effectively requires looking at yourself as a publisher. Your audience — should you be fortunate enough to attract one — will expect to see your content on a regular basis. Delivering a message with predictable frequency represents a major hurdle for many companies attempting to develop their social-media presence. When it comes to creating and strengthening your social-media presence, the more you can think like a publisher, the better.

Most businesses have a number of target audiences with which they want to communicate. Some social media Web sites cater to some of these audiences better than others. Although some of your content will work across outlets, it’s important to think about the specific problems facing readers in each target market. Consider how your products and services ease pain, solve problems and create success. And don’t be afraid to dispense advice or insight that doesn’t necessarily relate to your products or services. If you help people solve their problems, good things will come your way eventually.

Some of the simplest and most effective social media posts a company can write involve comments on industry news and events or responses to other people’s thoughts or ideas. Whether written as a comment on another site that links back to your Web site or social media page or as a more detailed treatment of the issue on your own site, these posts can demonstrate your industry knowledge. They also allow you to weigh in on important topics and can help establish you as a thought-leader. You also should consider sharing links to other online resources your audience might not know about. If your readers find these sites useful, they’ll often remember how they learned about them.

Whatever direction you decide to take with social media, make sure you consider your business goals and the expectations of the modern online audience. If you have any questions, feel free to email me at rick.grant@rga-pr.com or visit www.rga-pr.com.

Rick Grant has been a writer and journalist for over 25 years. Prior to launching RGA, he founded Texell Interactive Media, a production company delivering electronic audio and video content for Web-based marketing. Before that, he spent more than a decade as one of the nation’s leading financial industry-focused journalists. He writes features for National Mortgage News and is a columnist for HousingWire.