Being on social media sites seems a must these days for your business. And it can be, if you do it right. I’ve been helping clients in their social media strategy almost since there even was social media and have seen what works and what doesn’t. So for your benefit I am presenting my 10 top tips for your social media strategy.
10 – Ignore the Social Media “Experts” with Books to Sell
Social Media experts are constantly putting out articles with their lists of tips for getting the most out of your social media exposure. At the end they try to get you to buy a copy of their book, since you will hopefully be so impressed with how much they know. I compared a number of these articles together one time, and they sounded like someone had written the first article while the others had copied it and changed it a bit. Either that or they all think alike and have nothing original to say. (Avoid the books, since social media changes so fast that the books will be outdated almost before they get printed.)
9 – Don’t Just Abandon Your Blog
Abandoned blogs are everywhere online. And they are a sign of trouble for your online store. A blog is a great thing for store sites to have. I don’t say this just because I have spent years writing for several but because I find myself going to them time and again to learn more about a subject (not just tea, which is what I have been primarily writing about) and also to learn about the store itself. However, when I see a blog that has not been updated for a year or more, I wonder if the company is still in business. A better strategy is to post something on the blog saying why you are no longer posting, such as:
- We are now posting instead on our [social media site of choice] page/account. (Note: I see this trend growing and am not sure if it’s a good idea. See #8 below.)
- This blog is being temporarily suspended due to [vacation/birth/illness/whatever]. We will be back in awhile and hope you will join us then. (Note: No need to get too detailed here.)
- Our schedule has gotten so busy with our store that we are focusing our time there and hope you will take a chance to look through our wonderful products. Thanks for stopping by.
8 – Social Media Is Not a Substitute for Your Store Blog
Whether a blog is needed anymore has been an issue on my mind a lot lately, and one that I have vacillated on rather widely, going from a definite “No” to a definite “Yes.” At this point, I would have to be 80% on the “Yes” side for the following reasons:
- Economy of effort – you can write one blog post and link to it from a variety of social media sites, and most blog platforms (WordPress, Blogger, etc.) have a way for you to set up your posts so they are automatically fed to those sites when the post appears on your site.
- More detailed content – this is a mixed blessing, as the saying goes, since social media has people used to short, quick content that they can take in at a glance (and a lot of folks who see your post on social media linking to the article will not even bother to go to the article – but the really interested folks will make that effort).
- More information for customers – you can link to your blog articles from your store site, thus providing customers with additional information for making their purchasing decision (just be sure the link opens in a new browser tab or window).
7 – Be Careful with Political Postings
Time and again I see people not realizing that their support of a candidate for some political office causes people to ‘unlike’ their Facebook page or ‘unfollow’ them on Twitter and Pinterest, etc. The same goes for other “hot button” issues such as the environment and religion. And there are those who think that people who follow their company page on Facebook won’t see their personal postings (one woman told me that it shouldn’t matter what she posted personally, just what she posted on her company page – if that were true, we wouldn’t have a lot of the bashing going on and firing of people over these posts – trust me, this is a vital point).
6 – Watch Out for Language Issues
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a social media “expert” talk about the language issues that pop up online. They probably aren’t even aware of them. I see them because, have studied French and German in school, I am aware of how tricky English is and how translating from other languages into English can be fraught with misunderstandings. Add in our idioms, colloquialisms, regional dialects, and slang, and English can be a total muddle to folks who don’t speak it growing up. Even people growing up in multi-language households can mix things up. And then there are those who speak English as natives but don’t know how to spell, use proper grammar, or correctly punctuate. “Your” being used instead of “you’re,” for example, can cause those translator features on some social media sites to have fits. Also, written English is different from spoken English in that we can explain what we mean when speaking with someone as well as convey part of our meaning through tone, inflection, facial expression, hand gestures, and body language. Someone asked me one day, “Do you have a problem?” I had to ask what she meant, since this could be a simple expression of concern or something more belligerent and challenging. Good to know before you respond.
5 – Let Pictures Work for, Not Against, You
Photos are great on social media, which is why Twitter added that feature to their site after a couple of years of existence, and why Pinterest, flickr, Instagram, and other photo oriented sites are so popular. But these photos can hurt as well as help you.
- Mouthwatering photos of that cake you baked, the steak dinner you prepared or other foods
- Professional products of your photos that are unique to you, not stock photos
- Things that are cute, funny in a harmless way, inspiring, amazing, and otherwise generally positive
- Selfies that are gross, X-rated, or otherwise not good for your intended audience
- Photos that are stock images used over and over by others in your same market area (I even wrote an article about this for tea companies)
- Photos that are someone else’s property and used without permission – admittedly, sometimes this can be accidental, but as long as you remove the item once you find out it is copyrighted, you should be okay.
4 – Let Sharing Work for, Not Against, You
A lot of the idea of social media is sharing, retweeting, repining, etc., the items others post, tweet, pin, etc., that you like and want your followers to see. It’s perfectly natural. But you have to make this sharing, retweeting, repining, etc., work for you, not against you. You see an article headline and share the post without reading the article (we’ve all done it). You see a cute kitten photo and retweet it without knowing the story behind the photo. You pass along something that boosts a competitor’s product instead of yours (I’ve seen this a lot – one guy passed along a photo of tea method that was not only against his own products but against a recent blog article I had done for him – my article was correct, and the item he shared was not).
I tell folks online all the time:
“Take care what you share.”
On the other hand, sharing your own stuff properly will enhance it’s “people reach” (who sees it) and “follower engagement” (who likes and/or comments on it). See #3 below.
3 – Be Aware of Social Media Restrictions
Ever since Facebook had their IPO and went public, they have been squeezing “people reach” for any post that they claim is an ad. They supposedly are doing this because their ordinary users complained about seeing too many ads. In reality, it is to get you businesses to pay for access. This hurts both you and your company page fans. They can “like” your page but still not see your posts or not see them at the right time. I have often missed sales because of this. Your fans have to make the effort to go to your page, and most of the time they won’t do this. They’re busy. So you lose out. But there is a bit of a trick you can do to counter this:
- Share as yourself (from your personal page) what you posted on your company page. It is less likely to get restricted, will beef up the engagement score for that post on your company page in the statistics, and improve people reach.
Other sites like Pinterest, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn have restrictions, too. Just get to know them so that you can engage your market without falling into a social media trap. (Rather than to go into details here, I encourage you to contact me if you need specific advice.)
2 – Don’t Miss Business Opportunities
Social media is becoming the venue for your customers to know your products, interact with you, and be influenced about your business in general. Yet, you can blow opportunities by not paying attention to these interactions with your customers. It’s easy to do but takes a little time. Here are the main things to be sure you do:
- Check your private messages regularly in any social media sites where you have an account for inquiries from customers.
- Be sure notifications for your company page are turned on so you see comments and can address complaints and compliments.
- Use the special features on these sites set up for businesses such as the “Shop Now” button that can link directly to your store site (but avoid paying for ads and people reach – a total waste of money).
- Set up boards on Pinterest in line with the product categories on your store site and be sure to link your pins to those products they are about.
- Post links to your blog articles on ALL social media sites you are on (which leads to #1 below).
1 – Make Your Blog and Social Media Posts Worth Your Customer’s Time
Yes, the most important tip of all (and the one most often overlooked). Your blog and social media posts should be a value to your customers, not a loaf of stale bread. A store blog I wrote for during a five-year-period began reposting my old articles (and not letting readers know this) as soon as I left since their social media person had no better ideas in mind, didn’t know anything about tea (she admitted this to me in an email), and couldn’t write well (again, as her emails showed). This repetition is a death knell for your company blog (and for your exposure on social media sites – see #8 above). The content needs to be fresh so customers feel they are getting value from the time they spend reading it. They also don’t feel that they are being sold a fresh bunch of roses that is actually a week old and prone to wilting as soon as you get them home. It’s a cheat, in other words. So is re-posting someone’s articles on your blog, especially if it is done without their permission (this is plagiarism).
Avoid most of the recommendations of those social media “experts” like these:
- Sending out messages to people to like your page (unless these are people you think will actually be interested in your products)
- Hosting contests (guess the number of dogs working on our farm, how many tennis balls are in this humongous jar, etc.)
- Having sales (these train your customers to stock up during the sale and then wait until the next sale to place another order, so you get stuck offering 10%, buy-one-get-one-free, or some other reduction)
How I Can Help You Implement These
Sorry, I don’t have a book to sell. But I am available on a consulting, freelance, part-time, or full-time basis (telecommuting from my home, although if you are nearby, I will be happy to come to your business location). Get a PDF of my resume here.
© 2015 A.C. Cargill photos and text