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Does Social Matter to Business? Social Media Bootcamp Highlights

Posted by Christine B. Whittemore on Feb 20, 2014 2:00:00 AM

This is a 9 minute read.

Surfaces 2014 Bootcamp

Although social media and business make for strange bedfellows, social matters intensely to business.

Social matters for getting found online, for connecting with customers, and for building strong networks or communities.

Why is social media so hard for business?

On one hand, social media and business belong together. After all, we're in business to connect with customers and develop relationships. Which means that we recognize the value of learning more about our prospects and customers, so we can be responsive and relevant based on what they need. Great salespeople know how important being social is: it enables them to actively listen and observe for insights. (Think How to Win Friends and Influence People.) They do so using all the tools available - from the telephone to networks such as LinkedIn.

On the other hand, being social and participating in social networks goes against how many businesses operate, where the individual as representative of the company speaks in a corporate voice. The corporate voice is often fearful of engagement; it often has humanity stripped from it; it isn't conducive to connecting with customers.

Social media challenges businesses to speak differently in a social setting.

Social networks started as places for personal social interactions. To participate, you need to create a personal account or profile - Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, for example. Once you have a personal account, you can create a business profile, acting on behalf of the company as administrator. That, creates the biggest challenge: how to be human and approachable when your own face isn't associated with what you are saying?

{BTW - the other challenge with this is if you have someone help you set up that business profile, you may wind up with that person's personal profile forever associated with the business account... Yes, we are in unchartered company territory.}

We haven't even touched on the time angle. Although the tools of social media are mostly free, to use them and get value from them takes people smarts, people empathy and people time. Then, there's the social media ROI question. Does social media actually deliver customers? Does it earn its keep? (See Erik Qualman's Social Media ROI Examples & Video.)

What to do about making social matter to business?

Bootcamp 2014 Twitpic SurfacesOne option is to completely ignore social networks and the conversations taking place. That's a shame because if you aren't aware of the conversations, you never have an opportunity to hear about them, let alone participate in them or do anything about them, learn about your prospects or even connect with them and strengthen your business community.

Another is to get involved, and provide staff with the tools to know how to engage as a company representative rather than as a mechanical voice. That's how to start to connect with people, create community and build a true social network.

  • On LinkedIn, it's relatively easy to be social and business like when publishing status updates. It's a matter of sharing updates related to work, articles you find interesting, content your company has created. Regularly read through and interact with your networks updates. Encourage all of your employees to be on LinkedIn and to regularly update their network about interesting content your company creates.

  • LinkedIn Groups can be powerful for building relationships and a reputation for your company (as well as yourself). They require thoughtful and individual participation to contribute value. The more passionate you are about the group discussion topic, the easier it is to become engaged. The less you know, the harder it is to pull off credible engagement.

  • When you find blogs you admire, leave a thoughtful comment and associate your company email and URL. Return regularly and contribute more information. You may get to participate in a rich exchange on topics you care about. See where else the resource is active and follow/like.

  • On Facebook, build up your community of company fans. Administrators and company employees should invite friends to like the company page. Then, be sure to acknowledge their interactions with your Facebook Fan Page. Identify updates with your initials. Seek out companies relevant to your industry and geographic location and 'like' them. Interact with the updates in your company newsfeed.

  • On Twitter, when you post updates for your company account, identify yourself. Interact with those who interact with you. Find interesting conversations to participate in (i.e., Twitter Chats) and contribute something interesting.

  • Pinterest is about sharing beautiful images. Although your choice of imagery reflects a personal preference, your choice of images will be guided by what's relevant to your company and its prospects. You'll still want to seek out boards to follow and acknowledge those who interact with your content. >

What's the solution to making social matter for your business?

Perhaps you noticed a theme. For social to matter to business, business needs to commit to interacting socially -- respectfully and as a person. Respect means having something valuable to share and being willing to listen and respond.

Surfaces 2014 Bootcamp TwitterIf those interacting on your behalf don't understand your company or your customers, interactions can fall flat. If they don't understand the rules, they will be paralyzed into inaction. If they don't understand what to say, they will only be able to say boring things. If they don't know what it means to be welcoming, they won't make the effort.

For all social networks, the rules are similar:

1. Create and complete your account; complete it with relevant and robust profile information, select an avatar which properly represents your company or brand.

2. Develop social guidelines so you - and all those posting on behalf of your company and brand - understand what the rules are, what's ok to say or respond to. This should include whether it's ok to follow and like what competitors say. What about clients? Are some topics dangerous hot-potatoes? What if someone gets nasty online? Be sure to also set expectations for your readers/visitors/likers/followers. What can they expect from you? If there's a question or a problem, how long will it take you to respond?

3. Understand who you are speaking to (aka who are your business personas?). The goal is engagement; engaged followers amplify what you say, they share insights with you, they help you get found. So, thank them, ask them questions, follow them back.

4. Come up with interesting content to share: quotes, pictures, questions, tips. Reward your posse. If they are to share time and attention with you, they need to discover something special. Without content, you'll find it difficult to create value for your business. If you understand who your audience is, you'll know what kind of content is more relevant. Since this is a business account, that content needs to relate to the business in a personal way. 

5. Spend time analyzing results so you know what to do more of and less of. 

Tips for making sure that social matters to your business

Once you've completely set up your business account, go ahead and publish a few relevant updates related to your keywords, your business, what you are passionate about. Then, find people (i.e., other accounts) to follow. Spend time getting to know who you are following while you continue to publish good content relevant to your network.

Take content strategy seriously. Involve your entire organization. Think about the questions prospects and customers have. Think about the words (aka keywords) your customer segments (aka personas) use when they speak with you. Then, create a calendar and commit to publishing regularly and consistently.

Accept that you can't be all things to all people. Focus on quantity vs. quality and your community - despite the pressure the various networks place on adding fans and increasing followers. As networks get more crowded, you'll find it critical to stand out to gain attention.

As tempting a social publishing solution as using one tool to publish on all networks, I urge you to reconsider! Each network is its own world with its own language and methods for reaching out. If you publish the same message across all networks, chances are your message will be ignored. However, if you customize it ever so slightly for the network, you'll notice more engagement.

Don't underestimate the need for visual content. Photos and videos capture people's attention. Furthermore, social networks are becoming increasingly visual (see How Visual is Your Online Customer Experience?). Include visual content in your content strategy and your content calendar.

Don't always be selling. Instead, think how to add value. Social networks allows business to build relationships, to demonstrate trustworthiness and expertise. Focus on how to add value to your community: for every sales or business-specific message, offer 6 or 8 community focused messages.

Surfaces 2014 Bootcamp Twitter 2Be on the lookout for online collaborators. These can be businesses in your geographic area, ones that get it socially, or even related supporters. Social is about interacting with others. It's about people. The more people you involve - from your organization and your community - in your social networks, the more relevant and fun your social investment will be for your business. (BTW - this holds true for off-line social networks, too.)

Have goals. If you don't have goals, you won't know if what you are doing is worth your time. Goals help you stay focused and allow you to improve over time.

Remember this is about people, the lifeblood for all businesses - whether for profits, for ideas, for support, for fun, for fans and for workers.

The inspiration? Social Media and Web Bootcamp from Surfaces 2014

During Surfaces 2014, I got to lead a three-part Social Media & Web Bootcamp over 6 hours. The Social Media and Web Bootcamp consisted of three parts:

I - Digital Basics

II - Lead Generation With Social Media

III - Developing an Integrated Online Strategy

It was intense! What impressed me were how many participants stuck it out for the entire three sessions, the interactions we had via Twitter using #smbootcamp (for the first time for several) and in person.

The basis for the session was as follows:

Is social media the Holy Grail for flooring and stone businesses or is it a complete waste of time? Apart from being a hip buzzword, social media tools can help flooring and stone businesses strengthen their online and web presence and better connect with potential customers – especially if you understand how ‘being social’ affects doing business. Attend this workshop and explore the basics of social media and the web.

It was geared towards people who had already created and started managing at least one social profile and who wanted to get more out of those activities, including integrating them into their overall online web presence.     

In part I of Social Media and Web Bootcamp - digital basics, we covered 

  • Basics about social media networks for business

  • Basics about how search relates to your website and business reputation

  • Website content and blogging basics

  • Review successful social profiles, blogs and websites 

Resources to help you make sure that social matters to your business!

Here are three recent articles which agree that social matters to business.

Let me know your thoughts!

In the meantime, I invite you to download the resources I put together for the Surfaces 2014 #SMBootcamp.

Download Social Media & Web Bootcamp Resources! #SMBootcamp

Topics: inbound marketing, B2B Social Media, content marketing, Digital Marketing

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