First off, social media is not for everyone or for every business. It takes a great deal of time to build up and maintain a community. Once you start, you must keep it going with consistency. My mom and brother are a successful real estate team in the GTA that don’t use any social media to promote their business. I did introduce them to a few options, but I realized that it just didn’t fit into their schedules or even personalities. They would much rather do their business in person and on the phone.
Secondly, figure out which social media tool is right for your business; typically what your customer base uses the most. For example, fashion enthusiasts use polyvore and tumblr so these platforms would be ideal for fashion designers. Twitter and Facebook are seen more as the foundation tools for social media. Often times, established companies will use Facebook for visual appeal – products, and behind the scenes pictures; while twitter is more used as a help line and quick replies to customers.
Even before deciding on if social media is right for you and which channel will work best, you should understand your customer – what do they eat, when do they sleep, what do they read, what do they wear, how much do they make, where do they live etc..
Having a clear profile of your customer is based on a beta test and oftentimes your own personal knowledge (as you must have some passion/interest in what you’re selling). Once your business is validated (someone out in the world, hopefully a few people gave you money for your product/service), then you can go searching for more of these people.
But when you’re at the starting line, there is no one to talk to, you have 0 followers. This is the great hurtle of social media – how do you grow your base from 0 to 50 or 100 or 1000?
Here are some tips:
- Watch or read tutorials on how to use twitter or whatever tool you’re using for business effectively.
- Start slow – start off with 1 tweet a day, get a feel for what you want to communicate to your potential community. Usually, its easiest to first talk about broad things that may interest your potential customer base using third parties (links, photos, “retweets”)
- Study all of your competitors: how have they built their communities? What is their social media strategy or style? Anything you can learn from and apply?
- Start off by following your competitor’s followers and all influencers (blogs, websites, magazines, writers) that are associated with your industry. You may end up having 100 following and 0 followers but now you have a base to interact with and you may get a few followers out of it.
- Build lists right away so you have an easier time tracking specific blogs, or industry experts. You don’t have to necessarily follow people you put on your lists.
- There is no easy way around building a Facebook community. Start off with reaching out to your own network individually. Those that would be interested in what you’re selling, ideally your potential customer base and early adopters.
- Like twitter, you can like all pages that are in your industry.
When you start, understand your customer and your competitors’ social media strategies. Beyond that, have a finger or even a whole arm on the pulse of your the market. Building a strong foundation will then allow you to be confident about interacting and sharing relevant posts that will be of interest to your growing community. Hopefully those interested in what you have to say will then become customers.
Next up: What do I tweet about?