What I always encounter when teaching people in small business is a hunger to know how to go about doing it right. What are the best practices? What mistakes should be avoided? Are there any hard and fast rules? From my experience I have found that it does make sense to follow some conventions. So, here's my list, which you are certainly free to pick apart, support, or add to.
1. Do spend time learning what you're doing. The internet provides limitless learning opportunities at little to no expense. Take advantage of them and spend some time learning about the social networks you want to use for your business. Having some education before you begin will serve you well. Incidentally, Constant Contact provides a wealth of resources right around you.
2. Don't speed on to the social network of choice, post your update, then speed off. Look, if you think that social media success if built upon you posting something promotional about your business with no engagement with people or other businesses, you have much to learn. That is an advertising mentality, not a social mindset.
3. Do understand the difference between paid, owned and earned media. Owned media is what you post to your network profiles. Earned media is when one of your fans or followers engages with one of your posts, which then creates exposure to their respective networks. It is good to have earned media and that is what most small business people think is the sole amplifier of their content.
There is one more step though, which medium and large businesses all know and that is advertising on social platforms. All leading social networks offer ad vehicles. Learn about them and employ them to get more from your investment in social media.
4. Don't Like, RT, +1 and thumbs up all your posts all the time. I see some people just in love with their own content and this looks weird and narcissistic. Occasionally you will post something so awesome that you are compelled to like it when giving it a second look and that is fine. Just resist doing it constantly.
5. Do help others daily with Likes, Mentions, RTs, +1s, +Ks, Recommendations, Shares and Endorsements. Put the social element in to your daily routine and see your impact multiplied.
6. Don't be vapid. Quantity does not equal quality. This is true of volume of fans and your number of posts. If you don't have something good to post, then resist the urge to post something empty. As an example, I think #FF tweets have jumped the shark and now qualify as vapid. Add your comment if you disagree with me.
7. Do measure your efforts. There is simply no excuse for not using the numerous measurement tools that are out there. Whether it be a platforms built in tool or a 3rd party tool like HootSuite, Bit.ly, Buffer, LikeAlyzer or CrowdBooster, get used to looking at the numbers around what you are doing and making determinations about future efforts.
8. Don't fight with your negative posters. The recent 'epic social media meltdown on Facebook' reminded us all over again about what a bad idea this is. Avoid it at all costs or the cost to your online reputation will be high. Worse, your negativity will draw more and more people who will goad more embarrassing behavior from you. It is definitely a good way to go in to a death spiral.
9. Do try to reply to all legitimate comments. Is this hard? Yes, as your network grows it is. When you cannot handle it anymore, then you know it is time to get a community manager. It is sad to see how many companies still do not keep up with all the comments directed towards their brands. Do not be one of them. This is what it is all about!
10. Don't do the same thing over and over. Just because your picture of a sunset with a Gandhi quote written over it went viral does not mean you should rinse and repeat. Have you seen pages like this? Picture with overlaid quote again and again. Please! This also goes for your blog posts, pictures of you having lunch with your tweeps, and your latest awesome cupcake creation. Creativity and variety are the spice of social life.
11. Do use some 3rd party tools. Once you get the ropes with social media it is time to take it up a notch with some cool tools. Every leading platform has some. Twitter has more than I can count or keep up with. Here is a great new post with some tools to use with Facebook from Ian Cleary via Jon Loomer. I regularly recommend HootSuite, Buffer, Bit.ly and am pushing Newsle, SalesLoft and Rapportive lately. Just do a Google search for "Tools to use with X" with x being your favorite social network and you will find a list to start with.
12. Don't forget that social does not work in isolation. Combine it with email marketing to really amp up your ROI. When I went to Social Media Marketing World this past April I was not surprised to hear several of the speakers talking up using social to build your email lists (where the real selling happens). Start now if your aren't working these two together.
13. I always like to exceed expectations so here is your bonus 13th tip. Do create your own content. There is ths new enthusiasm around curating content in your social stream. It is a good trend, but it does not replace the need to create original content that leads back to YOU. When you curate you are driving traffic to someone else's site or channel. The best method is to intersperse the best content from others with your own. This makes you look like an experrt in two ways.
I hope this list has stoked your thinking and made your recall some of your top Do's and Don'ts. Please share them below and let us get this conversation started. I want to be social with you.
Excellent Article! I especially like the tip to work in the Social Media to build your email lists. That's something that we're trying to concentrate on for our email campaigns at Del-Air Security (http://www.delairsecurity.com/). Great. Tips, thank you for sharing.
Yes, thanks for the kind words on the post. You're very smart to be using social to build your list. It's one of the best uses for a small business.