Social Media Ground Rules

Social media: one of those pesky enigmas, one of those mind-boggling conundrums that so many small/medium-sized businesses have as some form of ailment.

To ‘be on Facebook’.

To ‘start Tweeting’.

It’s likely that 5 years ago, those sentences would have sounded either exotic or ridiculous. Now it’s become some form of obligation to every conceivable company. If you don’t have a Facebook page, you’re doomed to failure- the sin of not keeping up with technology.

The shame, oh, the shame!

Over the past few months, though, I’ve had a pretty much recurring conversation with several of my clients and myriad other entrepreneurs about the real truth of social media (namely Facebook and Twitter, as these are the platforms most entrepreneurs- for now- are primarily concerned with).

Every week we have a business owner and/or marketing department approaching us here at Social Media Design asking us to manage their social media presence. And yes, this is something we do, and we do it pretty well, if I say so myself. But so many people, once the reality of what can actually be achieved with Facebook and Twitter has been explained, swiftly turn on their heel to find another marketer who’ll promise the 80% growth in sales in 1 month. Or some other crazy figure. Only to receive a few pay-cheque before said ex-potential-client realises that this just ain’t gonna work for them.

Now don’t get me wrong, social media can be an absolutely phenomenal tool. Really, it can. But first we need to lay some ground rules to ensure we’re expecting the right things of these platforms.

  1. Social media is a connection tool. It’s not a sales platform. If you come to me and ask me to manage your social media presence, my first question is likely going to be ‘and what do you want to achieve?’.  I understand, you run a business, you need to make sales, but please, do not see social media as a route to sales. Of course, we’d hope that a proper use of social media would result in some extra income for you, but this is a bonus- it’s secondary. So, if you ain’t gonna see huge jumps in direct sales, what’s it for? What benefit could it possibly have?
  2. Social media for your business is first and foremost a way of providing people with experiences. An experience is emotionally-based: Laughter, sympathy, sadness, entertainment, thought-provoking, inspiring. We care about providing positive experiences (even sadness can be a positive experience) because this is what makes people sit up and take notice of you. How many companies do you see using Facebook and Twitter simply to occasionally tell people about an offer they have on, or a new product they’re launching. Soon (very soon), people will get tired of this sales pitch and tune out. But just imagine if those same companies used social media to share huge amounts of entertainment. They made people laugh. They gave their readers inspiration. Think people will tune out then? Of course not.
  3. What’s so good about experiences is that people have this uncanny habit of telling everyone they know about them. It’s probably pretty unlikely that you’d talk to your friends and family about how sparklingly clean your window cleaner leaves your windows each month. But, if one day your window cleaner left a bottle of wine and a handwritten note on your doorstep, thanking you for being such a fantastic customer, I’m pretty sure you’d tell a few people- you might even post it on Facebook! Why? Because experiences are far more hard-hitting than a simple ‘service’ or ‘offer’.
  4. When you’re providing these positive experiences, you’re attaining two of the most treasured things in the whole of marketing- trust and attention. For those few seconds that people put aside each day to read your fantastically wonderful Facebook updates, you command their attention because they trust you to provide something they will value. Don’t waste that time. Don’t abuse that trust.
  5. Once people trust you to provide them with something that enhances their life- even in the tiniest way possible- they’re far more likely to think of you when they want your product. You may have a fan on Facebook who reads your updates religiously each and every day, waiting for that snippet of humour that ignites that smile across their face. Twelve months goes by, and they’ve not spent a penny on your products or services. But then, all of a sudden, they need something you can offer. The likelihood is, yours will be the company that comes to mind. That rapport, trust, and provision of experiences on a regular basis has led to a sale. But note, this was not a direct sale. It wasn’t a sales letter that brought this customer in. What you achieved was an indirect sale.
  6. Therefore, to achieve this effect you must not have sales as the primary motivation or objective as a social media campaign. The primary objective should always be to provide a positive experience– to provide entertainment or some other form of emotional outlet news.

These ground rules are the basis of how we at Social Media Design run the social media campaigns we develop. This is a long-term, sustainable approach that’s designed to not scare people away, or scream in people’s faces about your business.

It’s about being of real value to your customers, clients and potentials, with a long term view that’ll hopefully have increased income as a by-product.

But I’m afraid this isn’t all we need to take into consideration with social media.

When I ask that all important first question, ‘and what do you want to achieve?’, one of the most common answers is simply ‘more Facebook and Twitter followers’.

This, as a broad objective, is fine. But it’s so, so important to realise that people very rarely just become a fan because you post interesting stuff on your Facebook wall each week. There’s a funnel people must be passed through before they will ‘like’ or ‘follow’ you.

It basically goes something like this:

  1. Awareness– first, people need to become aware that you exist. This can be done in various ways from online adverts to guest-posting.
  2. Trust– once people are aware of you, they then need to trust you. They need to know that you know what you’re talking about, that you’re going to add something to their life, and that you won’t spend all of your efforts trying to sell them something. Sometimes this can be done just with, for example, a Facebook page. The page is so magical and exemplary that people can’t help but join- but this is difficult, and the success rate is low. What’s needed is an all-impressive package (careful!). You need to be impressing people before they land on your social media profiles. You need to be making people think, ‘wow, this brand is awesome, where’s their Facebook page, I need to keep in contact!’. This is the effect you need. They may think this because you have an amazing website with masses of superb content. It may be because you run such cool events people need to know when they’re happening. But, ideally, the impressing should be happening before your target even knows you have a Facebook or Twitter page. Then, when they head over to Facebook or Twitter, they’re blown away by how freaking amazing the content you’re posting on there is.
  3. Relationship– once you’ve build up trust enough that people are willing to ‘like’ or ‘follow’ you, you’re in a position to build that relationship mentioned earlier- the relationship that allows people to share the experiences you provide them with and eventually, and hopefully purchase from you.

In essence, this is how social media should be used to build a lasting impression through trust and rapport that’ll lead to people sharing your content and spreading the word about you. This is the approach we take when we work with clients, and have some great success stories to go with that.

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