I know, I know, you’ve heard everywhere that you need to be on social media. But if you’re on social media you’re probably not trying hard enough. And if you are trying hard enough you’re probably not catching your mistakes. And if you are catching your mistakes… well, if you’ve reached that point I’m the one who should be asking you for advice!
The thing about social media is that there are a million ways to do it all wrong. So I hope you won’t take offense if I say you’re probably doing about nine hundred thousand things wrong right about now.
(It’s nothing personal, it’s just that there’s a learning curve at work here.)
There’s an upside to that statistic I just made up though: if you can get your act together and do social media right, you can master it. And since you’re doing nine hundred thousand things wrong, there’s plenty of space for improvement.
So let’s cut through the misconceptions about social media and figure out how you can really use social media to get real results.
Build Individual Relationships
So many brands and so many freelancers get into the (frankly awful) habit of thinking their whole social media effort is about racking up followers. The thought process here seems to be, “Well, if I have ninety billion followers, some of them are bound to trickle down and buy eventually.”
Now, maybe if you’re Wal Mart that kind of thinking can work. If you’re Wal Mart, you can afford to throw a few million bucks at the problem and see if it does anything. And if it doesn’t, it’s no big deal.
But here’s the facts, bub: you ain’t Wal Mart.
Prospecting and selling on social media means actually getting out there and actually engaging with people. Make friends. Crack jokes. Ask questions. Everybody’s out there trying to do the same thing you are. Find the people you belong with and get to know them.
Now, maybe you’re thinking, “That’s good and well for a freelancer, but my small business can’t do that kind of thing.” And to an extent you’re right. People aren’t generally eager to have brands jump in on their conversations (especially not in any overtly salesy way).
But even if you’re a small or medium-sized business, you have options for building relationships. You can host a Twitter chat. You can ask questions and follow up with the people who answer them. You can steadily use social media as a tool to dial in on who your prospects are, how to find them, and what they need to hear from you.
Speak to Your Prospects’ Needs
Here’s the thing: it’s much easier to produce content that speaks to your prospects’ concerns after you’ve built a relationship with a few of them. And I’m not talking about all that malarkey people like to spew about big data and how it’s supposedly so useful. This is about getting to know your prospects.
I’m talking real, human knowledge. I’m talking the kind of knowledge that you feel in your fingers and in your tongue. It’s that little glow in the heart you feel when you meet somebody you can really respect and admire.
It’s not something you can manufacture with data. It’s not something you can find an algorithm for. It’s a matter of real human connection. People can tell the difference between somebody who’s going through the motions for the sake of making a sale or doing what the data says and somebody who’s really speaking to them.
I don’t want to get all mushy here, but I think that’s what words like “spirit” mean. It’s something people share when they’re really and genuinely speaking and listening to one another. And it’s exactly that which you need to bring into your social media use.
If you hear the concerns of people you’ve gotten to know and genuinely care about, you’ll gain insights into your prospects’ needs that you can’t access any other way. And that is how you create a social media presence that stands out from the pack.
Among other things, this means being consistent with your social media use. From now on, there are no days off social media. You’re here for a reason, and you’re not leaving until you figure out how to satisfy that reason.
Listen: every industry is different, and you’re going to have to figure out what works best for you. I’m a freelance writer and I do a lot of my marketing on social media. That means I’m interested in finding brands that need a skilled writer. And that means I’m constantly calibrating my approach to figure out what these brands need and how best to serve them with my social media presence and my blog.
Sure, experimenting with social media takes a lot of effort. But the more effort you put into the process, the better you get at it. And the better you get at it, the more you’ll eventually come to love social media.
Believe me. When I first started working on Twitter and LinkedIn, I hated social media. I thought it was a vapid waste of time and that anybody who wasted their time with it was an idiot who deserved to have his or her head smashed in. (That probably accounts for a lot of the mistakes I made at the beginning!)
But if you stick with it, you’ll realize there’s more to social media than angry people spouting their awful political opinions all over the place. There’s a wealth of information out there. There are brilliant people doing brilliant work. With a little time and a little cleverness, a network like Twitter can allow you to connect to almost anyone you can even dream of contacting.
Think about that for a minute.
Make a list of five people you’d like to get in touch with someday.
Go see how many of those people have a Twitter account just like yours.
Remember: if you get good enough at social media, you can take your account (or your brand’s account) and connect to anybody. The possibilities are literally only limited by your imagination.
So keep at it. Maybe you’re fumbling through the social media these days. But with time and practice you can turn it into something amazing.