Social media marketing tips: Online Business Basics

(This is the seventh article in my Online business basics series. You can find links to the other posts in the series on this page: Online business basics)

Social media can be a really effective way for you to reach your clients – plus it’s free! But if you’re new to social media it can be hard to know where to start. And how can all that apparently random chatter about what people are having for lunch actually get you more clients anyway?

Here are my top ten tips to help you start using social media for marketing:

  1. Pick a social network that give you access to your audience. If the people you want to reach are on Twitter, use Twitter. If they are on Facebook, use that. It’s fine to pick a handful of social networks, but be wary of spreading yourself too thin. Maintaining a presence takes time and commitment, so it’s best to focus on just two or three.
  2. Each social network has a different ‘feel’. Twitter is fast and furious but LinkedIn is much more serious and professional. If you’re not sure quite how to behave, just watch other people for a while before you join in.
  3. Don’t just broadcast sales messages. This is like going into a party and shouting “buy our stuff!” It’s considered pushy and rude. Instead, strike up conversations with people who similar interests to you, help people out, answer questions, share links, pass on useful articles. Build relationships as you would in any social group.
  4. Having said that, it is (usually) OK to spread the word about a new product, a sale, a discounted item or any other promotion. Just sprinkle these messages in sparingly among the other messages you post.
  5. Social media can be a huge distraction! To prevent it from eating up hours of your time, allocate it a ten minute slot in the morning and another in the evening. You’ll be surprised how much you can achieve in that time. Also, close down Twitter, Facebook or any other social networks if you need to concentrate on a task.
  6. Use a tool like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck to manage your social networks. You can also use these to schedule tweets or status updates so you maintain your presence when you’re busy with other things. Only schedule some of your updates though, otherwise you risk just broadcasting messages instead of building relationships.
  7. Add your photo or logo to each of your social networks. Opinion is split over whether you should use a company logo or a photo of yourself, but in general people want to get to know you as a person, so it;s best to use a photo of you. It’s best to use the same photo across the different social networks that you use – often someone will want to connect with you on (say) both Facebook and Twitter, so it’s reassuring to know they’ve got the right person!
  8. Save time – automate! Set up your blog so that it automatically sends out a tweet when you publish a new post. You can use Twitterfeed to announce your new post on Twitter and Networked blogs to do the same on your Facebook page.
  9. Aim to connect with influential people in your niche/industry. Help them out, re-tweet their tweets to your followers so you’re helping them spread their message. Answer their questions. Don’t act like a stalker :), just try  to get to know them a little. With any luck they will return the favour and mention your offerings to their followers.
  10. We tend to think of social media as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and many other sites where you can have a conversation. But we often forget that blogging is also part of social media – you can find out more about blogging in these articles: How to be a better blogger, Business blogging: 9 things I wish I’d known when I started out or in my book Business blogging for beginners.

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