Social media and customer engagement are incredibly important in business these days. But best practices seem to change constantly. Many business people find this frustrating and put off building an online persona because they don’t have the time or don’t see immediate results.  But that type of online engagement takes time. You’re building relationships that will lead to sales so you want to put forth the effort. Think of it as a long-term marketing strategy, not a viral sensation and avoid these common practices:

1. Posting only when you feel like it. Consistency builds an audience and makes you accountable. You have set business hours. You should have set posting expectations too. Then set aside additional time to interact with others.  We suggest, at the minimum, 3 times a week and once on the weekend, for a grand total of 4 thoughtful posts on each platform.

2. Being “too corporate.” Social media is most effective when your audience gets to see the person behind the business. Show off your personality. Don’t sound like a posting robot – it’s SOCIAL media after all.

3. Being “too willy-nilly.” The other side of being too corporate is coming across too casual. It may be your audience likes a casual approach but they need to be able to see you as someone who knows what they are talking about. Never dumb down your message to the point it becomes unintelligible.

4. Using your soapbox. Social media is a powerful marketing tool but you should never use it as a bullhorn for your personal agenda. Unless you are 100% sure of your audience’s political preferences and religious interests, it is best to avoid these types of subjects. People are de-friending long-time friends over meaningless memes these days. They will boycott you if you give them reason. As a chamber,w e do have some allegiances and advocacies that we post about, but we keep it as non-partisan of clean as possible.

5. Using a tone that’s not you. Your business online persona should not be the personality of whoever is doing your social media. Give some thought as to what you want your tone to be and create a document that illustrates who you are in adjectives. That way when your social media person moves onto a different role, you don’t lose your personality. Figure out your voice and stick with it.  Just think of the differences “in the office” between an accountant or a children’s trampoline park. This should be reflected in your social media voice as well.

6. Not posting to where your audience is. You may hate Snapchat but if that’s where your audience is, you need to be there. Do your research and spend your time where your customers spend theirs. End of discussion.

7. Being a monologist. It’s easy to find and post good content. Some of it should be yours and some of it should be content from other sources that you think your audience will find valuable. However, some businesses get so into posting that they never interact with others. There are two people in a relationship, even an online one. You need to interact with others on the social web to create business opportunities. Otherwise, you’re just yelling into the wind.  Again…SOCIAL media!

8. Not knowing your audience. Don’t create and post things your audience doesn’t need or want. You’re wasting your time and theirs. The due diligence you do in advance, and testing you do of content at the beginning will save you LOADS of money and time in the long run.

9. Not targeting your audience. If you’re posting good quality content that is important to your audience, you’re bound to get shares and comments. But eventually, you’ll likely find your marketing in need of additional assistance. That may come in the form of paid online advertising. Many platforms now and turning more and more towards “pay to play” visibility. When you do this, always make sure you are targeting the exact type of person who makes a good fit for your product or service. You’ll be more successful in getting a greater number of click-throughs and interest for less money. If you just blow a generic ad or graphic with a generic link to everyone between 15-95 within 100 miles, you are using more of a “shotgun” style marketing approach, when nowadays you have the option of “rifle” accuracy. Use it.

10. Not being accessible. Have you noticed how many businesses are using Facebook Messenger? People want instantaneous answers to their questions. That’s why Messenger has taken off for business. You don’t want to conduct business in an ivory tower. Be available.  If the size of your team prevents you from being accessible as you’d like, set expectations up front with easily visible office hours, or even a note that says, “If we don’t respond immediately, you can expect a response within 24-48-72 hours.  Thank you for your patience.” They may go find their answer elsewhere, but at least their time is recognized as a valuable commodity.

Your online persona is incredibly important for your business, especially in this day and age. You’re trying to build relationships with customers and potential customers. If you’re bland and robotic, people will lose interest. If your online persona is over the top, people may question your ability to be serious. If you follow these suggestions you should be able to navigate between the two edges and successfully improve your online relationships.

 

 

Christina R. Green teaches small businesses, chambers, and associations how to connect through content. Her articles have appeared in the Midwest Society of Association Executives’ Magazine, NTEN.org, AssociationTech, and WritersWeekly. She is a regular blogger at Frankjkenny.com and the Event Manager Blog.