What social media experts say you should be doing for your business

The trick is knowing how regular people use social media. Shutterstock

Establishing a presence on social media is no longer an option for many businesses. Especially for those selling B2C, engaging with customers on social platforms is an essential part of the selling process.

Today’s consumers don’t want to be sold to, but they are willing to connect with brands, on the right terms and turf.

With that in mind, here’s what experts say you should be doing on social media.

Use social media as a consumer first

The key to using social media to connect with customers is knowing how they themselves use it. Otherwise you run the risk of misuse, possibly damaging a lead or relationship before it’s ever in play. To avoid this pitfall you need to first use social media as a consumer says Clara Shih, CEO and founder of Hearsay Social.

“Use social like a consumer first to learn the etiquette, lingo, and customer perspective, and only then start using it for business,” says Shih.

This advice is especially prescient on platforms like Twitter, which moves fast and has a steep learning curve. Many businesses have been caught out treating Twitter like any other advertising channel, slapping hashtags on their campaigns without regard for how they are used in the wild.

Pay attention to what your customers are talking about

Once you know how your customers use the platform, it’s time to listen. Follow your customers and competitors, see what they are talking about, why and how. Use this information to craft your own message. After all, it does you no good being where your customers are, if they want nothing to do with what you are producing.

“Understand what matters to your target audience and create content around that, not what you think they want, but what they are actually asking about,” says Morgan Norman, Vice President at Zuora.

Further, use analytic tools to dig deeper into what’s going on. There may be times of day, words or themes that work particularly well with your audience. Customers that are active on social media are generating troves of data you can use to hone your strategy.

“Make data driven decisions about where to spend your time. A lot of people miss the analytics of social, and this is a mistake. You should be all over it,” says Norman.

Educate your employees in social media

Using social media on behalf of a business is completely different from using it personally. The snark, food snaps and stream-of-consciousness that works for your employees’ accounts probably doesn’t fit your brand. So before you let your recruits loose on social media, make sure to train them up first.

“Educate employees on the appropriate use of social media in a professional setting, along with the best practices on building deep relationships with customers over social channels,” says Ryan Holmes CEO of Hootsuite.

“At HootSuite, we have mandatory social media training for all of our new employees.”

Social media training could encompass everything from simple mechanics and simple tips, to style guides, customer retention and corporate processes. Every business is different and social media is complex, so don’t assume employees can just slot in.

Have a plan

No matter how effective you are at everything else, it’s a waste without goals and a plan. Without either you don’t have direction, it’s hard to track how you are progressing, and you may call a halt prematurely.

“Put together a plan. Have a 30-60-90 day plan in place so that you don’t get overwhelmed up front and give up before you start to see results, and stick with it. Social media success does not happen overnight,” says Jason Miller, Social Media Manager at LinkedIn.

Approach your social media goals as you would any other milestone in your business – construct small goals that align with your business model and goals.

“List the goals that you are looking to achieve with social: lead gen, brand awareness, customer service etc. They should be aligned and support your overall business goals,” says Miller.

You can learn more about how to incorporate social media in your marketing strategy at Microsoft Australia.

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