Many times over the past 10 years (yes, I've been in social media a long time) I've heard, "Who cares what you had for breakfast? That's not useful!" I completely agree. If all you're doing is posting about your breakfast, social media isn't very useful. However, while posting about your breakfast isn't always useful, posting about what your team is eating for breakfast or sharing a picture of a cool birthday cake can be -- just like striking up a conversation with the person in front of you at the coffee shop can lead to new business. Not to mention others posting about their breakfast can be very useful to your business. Don't believe me? Keep reading!
Focus on customer relationships
Start by creating, then nurturing, relationships with your customers, thought leaders, and potential customers.
Do you know your customers? If you have an e-mail newsletter, or you've connected with them on one social network personally, you can develop relationships with them across all networks. Use their e-mail address to find out where they spend the majority of their time and connect with them there, one-on-one. See what they're eating for breakfast, based on what they post on social media, and comment on it. Notice when they change their profile picture and comment on it. When they post something that isn't a link to an article, start a conversation. If they reply, reply back. Add these folks to a special Twitter list, ask them to connect on another network, or add a tag to their contact profile so you can remember to engage with them again at a later date.
Do the same with thought leaders. No, not those "thought leaders" that have 100,000 followers on Twitter or are LinkedIn open networkers who connect to everyone regardless of who they are. I'm talking about those customers that you see interacting with others online, that you notice have written a blog or two, and those that take the time to keep their profiles current on various social media channels. Pay attention and you'll see the same people show up over and over again. Create and nurture these relationships by giving them kudos for being smart, by singling them out to ask questions about things you see they've remarked on before, and ask for clarification on things you'd like to better understand.
For a great example of how to nurture relationships, watch how Gary Vaynerchuk does it on Twitter. You don't have to be as informal as Vaynerchuk, but you can learn a lot from how he goes out of his way to recognize people in his stream -- and how little broadcasting of offers and links he does.
Share relevant offers and updates
The key word here is "relevant." If you know your customers are primarily left-handed from Florida, don't make them an offer for something right-handed from Washington state. That's an extreme example, but this is again where creating and nurturing relationships helps you stay more relevant. In time, you'll learn what's important to your customers. You'll learn the right words, the right hashtags, the right time of day, and even the right content that is most relevant to your audience.
Yes, you'll want to try to get every article as much exposure as you can on social media, but some evergreen content can be pushed out over and over because it is relevant for a long time, and some content can only be pushed for a short time, because it is only relevant temporarily. Additionally, some content should just be pushed in various forms by rewriting a headline, adding a graphic or asking a question about it. And remember: Not every post on social media should be about you. Sometimes talking about your industry and your customers and how customers can make more money or be more productive will get more attention than your own stuff. Just sharing your own work can make you seem like you live in a bubble where nobody else is important but you. And how social is that?
Measure and test again (and keep going)
If you're not measuring your social media, you're just wasting your time. Things like follower growth, number of clicks back to your website, comments, likes, favorites and shares are all important to keep track of so you can see what's working, to do more of, and see what isn't working, to do less of. Review your stats, do more of what works, change what didn't, and try again. With changing platforms, it's no guarantee that what worked yesterday will work today, but it's worth trying. Don't forget to share your breakfast (or birthday cake) from time to time to give your audience a chance to remark on what you're eating. It might be the start of a relationship that leads to real business, just like talking to the person in front of you at the coffee shop can create an opportunity to connect.
On Twitter? Follow iMedia at @iMediaTweet.