One of the great things about the work I do is that I have a bird's eye view of what's working and what's not when it comes to social media. Every so often I like to give sort of a "state of the union" on Facebook and Twitter best practices, because as I am sure you know, social media is constantly growing, changing and evolving.
As you'll see, some of the strategies I am recommending are tried and true-they have been working since day one and will probably continue to for the considerable future.
However, there may be a few here that you've never considered-or may even be surprised by. But they are what I see as being the biggest keys to success and results for business owners on the two hottest social networks on the planet: Facebook and Twitter.
1. Find your peeps
What this means is that you want to become part of the community you are looking to serve. The first step of course is to be clear on whom it is you want to serve and what problem you are solving for them. Once you know that, the goal is to go where they are hanging out.
There are specific tools you can use to easily find and interact with your target market. Two of my favorites for Twitter are wefollow.com and search.twitter.com.
2. Concentrate on conversing and building relationships, instead of broadcasting and selling
One of the most common yet biggest mistakes that people make when they are first introduced to social media is to focus on pushing their product or service in a spammy way. That approach fails miserably in social media because most people are there to build relationships and interact.
There's nothing wrong with letting others know what's going on with you or your business sometimes--just be sure to intersperse your tweets or Facebook updates with some two-way conversation.
3. Use a Facebook personal profile AND a Facebook business page TOGETHER
This might be a little "controversial" - and don't get me wrong, your business SHOULD have a Page -- but when you have a personal profile, you are able to interact with other people much more easily.
As a business Page, a Page can't go comment on another person's Wall or profile or in their Group or on THEIR Page AS that Page. You are really contained inside the space of your own Page. This might be something to consider because a lot of the magic of Facebook and the relationship-building and rapport-building comes from that ability to interact.
4. Cross-post and cross promote
Once you've decided to make social media a part of your marketing strategy, you don't want to keep it to yourself.
There are lots of ways to spread the word, for example: you'll want to advertise your social presence on your blog, add links to your email signature and use one social media platform to post to another.
5. Use a social media dashboard like Hootsuite and other productivity tools to accomplish more in less time
Hootsuite.com is my hands-down favorite, free social media tool, and the reason why is because it does so many different things. For example, you can use it to update many social networks at once, including Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn; you can use it to pre-schedule tweets and status updates and more.
6. Get them on the list
In most cases, people aren't going to buy from you right off of sites like Facebook and Twitter. You need to shift your thinking from "how can I get this person to buy from me or hire me now?" to "how can I bring this person into my community and strengthen the relationship with them on an ongoing basis?"
One of the best ways to do this is to offer people a way to provide their email address via your blog or website so that you have permission to keep in touch and build an ongoing relationship with them.
7. Measure and track your social media results
Measuring the ROI of social media isn't exactly cut and dry. I am often asked how you can tell whether the time you've spent on social media activities is really making a difference.
Some of the best metrics? Blog comments, blog subscribers, newsletter subscribers, social media profile engagement, number of friends and followers and website traffic to name a few.
No matter who your target market is, you can be sure that at least some segment of them is using social media. The important thing is to understand that social media is a great way to get in front of that target audience.
And remember, you may not be able to equate your interactions to dollars now, but what you are doing is planting seeds which can have big payoffs later on.
Most of the strategies I've mentioned here aren't really "strategies" unless you keep applying them over time-so stick with it to reap those results you've been searching for.
About the Author: Christine Gallagher, MLS, MSIS, founder of CommunicateValue.com, teaches small business owners and professionals how to conquer the overwhelming aspects of online and social media marketing to increase business and maximize profits.
sources: Entireweb Newsletter, September 15, 2010