This is the second in a series of practical columns on “digital marketing made simple” by Constant Contact’s Ron Cates.
Let's get this out of the way: social media is here, it works, and it's going to stay for a while. Whether you've "gone social" yet or not, your customers and prospects already have.
If you haven’t made the jump into social media yet, I understand. It sounds complicated, time-consuming and fraught with peril.
How does it work? How does it help my business? What if I mess up and "do it wrong"?
The reality is that social media marketing does not have to be complicated. It’s really fairly simple. You can have a positive impact on your business spending as little as 10 to 15 minutes per day, two to three days per week.
Get past 4 big hurdles
Following are the perceived challenges a small business faces when going social. My goal is to show you how to eliminate or minimize all of them:
1. I don’t have enough time.
It takes about eight seconds to type a sentence, and even one sentence can be powerful. Ask a good question, then see how many responses you get. Post an intriguing photo and ask for comments.
Your goal is to incite your followers to comment on your content, thus creating new content on your behalf. Don’t post stuff just to post stuff; only post when you have something you think will resonate with your audience.
Good social content passes two tests: Will they want to share it with their friends? Are they likely to comment on it?
2. I don’t know which social media platform(s) I should be on.
You’ve heard of Facebook and Twitter, but what about AudioBoo or Qik? There are currently more than 1,000 social media platforms, and more are created every day. Niche social media sites, those devoted to a particular interest, are becoming more and more powerful.
How can you possibly stay current on all of them? You don’t have to!
As long as you’ve created a social presence and let the world know you’ve gone social by participating in one or two of the major platforms (like Facebook or Twitter), your followers will keep you current. They’ll let you know if you’re missing out on something important.
3. I’m not a writer.
The goal of social media marketing is to give your business a human voice, so perfection is not a requirement. (See “In Social Media, Reality Trumps Perfection,” Feb. 2, 2012)
What would your business sound like if it were a real human being? What words would it use? You can, and should, write in a conversational style. Speak to your customers online the same way you would speak to them in person.
Content? Answer the questions your customers ask you every day. Post a link to content you find online that you think would be valuable to your followers.
4. I’m never going to have a million followers.
Social media is about engagement. Having more followers than you can engage with may miss the point.
What’s more valuable – a large number of followers who aren’t interested in you, or a small number who are, and who are willing and ready to become advocates on your behalf?
Digital marketing expert Ron Cates, director of new market development for Constant Contact, is a popular presenter on the topics of social media and email marketing, as well as host of Email Marketing Radio and Social Media Nation.