Should businesses push what they do on social media?
One of the questions I get asked a lot, and even talked about in a recent HOA, is whether or not businesses should promote themselves on social media. And for some, it may not be as strange a question as you might think.
The Argument Against Social Media for Business
Some people believe that social networks are there to be social and that business has no place on the platforms. They'll tell you that they're not interested in seeing ads or business information, and that business should never talk about themselves.
They'll tell you that you're wrong for using social media in that way, while at the same time defending their "right" to use social media any way they choose.
The Argument For Social Media for Business
Of course, I take a somewhat different view. I, and others like me, argue that businesses should indeed have a presence on social networks. With a global reach of millions and billions, social networks represent a rich marketing medium that businesses would be foolish to ignore.
Exploitation of Social Media
Now, that's not to say that I advocate businesses spamming social networks with ads. That's a particularly ineffective and counter-productive way of taking advantage of social media. Yet many young businesses do just that. They'll set up a Facebook Page or Twitter account and do nothing but spam their sales ads and messages, thinking that potential customers will see and be moved by such messages.
And it's unfortunate because many other businesses have cropped up to take advantage of this ignorance, like those selling Facebook Likes or Twitter followers. Such purchases are a complete waste of money for the buyer, as the followers are likely fake accounts, and surely uninterested in the buyer's actual business.
What's needed is a completely different perspective on what social media is, and what it represents to businesses.
Business Networking kicked up a notch
If you've ever attended a BNI or Chamber of Commerce, or other similar business networking meeting, you will begin to have an understanding of the right approach to social media, to social networks.
If you haven't, here's how it works: representatives from various businesses come together in regular meetings to meet each other and learn more about them. Imagine that you're going to attend one, and it's your first time. You arrive with your business cards and are dressed appropriately for your business and the kind of meeting you're attending. As you begin to mingle with other business owners, what do you talk about? Do you go on and on about last night's blown call that ruined your team's chance for a last-minute victory? Or do you listen to other people talk about their businesses, and wait for opportunities to talk about yours?
That's what social networking is all about.
The approach that I advocate for businesses when it comes to social media is to create relationships with people. Often one at a time. You’ll follow someone interesting or they’ll follow you, and conversations will begin to happen around updates and content that is shared.
How to Sell Yourself on Social Media
If you approach social media like it’s a business networking event, these are some suggested steps to follow to prepare and act, just as if I was prepping you for your next business luncheon. Here's how to sell yourself on social media:
1. Look Professional
When attending a business networking meeting, make sure that you dress professionally, and represent you and your business well.
If part of your goal from social media is to attract business, you simply must look professional. This includes having an appropriate profile image, as well as a consistent and professional theme to your status updates. Don’t expect clients to call you if half of your posts are lewd images and jokes. There’s nothing wrong with sharing some personal interests, and in fact that’s encouraged, but I recommend limiting the volume and never sharing anything that you wouldn’t announce at a business meeting.
2. Make Your About About Your Business
Make sure that you bring plenty of business cards that have your complete business and contact information.
When it comes to your About page and profile, make sure that it’s about you and your business. Tell people what you do and be as specific as you can. When it comes to Google+ and LinkedIn and Facebook, take advantage of the extra space and talk about yourself. It’s OK! If someone looks at your About page, it’s because they want to read about you, so give them what they want!
3. Be Active in Your Niche
Be sure to regularly attend your meetings, look for networking opportunities, and schedule one-on-one’s with key contacts.
There are so many ways that you can be active on social media in a professional way. You can follow other people in your industry, as well as potential clients. You can blog about your industry and share those posts, and share similar articles from other sources that might be interested to your clients and prospects. You can start discussions and participate in other discussions on related topics. You can create a community for your niche, and join other similar communities.
4. Remind People of Your Business
When it’s your turn, stand and deliver a 30-second introduction to you and your business that delivers a value-add proposition to other guests.
And this is the part that typically trips people up. Either you never mention your business and what you do at all… or you do it so often no one wants to listen.
Instead, find a nice, professional way to regularly remind your followers what it is that you do. Offer to help them. Ask them what problems or questions they have related to your business. Mention that you do in the context of an article that you’re sharing.
What does “regular” mean? Just how often should you share such messages? That will depend on how often you’re posting in general. If you’re active every day, then perhaps once a week might seem like a reasonable frequency. If you’re sharing and posting less often, perhaps just once a month might be a better plan.
Perhaps the best option is to try to put yourself in your followers’ shoes. Do you think what you’re sharing is interesting and helpful? If you look back at your previous month’s posts, have you presented a nice variety? Have you simply and professionally mentioned what you do an appropriate number of times, or does it look like you’re begging for work?
Just like at a networking meeting, it’s a great idea to meet and engage other people and find out what they’re interested in. Look for opportunities to help them with that’s important to them and be a resource to them. Mention what you do and your expertise when it makes sense to do so, and grow your network, one person at a time.
By Mike Allton, Content Marketing Practitioner
Mike is a Content Marketing Practitioner, Blogger and Author in St. Louis, and the Chief Marketing Officer at SiteSell. He has been working with websites and the Internet since the early '90's, and is active on all of the major social networks. Mike teaches a holistic approach to content marketing that leverages blog content, social media and SEO to drive traffic, generate leads, and convert those leads into sales.
Mike is the author of, "The Unofficial Book On HootSuite: The #1 Tool for Social Media Management", "The Ultimate Guide to the Perfect LinkedIn Profile.", and "Blog Promotionology, The Art & Science of Blog Promotion."