Just before New Year, a friend and I were catching up over coffee. It was one of those typical pre-holiday conversations where you natter on about 50 different things. Eventually the topic of social media came up.
“I’m reading about skate shops and taco vendors who tripled their business using Twitter,” my friend marveled. “If I owned a business I’d be tweeting my @$$ off.” I agreed. A minute later we were onto the next topic.
What we neglected to discuss was the effort this kind of social media success requires. You don’t just triple your business by tweeting a few times. It takes an ongoing commitment of time, energy and creativity — a commitment that many small businesses simply can’t afford. No matter how you look at it, the free publicity that social media provide isn’t free at all.
Plus, social media experts warn that you can actually damage your business and your reputation if all you’re after is free publicity. Commit any of the following sins often enough and you’ll find out just how quickly “word of mouse” can turn against you:
- Treating social media as one-way communication channels. They’re not. Do not ignore tweets directed at you, for example, and avoid blasting out promotions and press releases as your only forms of communicating.
- Talking exclusively about your company/brand. People won’t follow or pay attention to you (at least not for long) if all you do is market your company. They want you to educate and entertain them on a broader level. The best way to promote your brand is to showcase your knowledge and experience: talk about the state of your industry, the needs of your customers and the challenges they face. And don’t be afraid to be yourself.
- Showing up sporadically. Tweeting or blogging every couple of weeks won’t pay dividends. To build a following, your constant presence is required.
Before diving into social media, ask yourself several gut-check questions. Why are you even considering social media? What are your goals? Are you prepared to learn about each social media tactic before trying to use it? Do you have the resources necessary to tweet, blog, webcast, comment on the blogs and articles of others, etc.? Would your time be better spent on other marketing and promotion initiatives?