Whether you are a graphic designer, blogger, photographer, or any business entity, you need social media to get your name out there and create the proper image. But social media can be mystifying for people who are more comfortable in traditional activities related to their business. Where should you focus your efforts? Should you Tweet or Pin? And what the heck should you say in the first place?
In this article we will lay out our five favorite steps to building a social media presence. We will help you choose where to engage your customers, how to build your audience, and what methods you should definitely avoid.
Treat Social Media is Like a Party
The path to success in building a social media presence is lined with land mines, misinformation, and grey hat techniques. With the importance of social media to virtually every business, comes the cottage industry of hucksters who promise instant success in social media if you give them your money.
You will do best to steer clear of these land mines. There are no overnight short cuts to building an engaged audience. If it sounds too good to be true, you can bet that it is.
Step 1. Focus Your Efforts
Being successful in social media does not mean being everywhere in social media. Whether you are on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc matters only to the extent that you are building a following.
“If you chase two rabbits, you will not catch either one.” – Russian Proverb
In fact, trying to be on too many social media platforms will most likely spread your efforts too thin and lead to disappointing results. Choose two or three social media platforms at most, and do your very best with them.
Which ones should you choose? Most people start with the two most important players – Facebook and Twitter. But if you are building a following faster with Google Plus or LinkedIn, maybe that is where you should focus your efforts. Choose your social media platforms by who your target audience is, and where you have the most success connecting with them.
Step 2. Personalize Who You Are
Take the time to personalize your social media presence. On Twitter, this means having a custom Twitter background which tells a little story about you, and gives important information that won’t fit in your profile. On Facebook, it means having a good timeline image and a splash page for new visitors.
Taking the time to customize your social media home pages will greatly enhance the experience for your user base, while allowing you to convey important information about you and your business. Use this real estate to promote special offers, new blog articles, or anything which you think your audience would love to see.
Step 3. Think Quality of Connections, not Quantity
If someone is offering you 5000 Twitter followers if you give them $5, run in the opposite direction. It doesn’t work. Sure you will probably get 5000 new Twitter followers, but expect a lot of fake or automated accounts. At the very least, don’t expect customer engagement. These people are following you because they were paid to do so, not because they are interested in your business.
Engagement is key. All of the major social media sites, as well as search engines such as Google, use your engagement statistics to determine “how important you are.” If you have 30 people actively engaged and 300 followers, you will be viewed as someone with a modest following, but off to a promising start. However if you have 30 people actively engaged and 10,000 followers, you will be viewed as someone who can’t possibly be important because so few people care about your posts.
Focus on quality, not quantity. The ratio of people sharing your content and responding to your posts, compared to your total connections, should be high. Low ratios suggest that you are offering poor content quality, or worse yet, that you bought your followers rather than earned them. This will be frowned upon, and you will be sent to the bottom of people’s news feeds if you make it there at all.
Step 4. Be Consistently Engaging
Now that you have your social media presence established, you need to be consistently engaging. Treat social media similar to how you would act at a party. You wouldn’t walk into a party and start handing out business cards, would you?
Think in terms of entertaining people and solving problems. If your target audience are bloggers, can you help them generate new ideas and overcome writer’s block? Targeting graphic designers? How about a great Photoshop trick, or a tip on which stock photo agency is having a big sale? Can you help photographers take better pictures?
Determine what expertise you have, and how it can help your target audience. Mix in a little humor now and then, or an interesting link you found. And be patient. It takes a while for people to share your content and spread it around to their own connections. But once it starts to spread, you will grow your connections and eventually your business. Give it time.
Step 5. Connect With Important People
While there are no true short cuts to social media success, connecting with important people in your social space can speed the process.
This step is tricky to do correctly, and you will strike out a lot more times than you will hit a home run. Basically you want to do some legwork and identify the movers and shakers in your social media space. These are the people that your target audience look up to, and whose opinions they value. They typically have huge followings, and most of the time they follow only a select number of people.
Watch them. When they post a query that you have expertise in, jump right in and help them as best as you can. Most of the time this won’t end up helping you gain connections. But every once in a while, you will hit the jackpot. If the person finds your tip very helpful and thanks you for it, you can bet that a lot his or her followers will click on your profile to see who this new expert is. Many of them will connect with you, and your targeted audience will take a big leap in numbers.
Follow these steps and you will be way ahead of most businesses’ social media efforts. Just remember that growing your presence takes time and patience. Don’t expect overnight success. Work on it daily, and the results will come.