I wrote briefly about this one in a previous post.  But the question continues to be asked.

We’ve heard many times from social media beginners:

So what do I write about or say when I’m using social media?

You’ve likely seen the commercial below, particularly paying attention to the Dad (click image to play):Verizon ad

Honestly, I love the Dad’s face just after he delivers his Twitteresque line “I’m sit-ting on-the-pa-tio”.  And Facebook gets its jab as well as the daughter whences at the Mom’s interaction into her world with “I Love You” all over her wall.  Has to be one of the funniest ads out there right now!

The problem for most newcomers to social media is perpetuated by these stereotypes.  A June 2009 report from Hubspot says it all:

Despite significant growth in the number of Twitter accounts since last year, 53% of those who have registered with the much-publicized micro-blogging service have no followers, 56% are not following anyone, and 55% have never even tweeted.  (thanks to Marketing Charts for the link)

People don’t know what to do on Twitter!

While probably more people start doing more on Facebook, I offer these 4 business guidelines for any small business to follow for social media:

  1. “Tell them to go to  . . . “ – Whether it’s Facebook, YouTube, your blog, Twitter,  Linkedin (or a number of other tools), the best and overlooked social media rule is to point people back to your hubYour website should be your dynamic hub of information.   Drive them to your site to show them:  a resource page where they can find tools to use for their needs, a special video they can watch to learn something new, a free report (whitepaper) they can download with unique helpful tips a past blog post on a related topic, the events details of an upcoming seminar you’re giving, etc.  This offers great SEO value as well!  When you are sent by your spouse to go to the grocery store to get milk, why can’t you just run in and get it?  Because you have to head to the back of the store where most staple products are.  Why?  Because they want you to walk past the Double Stuff Oreos on your way to the milk.  Telling your audience to go to your super site also allows them to come in for one item but get exposure to all the other good stuff you have to offer. KEY LETTER:  H (HUB)
  2. “Compel, don’t sell” – When trying to move your potential customer to a transaction, you’re most effective tactic is to COMPEL them rather than trying to SELL to them.  Educating your audience is a way of teaching them what they are looking for.  Connect them with you as a credible expert with a wealth of knowledge and information.  When you  give generously to your prospects links to articles, blogs, and reports that are valuable to them, they become dependent on you and see you as their resident expert.  When you educate your customer on why they should do something, they are more likely to complete the sale with you because you have led them to the jumping off point!  KEY LETTER:  E (EDUCATE)
  3. “Give ’em more than a status update” – There’s not a better strategy for demonstrating leadership online than to engage your community with inspirational messages and cutting edge thought leadership.   There are many naysayers out there and just as many people who can sell you something.  But if you share quotes you read about, write unique thought leadership articles on your blog, or demonstrate to your propsect that you are one step ahead of them, you gain immediate credibility and start having followers.  So when you are on Facebook or Twitter, resist the urge to just tell people you are sitting on the patio or drinking your favorite latte at Starbucks.  Followers talk like that.  Leaders offer so much more.  KEY LETTER:  L (LEADERSHIP)
  4. “A little self-promotion never hurts” – Kept in balance and accompanied by using the previous guidelines, use social media to promote your products and services.   But you must observe extreme caution.  No one likes a peddler who simple talks about “me, myself, and I” – although it is a natural tendency for all of us to do this.  Promote on the premise that you have spent plenty of time educating and inspiring your prospects and telling them about valuable resources you know about.  When you do that, your gracious audience will permit an occasional self-promotion.  Just keep it in balance.  KEY LETTER:  P (PROMOTE)

So when you get on Twitter, launch your world-changing blog, submit a YouTube video or stare at the “What’s On Your Mind?” box on Facebook, consider how you might H-E-L-P your target audience.    Not only will you see your social media strategy offer more long-term results, but you’ll see a greater value in it for the hours you spend on it everyday.

This is some of what we cover during our 8-week Duct Tape Marketing coaching program (we’re currently on Week 7).