Anybody who pays attention even the slightest bit knows that building a social media following is an essential part of doing business in the modern era. Of course, the advice to “get on social media” is vague and not all that helpful.
What are you supposed to do exactly after signing up? You can send a bunch of tweets, but what happens after that? For many small businesses, the answer isn’t so clear right off the bat.
No matter the industry or brand, big or small, all businesses new to social media (or new to the concept of an effective campaign) make similar mistakes. But one mistake really stands out and can hurt you more than any other.
The #1 Mistake Small Businesses Make on Social Media
It’s simple, actually. Here’s the biggest mistake small businesses make on social media: not listening. A failure to listen to what people have to say and responding accordingly sinks most social campaigns before they even get off the ground. And it all boils down to a misconception regarding what social media is for.
A lot of small businesses seem to think it’s free press, or a place you can essentially post a tweet-i-fied version of your latest press release. This is just plain wrongheaded and ignores key elements of social media.
I mean, it’s right there in the name social media. It’s meant to be a social experience, an interaction, a conversation. Social media won’t work if you don’t listen to your target audience and the people you interact with.
Being a Better Social Listener Starts Now
Whether you’re brand new to social media and want to get started out on the right foot, or you’re old hat and have finally seen the error of your ways, don’t sweat it. It’s never too late to start listening to your community.
The key is to be consistent about it.
Figure Out the Conversation Location
One of the most important things you can do for improving how you listen to your community is to make sure you’re listening to the right conversations. A lot of this has to do with identifying the correct social networks and groups where your target demographic connects and converses.
Using tools like Social Mention, TweetDeck, Hootsuite, and even Google Alerts gives you the head’s up on where people are talking about your company. That way, you know where to be present to engage in the discussion. You can configure alerts using any of these tools for any keywords, keyword phrases, or hashtags you’d like.
The aforementioned tools/sites are pretty well known. If you’re really serious about your company, you might want to check out some suggestions offered by Social Media Today, for figuring out where people are talking about you (or your industry) online.
For instance, SimplyMeasured makes it possible to view social data all in one place and export that information into attractive reports. This is particularly helpful when you need more than just analytics and you need full reports that offer a detailed view of how your company is faring socially.
And if you work with a larger company, Cision is a good enterprise choice because it allows you to manage your social accounts and listen in on what your target demographics (i.e. your potential customers) want and need. It also makes creating and maintaining relationships across multiple social networks simpler.
These tools can also be used to key into conversations about topics related to your industry. If you want to offer up valuable insights, advice, or just make yourself visible, engaging in discussion with real people interested in those subjects is the way to do it.
Recognize It’s Not All About You (All the Time)
The art of being a good listener means shutting your trap and being quiet sometimes. And while it’s tempting to use social media as your personal soapbox for advertising, hyping, and promoting your products, that’s not going to win you any brownie points with your target demographic. In fact, you stand to ostracize the people you most want to win over by such behavior.
The solution? Put down the megaphone and start actively listening to what the people in your community have to say. What are their interests? What are their concerns? Do they ask questions? If so, can you answer them? And don’t take every interaction as an opportunity to self-promote.
Instead, let part of your brand reputation be that you’re genuinely helpful and genuinely care about people. Customers like to know that’s the kind of people behind the products they end up buying.
Be Real & Be Engaging
If you want to listen to your community, you need to actually talk to people. That means walking away from the pre-written, cookie cutter posts and taking the time to sit down and have a virtual chat. It also means recognizing that the people you’re talking to are real, with real lives and real concerns. So treating them as such—and not just new prospects—is a good idea.
Being a good listener also means being a real person. A social account that sounds like a corporate shill isn’t going to win anyone over, but a feed that is consistently helpful and responsive to people’s questions just might.
Listening is a Part of Marketing
Paying attention to your audience has always been a component of good marketing strategy. But it’s never been so essential as it is today. In a business landscape populated with numerous social networks, listening to your community gives you the truest sense of what your customers want and need. And that knowledge allows you to sell to them more accurately and even more efficiently.
While surveys still play a role in business, you can get a decent look at who your customers are, what they want, and what they want from you just by pressing your ear up to the social chatter.
Takeaway: Be a Human Being
If you take away anything from this post, let it be this: you can better listen to your customers by dropping the business facade and being a human being. That means actively listening when people talk to you and not just waiting around for your turn to speak.
Featured Image: macrovector