Chances are, if you're reading this article, you already know the value of social media marketing and are actively looking for the best strategy to build a Twitter or Facebook following. On the off chance that you're not sure why your business needs social media now, check out this video on the impact of social media. Social media is not a fad. It's not going away. Businesses who learn how to utilize these tools effectively will have a competitive advantage in the marketplace. Businesses who are not already using social media are behind.
How to Engage
Twitter is all about following the people and businesses you're interested in and gaining followers in return. It's easy to follow other people–you just click on the "follow" button. But how do you get people to follow you? If you're not already a huge brand name, this can be pretty challenging.
The key to building a following quickly is to make people an offer they can't refuse. For example, Vergent is doing a Twitter iPad giveaway. Anybody who follows @vergentcom and re-tweets them is eligible to win a free iPad. Who wants a free iPad? Everyone! Because they've made re-tweeting a pre-requisite to winning the iPad, the giveaway picked up word-of-mouth momentum, and they were able to go from zero to 800 new followers in two weeks.
The key is to keep followers after the giveaway is over. Businesses who use the giveaway tactic may be interested in running perpetual giveaways to avoid attrition. Alternatively, businesses can simply create interesting and engaging content to make followers want to stay. This means. . . you guessed it. . .
Easy on the Advertising
Most businesses make the mistake of thinking they can use Twitter as a straight advertising tool. Wrong. Twitter is a social media application–the key word there being "social." How many times have you walked up to a stranger at a bar (or other social gathering place) and said something like, "Hey, did you know you can get really affordable business internet service from Company X for only $149 a month?" I'm betting never, because let's be honest. That's a terrible pick-up line.
People naturally resist engaging with advertisers, which is something we all intuitively know. Then why is it so tempting for businesses to start a Twitter stream and disseminate nothing but ads? The reason is because it seems like a cheap and easy way to get the message out. But if the message is out there, and nobody's listening, what's the point? You must avoid the tempation to alienate your followers by disseminating nothing but ads on Twitter. Must. Period.
Be a Person–Interact
Nobody really wants to have a one-way conversation with a nebulous business entity. Be a person. Interact. Make sure your conversation is two-way. Try to engage with your followers by giving them @mentions and re-tweeting their best stuff. Try to remember that your Twitter account shouldn't be all about YOU unless you are Justin Beiber, Lady Gaga, or Starbucks. . . because let's face it. If you're not a huge brand name or larger-than-life celebrity, nobody really cares. You must make them care by interacting–showing other people that you also care about them.
And then when it's time to talk about yourself, make sure you're interesting. What kinds of things would you write in your personal Twitter account? Probably you would write stuff that shows your personality. You would try to be funny. You would share good, informative stuff that people want to hear about. And if somebody sent you a message, you would probably reply. These are all things you should also do on your business' Twitter account.
There's a tremendous inclination towards whitewashing business Twitter accounts in an effort to make sure the company is putting its best foot forward. But businesses tend to over-do this, and the result is a lot of boring content that nobody cares about. Obviously, there's some amount of self-censoring that must go on. For example, you probably don't want to post pictures of a drunken Saturday-night bender or use a lot of four-letter words on a business account. You probably also want to avoid religion or politics (unless your business happens to fall into either of those categories). Even so, there's still a lot of room there to show some personality and be interesting. Don't be afraid to show your personality and be the best version of yourself.
Continuing on the interaction thread, make sure your business is a member of #teamfollowback. What this means is that your business must make it a strict policy to follow back every single person who follows you. You cannot build relationships that will sell your products or services if you do not do this. If you're not a huge brand name, there really is not a good reason not to follow other people. Remember, good business is about relationship-building, and that means the conversation must be a two-way street.
Forget about Measuring ROI the Traditional Way
A lot of businesses, when deciding whether or not to implement a social media program, ask themselves, "What's the ROI going to be?"
In traditional terms, this means the bigwigs would send out a tweet and try to gauge its effectiveness in sales numbers directly relating to the tweet. Your business must resist the temptation to do this, because this is simply not how social media works. You simply cannot measure it in the same way you would measure traditional advertising campagins, because Twitter is not an advertising tool.
Think of it as more of a tool for creating brand awareness. By engaging with a wide variety of people, you are promoting awareness of your brand. And then, once in a blue moon, if you want to share a cool promotion with your group of social media friends, go ahead and tweet it. Your friends will be listening.