This time around I figured I’d share some insights from my friend and social media guru Mona Holmes.
We talked about the value of being Liked (capital L).
What kinds of businesses do you recommend have a social media strategy? Do you think social media is irrelevant for some businesses, like handymen or curio shops?
In this era, like it or not, every business needs a social media strategy. If you don’t create and manage your own online identity, it will be created for you, and not necessarily in the way you want. Thanks to Yelp! and other rating sites, handymen, curio shops or retailers don’t have much control about what is said about them.
What is most important for businesses is to have a well-written website. Even if it’s just a few web pages, it can make all the difference between a person wanting to give you business, or choosing your competition. Social media is a free marketing tool, and you should do everything you can to get them off your Facebook or Twitter fan page, and onto your website.
Can social media replace paid marketing campaigns online and in print? Do you think of these as working together in a brand strategy?
It depends on the scope of the strategy, the type of business, and their marketing budget. Some businesses thrive on social media, others need the extra push of a paid marketing campaign. But usually, the ideal situation is some combination of both. I rarely steer a client towards print. Compared to what you get in social media/online marketing, you get a lot more bang for your buck than print.
Whatever you choose, just make sure that your paid campaigns (online or print) all present a unified message.
How would you describe, in birds-eye-view, the main social networks you recommend businesses spend time on?
I just had a similar conversation with the head of a industrial company. He felt that his business should not be on Facebook. After speaking to his staff, we found that some in their industry were asking for their Facebook page. The customer is always right, so we created one.
Before you commit to one specific social media site for your business, do some initial research. First, find out where your customers and audience are. If you discover that the bulk of them are on LinkedIn, focus there in the beginning. If you’re not sure, then go for the majors: Facebook, Twitter and Google+. If you have a business that has plenty of visuals, then you should be on Pinterest and Instagram. Wherever you go, be prepared to create and share content that is compelling enough for people to come, and keep returning, to see what you have to share.
What is the benefit of engaging in social media? Are there different benefits with the different networks?
A note about engagement: It is simply an online interaction between two or more people. Example: A business creates a Facebook post. Another person replies, and they engage in a conversation.
I emphasize that you talk about your business as well as topics related to your industry. A good balance is necessary, otherwise it feels like a one-sided conversation, which is a complete turn-off.
Authentically speaking with your customers and audience travels farther than just talking about yourself (read: SPAM).
If that conversation continues beyond Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram or whatever network you choose, then you’re doing a very good job, because you’ve turned engagement into a lead and potential sale.
Do you recommend hiring a specialist to do the social networking or should a business do it on their own?
I absolutely recommend hiring a specialist, but only to help you build a social media strategy and train a designated staff member or members to enact that strategy. No one knows more about your business than you and your staff. With a minimal amount of training, these designated people will be able to handle what is necessary to get the job done right.
But if you decide to do it on your own, there are so many free online resources that can help: YouTube tutorials, webinars (web-based seminars) and other websites with relevant articles.
There is no one-size-fits all approach. Every business and owner are unique, so your social media strategy should be customized solely for your business.
How much time do you recommend businesses spend doing social networking every week?
It all depends on the scope of your plan. But I recommend that you have some sort of content posted Monday through Saturday. I can hear the groans now, so let me reassure you: it really, truly only takes a few minutes a day if you’re set up properly. It is especially crucial to maintain this schedule if you’re a large company, or want to be a large company. There are so many people on social media during the weekend. If you’re not engaged in this conversation, you’re missing out on an opportunity.
That doesn’t mean that you need to constantly be in front of your computer, either. You can schedule your posts in advance by using a social media management tool like Hootsuite. Be sure to check in and respond to anyone who comments or retweets you, to keep up your engagement levels.
There are so many networks to keep up, like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Pinterest. Most small business owners or independent artists are busy making their stuff and don’t have a ton of time for marketing in general. How do you recommend business owners prioritize their social networking?
I can relate to this; I’m an artist, too! If you’re efficient about it, you don’t have to spend a lot of time.
By taking a small amount of time at the beginning of the week to create content, then scheduling all of your posts for the week, you can have content go up everyday without you having to sit in front of your computer. Imagine waking up on Thursday, seeing a post that you scheduled on Monday, with customers “Liking” and sharing your content.
Before you freak out and go, “Oh my god, where am I going to write all of this content?” remember there is plenty of relevant content already available. And there are simple easy ways for you to find and share that content. You can add your own short comment about a news story. Or share a photo that inspires you relating to your business. Positioning yourself as a go-to expert in your field is the ultimate way to build your customer base. Doing this is unbelievably easy, with a few simple tricks. Here are some tools to get you started:
- Using the social media management tool Hootsuite (via Benjamin Bachman)
- How to schedule your Facebook posts
- 5 Free Services To Schedule Your Tweets (via Mashable)
In some of my previous Product Management and Community Management positions, executives were concerned that people would leave negative comments, or troll, if they set up and maintained social media accounts. Do you find this to be the case? How should people respond to negative comments?
Businesses should stop being so worried about negative comments or trolls. They should look at it as an opportunity to connect with their customers. If and when those bad ones come up, I subscribe to the following strategy: Leave them alone. (Unless they are deliberately mean or violent, in which case: delete and block them immediately.) Do not run from these types. But do NOT reply to them either, unless they have a specific complaint about your brand or product.
For example, my cell phone company has a reputation for dropping calls. After losing my mother’s call for the third time within minutes, I took out my frustration on Twitter. They replied within two minutes, and recommended that I speak offline with one of their customer service representatives. They were able to directly address my concern and offered a discount. Even though their overall cell phone service was subpar, their social media response was stellar. It kept me from dropping their service at that point. And they were able to handle the naysayers in a proactive way.
If people want to find out more about social media marketing, where should they look?
I keep up on all the news in this industry, so “Like” my Facebook page to stay updated. I’m also launching my new website this week, and I’ll have even more detailed information there. Drop me an email, and I’ll be sure to add you to my mailing list: mona (at) socialmediamona (dot) com.
- Facebook: Mari Smith
- Everything social media: Mashable & Social Media Examiner
- Pinterest tips
- Making the most of LinkedIn, a highly underrated and over-ignored social media site
Photo by Justine Warrington.