Some rules were made to be broken, it’s true. Most entrepreneurs are independent-minded and use their sometimes unconventional ways of looking at things to their advantage.
There are different ways to use social media, some more conventional than others, but you’re only hurting your business if you disregard the most tried and true rules of the game.
Yet businesses ignore them all the time, especially when social media is not seen as a marketing priority. The result? A social media presence that is way below its potential.
Here are eight unbreakable social media marketing rules:
1. Don’t Expect Something for Nothing
This is true in virtually all aspects of business and life, but for some reason in social media, people think they can build a huge following without doing the work.
The fact is, you can’t substitute free Twitter, Facebook, or Youtube followers gained through a website or app for genuine followers who have an actual interest in your business.
You can’t grow your social media platforms without good curation and strong original content. A promotional tweet is not free and easy advertising unless you’ve done the hard work it takes to give that tweet reach.
2. Don’t Expect Success in Social Media to Be Quick
Social media is so fast-paced that a single post or tweet can go viral within a couple of hours. The odds that your business strikes gold by going viral, ever, is almost nil. It’s certainly unlikely soon after you build your social media pages.
You want to build up your base at a steady pace using the only method that really matters: by delivering information people want and need.
3. Don’t Spam
This is obvious, right? Unfortunately, some business owners unwittingly spam, not realizing that some seemingly innocent social media practices constitute spam, the same way sending unsolicited advertising by email is spam.
Examples include posting about your product on strangers’ Facebook walls, using an unrelated trending Twitter hashtag to promote yourself, and mass following random people.
Things that are not spam include purchasing targeted Facebook ads, posting links to your product in relevant Twitter tags, and inviting existing followers to your Facebook events.
4. Don’t Post and Run
Although we love the convenience of social media management systems like Hootsuite, be careful not to fall into the trap of doing all of your social media work by remote.
Use a social media manager (SMM) to schedule and organize, but be sure to visit your social media pages regularly — ideally, daily. See what the businesses and people you follow are talking about, and re-tweet/share relevant posts.
Comment or reply to posts. Remember, this is called social media for a reason.
You can reduce the time you spend on social media during work hours by using social media apps on your phone, which will alert you to interactions, and allow you to check it during down times, like waiting in line at the supermarket or on the commuter train.
5. Don’t Ignore Private Messages
Social media’s private messaging services are a great networking tool, if you use them correctly. If someone in your industry drops you a quick thanks for a re-tweet, respond and briefly add a few words that might open up a dialogue.
If a potential customer asks a question or has an issue, respond immediately. You wouldn’t leave a customer standing there in a brick-and-mortar shop or ignore his phone calls — customers on social media should be treated with the same respect.
If you only check social media at a certain time every day, communicate that on your page.
6. Keep the Content Flowing
It’s vital to provide content — whether it’s a simple tweet, a link to a blog (yours or someone else’s), or a graphic — at a steady rate. You don’t have to be robotic about it. In fact, it’s better if you aren’t dutifully auto-posting things every two hours.
Commit to one or two posts in an average day, plus re-tweets, shares, and conversations. On a day when the industry is abuzz, make more posts in real time and get in on more conversations.
Your output shouldn’t be the same every day, but you should be consistently present, with no two-week gaps of silence.
If you go away for a couple of weeks, schedule at least one post a day in your absence, and mention that you will be responding to messages on a certain date.
7. Always Offer Quality
This is not to say that there isn’t a time for a silly meme, if it has relevance. You shouldn’t hold back on one-sentence tweets if you have something to say (and the occasional Twitter typo won’t kill you).
But the majority of your social media posts should be well-thought out, whether they link to your high-quality blog posts, relevant articles by others in the industry, current industry news, or graphics.
They should be things your followers can use, things that will make their lives easier in some way or give them something of value.
If you don’t offer your followers something of value consistently, your social media sites won’t succeed.
This is the part that takes a lot of work. You can take the strain off of finding quality content by using an RSS tool like feedly.
Original content can be time-consuming and costly, but it’s part of doing business today. Just like Rule #1 says, you can’t get something — and the potential exposure and networking offered by social media is a lot — for nothing.
8. It’s Not About You
Actually, that’s not completely true. You’re not doing this for fun or for totally selfless reasons. Still, remind yourself that social media is not all about you. By that, we mean that you should listen as much as you speak, and don’t just talk about yourself.
As a general rule, or every one promotional tweet or post, you should be posting at least 2-3 non-promotional tweets or posts. That’s a minimum, if it’s 1:5 or 1:10, that’s even better.
Sharing your content isn’t necessarily promotional, if it offers information of value. But those posts about a special or a sale — posts that can be beneficial for you and your followers — are valuable to the extent that they are not an annoyance.
A weekly special, posted about in moderation, can bring in sales. A stream of sale posts can lose you followers.
Remember this rule when you’re interacting with people. If you show interest in what other people have to say, they’re more likely to show interest in what you have to say.
Have you gotten away with breaking any of the unbreakable rules? Do you have any social media unbreakable rules we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments.
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