If you are like most solopreneurs, you are stretched to the limit. The last thing you need is to waste time. But for many micro businesses, that’s exactly what they are doing when it comes to marketing with social media.

One of the biggest mistakes small businesses make when it comes to social media marketing is that they think in terms of ‘doing’ social, instead of ‘being’ social.

Social media marketing is not like traditional advertising; it’s a marathon, not a sprint and success has to be earned, not bought. It’s called ‘social’ media for a reason.

As part of your marketing, you probably attend networking events and odds are, you don’t get business every time. You’re building relationships and hopefully, at some point, when someone does have a need for your product or service – they’ll think of you since you’ve established a relationship with them.

So here are some tips on how to successfully build relationships with your social marketing:

1.       DON’T  talk only about yourself

Remember, social media marketing is more about your customers than about you.  It’s a conversation and conversations can be very boring if you only talk about yourself.

Many companies view social media as another broadcasting channel to push their sales message out.  Then they wonder why nobody wants to talk to them.

So what should you do? Start conversations based on shared interests. It is the same as a networking event or cocktail party. It’s fine to talk about yourself some, just not all the time.

2.       DON’T start talking before you do A LOT of listening

Usually businesses jump in to social media and just start posting. Many of the companies that I speak with don’t spend any time up front getting to know their audience and understanding their interests.

As the saying goes, we have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Spend time understanding what your audience really wants and how you can add value before you start posting.

3.       DON’T  try to be on every platform (at least at first)

The best approach is to pick the platform most used by your customers, give it all of your attention and focus, and do it well. Once you’ve become good at that one, then determine if you have the time and resources to expand to another.

Social media is a double-edged sword: it can help or hurt your business. Having a social media ghost-town associated with you doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. So if you can’t give a platform its required attention, get off it.

4.       DON’T try to automate everything

Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Blogs & YouTube are all unique platforms with different personalities. People use them in different ways for different purposes. So please don’t have your Twitter feed automatically posted to your Facebook or LinkedIn page. If I want to see your Tweets, I’ll connect with you on Twitter.

5.       DO share other people’s content

The key to social media marketing is Reciprocity.  Promote content from other people and businesses and they are more likely to promote yours. Just like at a networking event, when you introduce people to each other, you become a valued resource and a connector.

6.       DO pro-actively engage with other people/businesses on the platforms

Most businesses set up Twitter and Facebook accounts and start tweeting/posting. They’re very excited that they are ‘doing’ social media.  Then after a while, they look around and ask, “Where is everybody?”

Are you waiting for people to come and find you? Stop standing in the corner and get out there and mingle.

7.       DO have a strategy and a tactical plan

By far, the biggest problem I see with social media marketing is that businesses don’t have a clear plan. Actually, they usually don’t have any plan. Since social media accounts are free to create, they sign up and start posting ‘stuff.’

The problem is that without a plan, the ‘stuff’ that is posted may not be of interest to your target audience. Even if your audience is interested in what you post, it may be difficult to link the interactions back to business value. Without clearly defined goals and objectives, you can’t measure success.

Always begin your social media marketing by defining what you want to achieve. What is success? Once you understand your goals, then you can build a plan to achieve them. The key to success is balancing the business objectives with what is actually valuable to your audience. Consider both as you build and implement your plan.

Social media marketing is not free; having a strong presence in social media takes a lot of time and a lot of resources. In the end, social media is another tool in your marketing toolbox. It will only be effective if you take the time to learn how to use it properly.

The good news is that you probably already have the skills. They are the same ones you use in networking and cocktail parties. Think in terms of conversing, connecting, educating and entertaining instead of advertising. If you do those things, people won’t mind a little promoting along with it.

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