When I talked to a social media class at Belmont last week, I shared my social media journey. It was fun to look back at where I started with social media and how it has helped me get to where I am today.
Here is my story:
I started actively using social media while working at a government job. It was early 2009 and I was seeing the groundswell that this new media format was creating.
I knew I needed to get up to speed quickly, so I did a deep dive into social media and read everything I could get my hands on.
That proficiency led to me getting a job as a government spokesperson where I pioneered how to use social media in the court system. And through that job, I started teaching others about social media.
Then, I started blogging on my own and consulting others about social media.
All of that led to starting Blue Kite Marketing. And almost three years ago, I left my day job to run this company full time.
Needless to say, social media has had a big impact on my life and my business.
And through this journey, I’ve learned some valuable lessons about social media — both from my own efforts and through helping clients.
Biggest Social Media Lessons
Whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been using social media for a while, here are some important social media lessons that will help you be more successful with your efforts.
1. Focus on strategy before tactics.
When it comes to social media, it’s so easy to get sucked into the tactics.
“Let’s start tweeting!”
“Let’s start using Instagram!”
People often think about the channels they want to use first before considering why they should be on those social networks in the first place.
Before diving into social media, determine what you are trying to accomplish first. You must tie your social media efforts to your overall business objectives if you want to be successful.
For instance, do you want to use social media for customer service or to drive leads and sales? That’s an important distinction you must make first.
Our simple social media plan covers this, but here are five questions that will help you get started:
- Why do you want to use social media for your business?
- Who are you trying to reach?
- What does your audience want?
- Where does your audience hang out online?
- When do they want to hear from you?
Answer these questions first and you’ll be in a much stronger position with your social media efforts.
2. Social media requires GREAT content.
If you want to be successful at social media, you’ve got to be good at creating compelling content that people want to share.
Content is the fuel for your social media engine. You must have something relevant, interesting or entertaining to share before you start tweeting away.
And, I don’t just mean blog posts. It could be photos, infographics, videos — you name it.
But you must consider WHAT you will share on social media before you decide HOW to share it.
Not sure what that looks like? Here are some social media content ideas to help get your creative juices flowing.
3. Social media is all about relationships.
I credit social media with being the catalyst for my business.
I’ve created incredible, strategic relationships with people who have sent clients my way and become valuable partners for my business.
Here’s a quick story.
Five years ago, I met Mark Schaefer through Twitter. I started commenting on his blog and I got on his radar. When he was traveling through Nashville, he asked to meet up with me for lunch.
Since then, Mark has referred business my way, we have partnered together on client projects and I wrote the appendix to his Return on Influence book. Not to mention, through that connection with Mark, I met my good pal Stanford Smith
(that’s us to the right). And now Stan and I are co-hosting a podcast together.
I share this story to remind you that social media is all about relationships. And the value of these relationships cannot be quantified.
Sometimes that means small interactions with a few people can be way more valuable than having a huge audience.
It’s also important to remember that building relationships take time. If your goal is to build these kinds of connections, understand that it will take time and effort to create them.
4. Measure the right thing.
You can’t just look at the vanity metrics of likes, fans and followers. Yes, that can be part of what you measure, but you have to go deeper.
For instance, if you want social media to help drive leads and sales, then you need to measure the things that drive that behavior and impact the sales funnel. Some examples include email or lead form opt-ins, eBook downloads, webinar or event participation, sales generated, etc.
In addition to quantitative measurement, look at the qualitative data too. What are the stories that have come out of your social media efforts?
To my previous point about relationships, you can’t put a dollar figure on that. But, those relationships have had a positive impact on my business and they are consistent with my business objectives.
It’s important to track and note that information in your social media measurement efforts as well.
5. It’s not free.
Although it’s free to set up a social media channel for your business, social media is NOT free.
Let me repeat that. Social media is NOT free.
There is considerable cost with using social media for your business. Yes, social media is still more cost effective than many other marketing channels — radio, TV, billboards, etc.
However, there are other costs you must consider with social media:
- Staff time. Someone must manage your social media efforts. Will that be you or someone on your team? Or, will you outsource it? Whichever you choose, there is the cost of time or outsourced resources to consider.
- There are a number of tools you might need to use to help you with your social media efforts. For instance, you might consider using a social media management tool like Hootsuite or a scheduling tool such as Buffer. There are costs associated with these tools, so be sure to take that into account.
- Advertising. It’s nearly impossible to use social media today — especially Facebook — without allocating an advertising budget to support it. Make sure to budget for advertising to help amplify your social media efforts.
- Production costs. With the flood of information available on social media channels, you have to create incredible content to stand out. To do that, you might need to hire a designer to create stunning graphics. Or, you might need to work with a production team to create polished videos. If you create this kind of content, consider the production costs that will go with it.
I’m not sharing this with you to scare you away from social media. But, you should be realistic about what it will take to be successful with social media today.
6. It’s not about you.
This might sound counterintuitive, but social media is not about you.
It’s about THEM.
Social media is all about your audience and giving them what they want.
It’s about solving their problems.
Addressing their fears.
Surprising. Delighting. Entertaining.
You can’t focus solely on selling your stuff. You have to create value for your audience.
That means answering your audience’s questions and providing solutions that make their lives easier or better.
Remember, you are talking to people on social media. There is a person on the other side of that avatar with real wants, needs, interests and ideas.
So be helpful. Be generous. Show that you care.
Think more about what you can do to make a difference for their business instead of focusing on your own. When you do that, you’ll make more meaningful connections and much bigger impact.
And ultimately, you’ll be far more successful.
What social media lessons have you learned?
I could easily add another 5-10 lessons to this list, but these are the biggest ones.
But, I’d love to know — what are the biggest lessons you’ve learned through your social media journey? Let me know in the comment section. I’d love to hear from you!