Over the next several weeks I’m going to be publishing an advanced guide to how business owners can create their own social media strategy. We’ll cover everything from why social media matters to the exact types of content you need to be creating to win new business. New chapters will drop every Wednesday.

Creating Your Own Social Media Strategy

 

Part Two: Finding Your Voice On Social Media

Note: This guide is written from the standpoint of helping people (mostly small business owners) who want to launch a social media practice. I hope it goes without saying that it also fully applies to companies that already have a social media presence but who recognize the need for a more strategic approach. It’s never too late to improve your social media habits.

In last week’s chapter, we covered why social media matters. Now, I doubt very seriously that many of you weren’t already convinced of the need for social media as a part of your marketing arsenal. And since I was probably already “preaching to the choir” as the saying goes, I hope you at least pricked your ears up at the growing trend of people using social media to search for and find businesses. That trend is definitely one to keep an eye on as you continue to evolve your social media practice.

Now that we’re all thoroughly convinced of the need for a social media presence, let’s talk about what that ‘presence’ needs to be. I think the next obvious questions is…

What are we going to DO on social media once we’re there?

The short answer is that you’re going to use social media to have meaningful connections with the audience of current and future customers or clients who spend a portion of their day on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and the other social media platforms. We’re going to form lasting connections with those people and turn them into loyal, long-term customers over time.

If that sounds like it’s easier said than done, it’s because it is. However, thousands of businesses are successfully using social media to grow their client list and you can, too. Even though it’s hard work, social media has benefits that far outweigh the effort:

  1. It has the lowest barrier to entry of almost any form of marketing. The price of entry is just the sweat-equity of creating content and the hours spent managing, tweaking, and leveraging opportunities.
  2. It has almost unlimited potential for growth. Facebook alone has almost 2 billion monthly users. No matter who your ideal customers are, a healthy percentage of them can be reached via social media.

But make no mistake: If you want to be successful on social media you are going to have to become content creators. You have to have something to say and you have to keep people engaged.

 

Learning to create content effectively is the single biggest stumbling block that most businesses face when trying to embrace social media.

I spend a fair amount of my professional life writing and like most writers, I have had that icy chill feeling of staring at a blank page and having no idea where to start. It’s one of the most daunting feelings that a person can have, especially if (like me) you work in an industry where you’re often labeled a ‘creative’.

I get a similar feeling whenever I see my company build out a new Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or Instagram account for a client. A fresh clean social media account is just an epic blank page, one that scrolls on into infinity. Full of promise, but oh so empty.

 

Filling the content void means more than just doing what everyone else is doing.

Filling that creative void requires more than just jumping in and posting the first thing that comes to mind or sharing (and re-sharing) whatever viral piece of content is floating around your industry today. Anyone can do that. Anyone can make the occasional post about a new product or a recent satisfied client or hit ‘Share’ on an article making the rounds. That’s all well and good, but that kind of content isn’t going to win you many new Followers and it’s not going to do a lot to grow your business.

So what’s the first thing we have to do to create an effective social media strategy? Finding our voice.

What do I mean when I say we need to find our voice? In a nutshell, I mean that every business has a personality – some for better and some for worse – and that personality (after a bit of planning and polishing) needs to come shining through on your social media presence.

The first thing we need to realize deeply is who we DON’T want to be on social media and for that, I have a story (sorry, I can’t help myself) that I call “The Guy Everyone Hates”.

The Guy Everyone Hates

I want you to imagine that you’ve been invited to dinner with a small group of people that you don’t know very well and that you’re seated next to a guy you’ve never met before. He seems perfectly nice enough, nothing out of the ordinary, and you settle in to have a nice time and make some new friends.

Everyone at the table is chatting among themselves and having a good time. Being a good dinner guest you try to make small-talk with everyone around you but, naturally, the guy next to you is who you’re going to be talking to the most for the next hour or three (it’s a long imaginary dinner party, humor me). So you introduce yourself and try to strike up a conversation.

Now let’s imagine that this guy works in a business that you’re only mildly familiar with. Maybe he sells life insurance or he is in manufacturing of some kind – it doesn’t really matter – the idea is that he’s in a business that you know only a little about and that you might someday need, but you aren’t in need of it right now. Certainly not before you’ve had your dinner.

Now let’s imagine that the moment you engage with this guy his eyes light up and he is suddenly on FIRE for his business and is insistent that he tell you all about it. Right now.

He quickly launches into a full overview of his company and every single product and service they offer. Then he tells you what he’s most excited about right now, the great new thing his company is bringing online. Then he circles back around and tells you a little bit MORE about every product and service he sells, a real deep-dive into every facet just in case you missed something the first time. Then he launches into a long bit about a trade show he just got back from or a convention he just attended. Maybe he even shows you some pictures on his phone of people who were in attendance at the event he just hosted.

You glance at your watch and realize that a full hour of your life is gone, never to return. You start to dream that the roof will collapse or that you’ll receive an urgent phone call, but no, he’s just getting started. And now imagine that he goes on like this for the full length of your time with him.

Everyone I know has been trapped in a conversation with that very guy. Maybe it was on a plane circling O’Hare for two hours. Maybe it was in a dentist office where you start to suddenly find sweet relief in the knowledge you will soon escape and be taken back for your root canal. Everyone has been trapped in a conversation with someone who only wanted to talk about themselves, their job, why they loved it and why they were the best at it. And everyone hates that guy.

Seriously. No one wants to listen to The Guy Everyone Hates drone on and on and on about his business. And if you don’t hate that guy you’re either a serious masochist or you ARE that guy. Don’t be that guy. Stop.

The point of this story, if you haven’t already guessed, is that most businesses jump into social media without a plan, without a clearly defined voice, and they immediately become The Guy Everyone Hates. And it’s completely unintentional.

Most businesses face the long empty scroll of a social media feed with the same trepidation that writer’s get when they face a blank page. And so they start posting about what they know – their own business – as much as possible as fast as possible and things get messy quick.

The People Everyone Like

So if being The Guy Everyone Hates is what NOT to do, then what’s the right way to approach social media?

I think the answer is pretty obvious. If doing social media poorly is like being the bad dinner guest, then doing it right is to be someone that everyone likes. And I think that means being a great (or at least good) conversationalist.

And what are great conversationalists like?

Well, first, they don’t pounce on you the moment you introduce yourself or show some interest. They are relaxed. They ask questions about you instead of just talking about themselves. They listen at least as much as they talk.

Sure they love to talk about their profession and what they’re passionate about but it’s in a measured way. They might even point blank ask you to keep them in mind or give them a call when you need the thing that they do or sell, but it never comes across as pushy. It’s just a reminder and it’s always gentle.

They are well-rounded people and they talk about things other than just their work. They might talk about travel, sports, the weather, or their kids. They might bring up something that’s been in the news that we can all relate to. They might even tell a good clean joke.

The thing about these great conversationalists is that you find yourself drawn to them instead of repelled by them. They become people you look forward to hearing from and talking to. They are people you’d be happy to do business with. And, most importantly, they become people you want to introduce to other people.

And this is exactly the type of personality – the type of voice – that your business needs on social media.

 

Putting What We’ve Learned Into Action

So now we’ve seen who we don’t want to be on social media (The Guy Everyone Hates) and who we do want to be on social media (The People Everyone Like). Now we need a plan or methodology to create that ‘likable’ personality for our business so that we can start to map out the exact types of content that we’re going to post online. We need to plan for the exact types of conversations we’re going to have with the people we want to connect with the most.

In my next post, a week from today, I’ll give you the exact process that I use with my clients who are wanting to make the jump into social media or who already have a social media presence but want to get serious about using social media to grow their business. This post will cover the specific steps you need to take to write your content strategy and develop the right voice for your company (or yourself) online.

Join me next week for Part 3 of “Creating Your Own Social Media Strategy”. We’ll be learning a specific process that you can use to always have fresh engaging content to post on your social media accounts and grow your business.

Need A Hand?

Would you like some help getting your business up to speed on a successful social media practice? Let’s talk today.