People often ask me how social media works as a marketing tool — especially after I’ve explained to them that they should limit using Facebook and Twitter to ask followers to buy their product or service, visit their website or read their blog.
“How will I ever sell anything that way?” they ask.
You are selling, I tell them. You’re selling people on having a relationship with you!
And yes, it works. Some recent real-life examples offer tips for effective social media marketing and illustrate what the payoffs can be.
- Be patient – relationships aren’t built in a day, or even a week!
I started my Facebook account about a year after it became available to the general public in 2006. You might want to keep that date in mind when I tell you this little story!
Among my first followers was a woman who’d published several books. She’d enlisted the aid of a couple PR firms at different times, but she felt she was misled and taken advantage of – “robbed,” to use her term – by both. She wanted to do her own marketing, but she needed to learn more about it. So she followed me and a number of other PR professionals.
When she asked a question on Facebook, I answered. When she commented on one of my posts, I responded. That led to many, many exchanges, which is how I came to learn her story.
Earlier this year, the woman published her newest book. I was honored when she called and asked to come on board as an EMSI client. She was finally ready to trust again, she said, because I’d never tried to sell her anything – I simply offered help and encouragement.
- Remember – you’re not talking to just one person.
And each of those people may have hundreds or thousands of followers of their own!
Last week, one of our social media strategists, Jeremy Juhasz, was posting and engaging with Twitter followers on behalf of a client, a physician and body-builder who has written a new book about getting fit and losing weight.
Using information provided by the client, Jeremy was sharing tips and engaging in polite conversation with a number of followers. The next day, one of them tweeted this to the doctor’s Twitter account: “Posted your book as a resource on a weight-loss Reddit thread with over 200,000 people. Hope some check it out!”
This was a woman who’d lost more than 60 pounds and shared on Reddit’s popular LoseIt chat some of what she’d done to drop the weight – including reading our client’s book. Talk about visibility and credibility! The post had more than 200 comments last we checked.
- Build a big following – but keep it real!
In social media, celebrities and public figures often have very large followings simply because of who they are. If you’re not well known, building an audience of thousands is more of a challenge, but it’s far from impossible! I’m certainly no household name, but I have a combined 100,000 plus followers on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest and Goodreads. I built it through persistence, sharing helpful content, and engaging with people.
Please don’t be tempted to take the shortcut of buying followers. These are fake accounts that do nothing to help spread your message and, worse, it’s getting easy for others to see how much of your following is phony. There goes your credibility! We’ve seen it happen to well-meaning people, and I wouldn’t want to see it happen to you!
Social media marketing is a form of public relations, which has a special purpose: to increase visibility and credibility. It’s not the same as advertising, which can be used for overt promotion and solicitation – exhorting people to buy a product, for instance.
Brands buy their advertising. They’ve rented the pulpit, so to speak, so they can use it to say whatever they want. The exposure that comes from PR, however, is not purchased. It’s earned by sharing content that’s valuable to a particular audience. That’s a big difference.
Keep that in mind when posting on your social media accounts and you’ll find that the rewards will follow.