Commentators speculate that social media marketing is the only marketing left. Personally speaking I do not hold such a prosaic outlook. It is acceptable however to recognise that thanks to the digital evolution, social media is a vital part in any marketing strategy today. Social media provides a method of reaching customers and building relationships outside the sales room. Furthermore it isn’t just a method of interaction but also a vehicle to express brand identity, personality and values. Essentially allowing people to get to know the company. This doesn’t just build loyalty but also brand awareness.

To succeed at social media marketing there are some fundamentals you need to get right:

1. Don’t sell

Selling is the antithesis of everything social media stands for. It’s a tool for engaging and communicating with your customers. It’s a medium for two way communication not to harass the audience with sales pitches. This is not Dragons Den! Businesses’ who take this approach will quickly receive “I’m out” from their followers. The graveyard of failed business social media accounts then awaits and it’s a lonely place. Trust me people will tune out. They are sick of being sold to.

2. Post regularly

Putting out regular content on social media tells the audience a lot about your business. It conveys passion, drive and love for your industry. Passion is attractive to potential customers. I judge companies by how active they are on social media. It can tell you a lot. If they are very active I assume the company is successful, forward thinking, a thought leader and very professional. These are subconscious associations.

Any company that sets up a social media account but doesn’t update it tells me they have quit. In a B2B environment this conclusion is important.  If they quit on social media will they also quit on my business if I give them work?

3. Multi-platform approach

Social media is very broad with so many different channels. Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Quora, Youtube, Vimeo, Instagram, Reddit are most popular. It’s important to find the right ones for you and your business. Joining them all is not a wise strategy for most SME’s. Social media is time consuming and cranking out all this content is wasted energy expended. Instead focus on the ones that suit your business best and execute them well.

BXT is a B2B (business to business) graphics based organisation, so Instagram, twitter and Linked In are big areas for business. The wider you spread yourself the wider the reach however it’s important to use your time well. If you do decide to join them all, then do them all well. Don’t neglect one account as it sends out a bad impression to those of us who see that account.

4. Ignore vanity metrics

Don’t count the number of likes or followers. This isn’t a popularity contest. Of course you need followers otherwise why put out content if nobody is going to see it. But don’t be consumed by the numbers just focus on creating great content. One engaged viewer is better than none. This one viewer could be the CEO of a major organisation.

We all want to be liked its human nature but don’t personalise a lack of a following as a stain on your character or personality. Emotionally separating your business from yourself can protect you from the stress of perceived failure or business inadequacies. And remember most people don’t like business pages anyway. Their news feeds are already too cluttered with updates from people they barely know.

5. Engage

This is the most important reason to create a social media account – interaction and engagement. If you have an audience please try and engage with them. Instigate conversations with your followers. Create content that is relevant to their lives and which they can connect with. Show there is a human being behind your company. Show it’s not just a nameless, faceless, mindless, profiteering organisation. Create competitions for people to enter. Win fans!

6. Provide value

Give people a reason to follow your business. What’s in it for them? Inform, educate and entertain. Provide news related to your industry. Break company news on your social media account and make your followers feel special. Inform them about how your business can help them. Post a funny image that will put a smile on people’s faces. Provide value.

7. Handle haters

“Constantly seek out criticism. A well thought out critique of your business is as valuable as gold” – Elon Musk

Its empowering to remember that most people are just emotional and once you keep calm they will return to that same level as well. How you treat your enemies can often be a measure of how you treat your friends. There is often only a fine line between the two. Not everyone will be a fan of your business. But you must handle criticism gracefully from wherever it comes. Negative people it is said are often the most realistic. They don’t see rosy pictures they just see what’s there. You can learn from this. Make haters your friend.

8. Transparency

Open the heart and soul of the company to your audience. Let them get to know the business. Introduce them to your team. Show human faces behind the company. Demonstrate your company cares about “your” people as well as your customers. Businesses that treat their employees badly usually do not think much of their customers either. Show your customers that their money is supporting a great organisation that cares about people.

9. Cross-promotion

While I preach non-selling, as a business I accept you must promote your products on social media. Otherwise nobody would know what you do or supply. But don’t over promote your offerings. You will make people will feel like they are just being sold to and they will detach.

People following your business will want to know your “special offers”. But they don’t want to know all your “offers”. Serve them with exclusive offers for being a follower or share exceptional special offers only. Maybe even show them the value a new product can give to their lives. New products are newsworthy. Use different social media accounts to promote different aspects of your business. Execute a fully integrated social media strategy in line with the company’s other marketing strategies.

10. Enjoy it

Let go of the expectation of receiving something from social media. It is often a hard medium to measure results in. I might look at a social media page and never like it but saw their offer and went to the store and made a purchase. It’s important to remember that metrics do not show everything. Just create valuable content. Let your social media account be a representation of everything your company stands for. Enjoy the whole process.  Lower your expectation of return and nailing social media marketing will be easy.