A bird does not sing because it has an answer…

It sings because it has a song. – Chinese Proverb also re-quoted by Maya Angelou and an American football coach Lou Holtz.

Some might interpret the meaning as a bird sings to celebrate the joy of life and not to for any other purpose other than it can sing which is in itself a very romantic and inspirational notion about being true to oneself or something like that. However, the proverb doesn’t take into account recent scientific findings that according to ornithologists, birds actually sing to attract a mate and proclaim territories. So they may not have an answer but they sure do have a reason – basic survival of the prettiest. This could easily be applied to the one of the most important concepts of social marketing for business.

You tweet to attract customers. You tweet to spread the news about your business. Basically, you tweet to compete! You do not tweet to cram ads down the throats of your audience. As much as you want to, try, try to resist!

So here are some ideas to get you started singing your song from the treetops of the social concrete jungle.

#1 Just Start Already – Social marketing like any journey of a thousand miles, begins with a single tweet, er, um, step. If you are reading this, then congratulations, you’ve just started. The biggest mistake one can make is avoiding social marketing because it seems overwhelming. Just hoping it is a trend that will go away? Well, I’m here to tell you it isn’t going away anymore than the telephone. It just gets smaller and more advanced. And you’re a melodious red-winged blackbird, not an ostrich, so pull your head out and just start already!

Big Picture Hint: If you don’t think you need to implement some sort of social marketing strategy now, you really do have your head in the sand, or you just have too many customers to handle. For the latter, please email me offline and let me know how that is going so I can get into whatever you are selling.

#2  Begin With A Plan – What is your objective for your business? Is it online commerce? Do you want more foot traffic? Is it brand awareness? Is it for reputation management? Are you trying to get more visibility for your work?The answers will help you define which social outlets you will use. Take a minute to prioritize these into a list that you can use as a guide for molding your messaging, creating promotions, and sharing information.

Big Picture Hint: Remember that social marketing is just that – social. You have to interact with your audience. Engage them. Build a relationship. If you start filling up their news feeds with ads selling your wares, you’re likely to be unfriended. Think of it like a friend that only comes around when they want something. Kind of a drag when they show up, right? Don’t be that friend. So bring a “housewarming gift”, something useful, insightful, something funny. You can still tell them about your 25% off deal, but bring something to the party.

For instance, I might post something about a resource like Shortstack that lets you add little bells and whistles to your FB page for free. If someone wants more help or a consultation, they can contact me. See, I just did it. It’s easy.

#3 Fish Where the Fish Are – Do you know where your customers are online? Do you have a primarily female demographic? Pinterest might be your fishing hole. Are you an expert in your industry? LinkedIn is just the place for you. And while Facebook is the King of all Demographics, you might start “liking” places that match the interests of your audience and start engaging in that community.

Big Picture Hint: Social Marketing only accounts for roughly 4% of buyers. What’s the point then? Well, recent research strongly supports that the current consumer relies heavily on social marketing for recommendations, feedback, and engagement with a company and its services that serve as the tipping point for purchase decisions. In particular for brick-and mortar establishments such as restaurants and retail business where the consumer can’t actually purchase goods and services online, social marketing is essential to branding the company, creating a buzz, heightening visibility, and building a loyal clientage – all of which serve to support sales.

#4 Give ‘Em a Reason for Sharing – You can beg and plead for the few friends you do have to like your page and pass the word along, but its much easier for them to have a reason other than courtesy. Sure you may get 30 people to like you and you’re an official page on  Facebook, but if they don’t have a compelling reason to continue reading your posts, they aren’t going to share your information with their friends, you won’t get any new customers, no one will visit your website, and you might as well go eat worms.

Post something that peaks their interest, something engaging, or perhaps an incentive. True story: A friend of mine opened a new business and posted a request asking people to “like this” for his new med-spa Fan Page. Out of 657 friends, three people liked his actual post and one person asked, “What is this?” to which he commented, “my company”. I couldn’t have crafted a better example of what not to do. What does that move in social media sound like? Crickets chirping.

#5 – Be Available and Flexible – Ugh. Here’s Debbie Downer part. Yes, you must have some time to devote to social marketing. Your stuff is not going to social market itself. But, here’s the good news. With a little structure, you can effectively follow a plan that takes about an hour a day. You can even break it up into intervals. If your business grows so much that you don’t have the time, then maybe think about hiring someone to help. These are all good things and all the cool kids are doing it.

One of the great benefits to social marketing is gathering feedback from your followers. This is a gem in the area of market research specifically for your product or service. You can ask questions about what services they would like to see. What is their favorite dish on the menu? You can even create contests for your fans to vote. You can test whether a certain message is provocative or catchy before you invest in other pricey marketing collateral. You can identify problems early in the launch of a product or service and use your social marketing channels as a means for good public relations and developing your reputation. There are all sorts of pros to being available and flexible with your social marketing efforts and remember that it’s a learning process of trial and error. It brings to mind another Chinese proverb. Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.

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