There is a lot of cautionary advice in the online world for companies looking to increase sales via social media marketing. Companies are advised that social media and content marketing are “non-transactional” means of marketing. In other words, your tweets, your Facebook updates, and your blog posts should not directly attempt to sell your products or services. For a company looking to increase sales, this advice can be extremely confusing. How can you measure the ROI of your social media efforts if you are not remotely trying to promote your products or services?
The fact is, the social media world is a little more nuanced than what trending blog posts may inspire you to believe. It is possible to promote your company online, but you simply need to be careful about how you approach it. Our five tips today offer advice on how you can promote your company online without invoking the anger of everyone with whom you interact.
1. Be transparent from the start regarding the purpose of your social media presence
One of the problems companies encounter as they try to promote themselves online is that they have taken the “be human” adage too far. As we outline in our white paper, “Tweeting for Business,” (available for free download on the right-hand side of this site) an easy way to preview what your content will be like is to incorporate your company into your Twitter bio. If your account only mentions that you love dogs and running, sales messages will be out of place as you interact with people. The same holds true for a blog. Make sure your company name and your blog’s purpose appear prominently so that people are not confused when they encounter content that could be considered promotional. Facebook pages are a little easier to manage because it is understood you’ll be talking at least some of the time about your company’s products.
2. Do not take short-cuts
A common tactic we encounter on social media platforms is the use of links to press releases. Sometimes we see companies actually copy and paste an entire news release onto the Facebook page. This is a mistake. While press releases are most certainly valuable tools in the marketer’s toolbox, their place is not on Twitter or Facebook. Customize your language and presentation for each platform, and make sure the audience you have gathered on the platform would find your new product of interest in the first place. If you aren’t sure, mention it in passing, or try mentioning the new product on a platform where your audience seems more engaged and active.
3. Speaking of short-cuts, don’t autofeed one platform into another
A lot of companies have their social media platforms interconnected so that a post on the company Facebook page will also appear as a tweet at the same time. We highly advise against this practice. On Twitter, it is easy to identify tweets that are imported from a Facebook status because “fb” will appear in the tweet. If you are promoting your company and people see that your process is automated, it will indicate that you are simply pushing out content without truly customizing what you are saying for each audience. That will make people want to turn off your broadcasting.
4. Tie your promotional content to objective, useful information
People in the online world are looking for value. They will be more inclined to swallow some light self-promotion from your company’s accounts if you bind that promotion to information that is useful. Be careful with this approach – you do not want to engage in tactics like titling a blog post as if it was informational only to bombard readers with sales propositions. Ask yourself if the information you are providing could be considered helpful first, promotional second. If so, you should not get any blow-back from your audience.
5. Put other people first
The most important step in being able to safely promote your company online is to make sure you share content from other sources and converse with other people more often than you promote yourself. Chris Brogan, New York Times best selling co-author of Trust Agents and a long-time social media speaker and consultant, advises a 6:1 ratio (or so) for measuring out how you will engage with people throughout the day. This means that you should share or converse six times before providing content about your own company. Don’t feel tied to any one ratio. At first measuring it out step-by-step can be helpful, but eventually you will fall into a rhythm where you will just know when it is a good time to share some of your own content. Everybody has different comfort levels in this regard, so try different things and see what works for you.
It is not impossible to promote your company online, and in fact it is highly advantageous to do so. Simply be smart about it. If you are worried about being labeled a spammer, take it easy at first. Maybe limit yourself to one update a day regarding your company and err on the side of over-sharing other peoples’ content. So long as people feel you are a credible source and that you are not simply hacking your way on to their radars, your social media experience should be just fine.
Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/petesimon/3365916854/ via Creative Commons