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Robert HuntRobert Hunt  is the Owner of Hunt Consulting DFW and is a Marketing Leader and Business Development Professional with over 25 years of leadership in technically demanding industries such as Aerospace, Composites, Printed Circuit Boards, and Wireless Telecommunications.

Robert’s PASSION is to help leaders reach their business and personal goals, using the gifts GOD has given him, and the skills he developed over the last 30 years as a leader. As a Business Partner and Forum Leader with Renaissance Executive Forums Dallas, he brings Owners, CEO’s, and Presidents together in a monthly confidential setting designed to challenge, motivate, inspire and hold each other accountable to reaching their goals.

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If you plan to use Social Media, you should do it right! I was surprised to see my picture on the Facebook cover photo of a company I stopped working for two years ago. I always tell our clients that they should not do anything online unless they can commit to doing it long-term and with excellence. Social Media is a great marketing tool but too many companies do not use it correctly or to its full potential.

Most companies are involved in Social Media through FacebookLinkedInTwitter,Google+, YouTube, or one of hundreds of other sites. 79% of respondents in a recent survey say they are currently using or plan to use Social Media as part of their marketing program. (Here is a Harvard Business Review study on social media that you can read – AFTER you finish this article first of course.)

Unfortunately, many companies miss the idea that social media is designed to create a digital conversation with your market. Consumers do not want to be “talked-to”, or worse yet, “sold to” on these platforms. Your followers want to know they have a place to come learn, to ask questions about things THEY care about, and to know they are being heard. Here are some things you should keep in mind when using social media as a way to connect to your market.

Listen MORE than you TALK

Your social media sites should be a place to listen. Getting followers to your social media site is the start – not the end. You can learn so much more about your market if you are careful to read what your followers are posting on your sites, and even their own. See what other things they “like” and look for trends that can direct your future postings.

You can create surveys, contests, or just make a statement and ask your followers what they think. You may not get a ton responses at first, but find topics people respond to and use more of these to encourage others to join in. Getting people to comment on your posts is a great way to build the community in your social media sites and gives you the insights you need to connect with your market.

Engage your Followers in Conversation

The goal is to get your followers to engage in the conversation by posting intriguing content that connects to your audience and engage them to talk. Once you get people talking with you, you can learn about what matters to them, and then provide more of this type of content to build loyal fans and Brand Advocates.

One of my favorite Facebook pages where people are engaged in the discussion is Steve Martin’s page. Not only does he have lots of fans, he has amazing share and comments rates. Last time I checked he had 1,1 Million “Likes” and 46,000 people were talking about the things he posted. Now THAT’S engagement.

However, you don’t have to be as funny as Steve Martin to have engaged fans. You do however have to listen to what they are talking about, and join their conversation, so your followers will share their opinions and become interested in who you are.

Know your Market

You should know your market BEFORE you start posting things, and listening to your market will accomplish this. Once you DO post something, look to see how it’s received and use this to direct future marketing efforts. Use the Analytics reporting functions or your own metrics to track how your communication is being received.

Track the results to see what social media source is sending the most visitors to your sites and the demographics of these visitors. If you see that most of your visitors come from LinkedIn, you should make sure you focus your postings in that platform to capture even more visitors. If most of your visitors are women, consider adjusting your communications with this demographic in mind. The response you get from people in each social media platform can tell you things about your customers that you can use to direct your future communications.

If one blog generates a high number of visitors, consider writing more on this topic. The article on Maximizing Your Life ROI, had the most readers and comments of any of the articles I’ve written so far. This tells us that we hit a nerve with our audience and connected with a lot of people’s interests. This has directed me to write on similar topics to keep the conversation going and reach more of our prospects and customers.

Be careful to take the correct tone and focus that each Social Media Platform is designed for. You don’t talk the same way on Twitter that you do on Facebook, so make sure your content and wording fits the format.

One Other Point – Don’t just give this work to the youngest employee in the company and assume that because they were born about the same time as My Space was, that they are most qualified to represent your brand on-line. Hire a professional or clearly outline your positioning guidelines so the market sees the best side of your company.

Don’t be Pushy

It’s easy to crank out a bunch of promotions about your company, products and services and think you are doing a great job in your social media efforts. However, you need to take a low-key approach and offer 90% of insights and education to your market, with only 10% of things that would be seen as a sales pitch. Of course, ALL your social media content is “selling” in one way or another, but your market will be turned off if it comes across as a hard sell.

Position yourself as a subject matter expert and a source of real help to your followers, by sharing valuable information your market cares about. Listen to what your customers are talking about and then provide information, links, stories, and examples that connect them to what they care about. This makes you a trusted advocate and will keep in the front of their minds, so when you DO post a low-key ad for yourself, they will be willing to accept it because they like and trust you.

Move Toward the Next Step

Make sure to ask questions or lead them to further activity with your postings. Direct people to visit your blog, website or other social media platform by providing links that take them there. This builds a connection between all your social media sites and allows your fans to follow you and engage in the platform that they like the best. This also helps with your ranking on Google. By the way, have you seen our Facebook page?

mission-statement-vs-vision-statementHere’s an example. I recently posted on Linked in a photo on the difference between a Mission and Vision statement, then directed people to and article (mine) about creating aStrategic Plan. The conversation about this went on for a week with many people commenting and sharing their views on the topic. We want our followers to think and comment about their business plans, and to encourage others to think about what they should be doing to lead their company with excellence. Start the conversation, move them to dive in deeper, and take them to next step toward making them a loyal customer and brand evangelist.

Answer EVERYTHING

You need to monitor your presence on all your social media sites. In addition, you need to be aware and work to control your information on hundreds of sites you didn’t create; Consumer Review sites like Yelp & Manta, as well as Google directories and the hundreds of places you get talked about on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and so many others.

Customers evaluate you based on how responsive you are to comments, so you need a plan to find and respond to these postings in a timely and professional manner. Statistics show that people make buying decisions based on what others have said about you, so you need to work hard to affect the conversation, or the market will. Your company and brands are on these social media platforms, whether you put them there or not, and you need to commit to keeping up with them each day or suffer the consequences in the court of customer opinions.

I recommend finding the top three platforms that your customers use and then focus on doing these well before you consider any others. Don’t overload yourself or you will fall behind and not be able to truly engage your market each week. (See the photo at the top of this article as an example.)

* Special Note: take all the bad comments off-line as fast as you can. Don’t air your dirty laundry out in front of others who may only see part of the conversation and get a bad opinion of you. Click on the photo here to see an example of someone responding negatively to comments they received. 

Social Media Marketing works and should be a part of most marketing plans. Do your homework and choose your platforms wisely. Listen to your market and engage them to build brand advocates who help you generate more leads and retain customers. Motivate your followers to become part of your social media community and you will find they stay around longer, tell others about you more often, and become loyal customers.

Make sure you have a written strategy on how your social media marketing efforts fit into your overall marketing plan so you have clear guidelines that everyone will follow; even people outside the marketing department. Let me know if this makes sense or if you need a resource to support your Social Media Marketing efforts here in DFW.

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