The latest social media buzz for both small and large business seems to be "I need to add the Facebook button and start Tweeting."
We all know businesses that should know better but are still fooling themselves into thinking they are actually"doing social media" if they add the words "like us on Facebook" and "Follow Us On Twitter" to their website. Sadly they think they have officially entered the world of social media and are off to great blue Facebook pastures. My question is always, "how's that workin' for ya'?"
The silo'd activity of adding social media icons to a "yester year" website gets you in the social media ecosystem as much as standing by a pool of water makes you a master swimmer.
Why do businesses get in this predicament? Often times they scour the web and start copying what they see their competitors, partners and friends doing.
They may even try contacting a local web development agency or supposed "social media guru" for some advice. Usually they'll check out the agency or guru site and see they have the cool Tweet and Facebook buttons so they must know what they're talking about.
As a result of a probable either painful or rather enlightening but unfortunately false "social media will save your business" meeting, chances are high the guru, expert or consultant will advise them on one of three options:
1. Enhance their existing site with buttons, bells and whistles with a goal of getting the website tweeting. They are lead to believe that if you tweet, add the Facebook logo then by all means you can knock off the "do social media" task on your 2011 list. Check out my "Social Media Should Not BE the Objective" article on that one. Not the objective of this post.
2. Build a new website that tweets and "Facebooks". This is where the business falls for the belief that Random Acts of Social Media and Marketing (RAMs) are going to bring them results. They are sold that building a "prettier" website with cool, new buttons will bring them all the promises of social media. If only I had $5 for every small business owner I have talked to who has been sold this story I'd take you all on vacation this spring!
3. Develop and implement a plan to integrate social media into the DNA of their business. If they're lucky, this will be the case. This means the agency or consultant knows how to do more than add buttons to a website. If all goes well the agency or consultant will work with the business to set goals and build a plan that will enable the business to leverage social media as a communication medium to further the business objectives.
So what is a business to do? Who can you trust? Who should you listen to? How do you know what your specific plan should be?
Check out these 15 Tips to get you started. They aren't everything you need to do as such would not fit in a blog post. However, hopefully these tips will give you enough to get on the right social track!
15 Tips to Build a Website that does More than Tweet!
1. The belief that you can "build a website and they will come" is dead. It left with the websites of the early 2000′s. People are no longer looking for websites. They are looking for information. They are looking for content. They are looking for people and businesses who can help them solve problems, drive efficiencies in their business and connect with them on a personal and business level.
2. Be ready to walk away (or run) in early stages. If your agency, consultant, developer, guru or expert decides you are ready to start coding your website the first day of the project and before you determine a plan, strategy and engagement model, RUN! Do not pass go, do not pay $200. Instead do some research on additional options for obtaining help.
3. Your customers want you to acknowledge that they are human. They are not robots, laptops, iPhones, Androids or even iPads. They are human beings who yes, use technology. However, they like to have a real dialog, a conversation. They want to buy from a human being. They want to communicate with you as a human being even if it is done via the iPhone, Android, laptop or other device. People buy from people and just because we now have social media doesn't change that.
4. Adding social media icons to your website does not make your website or you instantly "social savvy". Social media requires engagement and somebody actually having a conversation, sharing information on the social media platforms that hopefully link from the buttons you install.
5. You have one chance to make a first impression. Pretty simple. Don't blow it.
6. Don't add a social icon button for Twitter if you've never tweeted or taken the time to change your avatar from the default egg to your smiling face. You may think since you haven't yet engaged or entered the world of social media that none of your friends, colleagues, partners or customers have either. This would be nice for you. However, the chances are quite slim of this being a reality. Chances are higher that some of them could actually help you get in the social game. Given this, do not insult them nor yourself by installing social buttons that lead to a dead social platform for your business. As mentioned in #5 above, you have once chance to make a first impression. If they visit your desolate social network page they may never be back as their first impression was that you weren't serious about it and had nothing to offer them of value.
7. Conversation is required, not optional in social media. Sorry, coupon pushers, but you can not constantly push coupons 24/7 on Twitter and expect to see a positive return on your investment or participation in social media. This is part of being human in social media. Talk to your audience, not spam them.
8. Planning is essential and can make or break your early stage social media return on investment. Take the time to build a plan, set goals, objectives and integrate into the DNA of your business. Develop goals for your website, blog and social media that support the goals and objectives of your business.
9. Your lack of getting on the social media train to date does not constitute an emergency on the part of you, your boss or your customers. Social media isn't going anywhere. You've waited this long. What is another week or even one month going to do if you take the time to plan and enter the social ecosystem in the right way!?
10. Know your audience. Who do you want to engage with in social media and why? What do you have to offer them? Why should they care? Why do you care about them? Do you really care about them? Do you care enough about them to invest in a relationship with them?
11. Set realistic expectations. Social media takes time. You will not, let me repeat, will not achieve immediate results in social media. It will take time in planning, understanding the ecosystem, learning more about your audience and developing a strategy to engage with them with a goal of achieving your business objectives.
12. Yes, you need content. When we meet with business leaders I can tell within seconds the ones who are afraid of the "c" word... content. They usually start twitching, itching and all of a sudden need to go to the restroom for the third time in five minutes. Don't let content and conversation scare you into the closet. Hopefully you are conversing in real life every day. Social media is simply an extension of the conversations offline to online. Don't run at the though of content. As you develop your plan and integrate social media with your business, the content development process will become more natural.
13. Be consistent. Be consistent in your messaging, tone, brand, look and feel, conversation and approach. Don't be different on one social platform over another. Yes, you must learn the ecosystem of social media as a whole and understand the details of each platform. However, trying so hard that you lose your identity as a business or personal brand is a recipe for disaster.
14. Be real. Be true to who you are, what you do and what value you can offer your audience. Talk in real language they can understand. If you're funny, be funny. If you're serious, be serious. There is only one you, be that person and business.
15. No, you can't do social media behind a logo. It's time to come out of the avatar logo closet. For most businesses, having a face behind the Twitter profile provides exponential results. As mentioned above, people want to connect as human beings. Logos don't offer the same humanistic characteristics as a real person with expression and character.
So are you guilty of focusing on building a tweeting website vs building a business platform that will help you engage, communicate and nurture relationships with your audience? If you are, it's okay as long as you admit it and move forward with a plan to do more than tweet. Are you a business leader experienced in social media who can offer advice to those who get stuck in the tweet trenches? Did it happen to you? How did you get out?