Social media has become synonymous with a handful of common social channels, Facebook chief among them. Tell a business owner they should look into social media, and the first thing they'll probably do is make a Facebook page. The internet is chock full of articles extolling the virtues and wonders of creating a business page on Facebook. And I understand the sentiment - Facebook is a great marketing tool, but it isn't for everyone. A great article in Ragan recently touched on just that subject, though I disagree with one of their main points - that some companies will just never be social. Some companies may not like, or see any point in using, social channels like Facebook or Google+, but that doesn't mean they are banished from social marketing. Social marketing is so much more than posting a new status or sending a tweet and that Ragan article was spot on in its assertion that even though the channels are new, social media isn't. Regardless of the sites that a company has a presence on (or doesn't), they still need to generate strong word of mouth in order for the brand to succeed both online and off. When a brand or company doesn't initially appear to be the best candidate on normal social channels - for example, companies that sell online based services that aren't physical products - they can still be social. You just have to approach your social marketing in a different way.
Build off what already exists
Why did you found this company? Or, if you are working as a consultant, why did your client create this company? When I ask entrepreneurs why they started their own business, they rarely tell me it was to make money. It's usually about pursuing a passion and fulfilling a dream - it is something they love doing. Use that existing passion as a platform for your social campaign. My company, for example, specializes in business services, which means I'm not really able to take cute pictures of what I sell to put on Instagram. I am, however, passionate about helping small business owners, and truly believe they are an invaluable part of the American economy. I want to be a part of that conversation, so that conversation is going to help define how I present my company and my own voice in 'social' contexts.
At its core, social media is a way for you to connect and reach out to your market. Past, present, and future customers will use social media to talk to your company, ask questions, and hear what it has to say. Remember that, and target your posts so that they speak to those following you. Coupon codes and funny cat pictures are not a social marketing campaign. If you are in a business that doesn't easily mesh well with social marketing, your posts are going to have to be a bit more specialized. That means you'll have to do a bit more research and stay on top of developments in your industry, but you should be doing that anyway. My company markets to small business owners and entrepreneurs, and small business owners are often looking for news and advice, so I find them by writing primarily on those subjects and then socialize from there.
Write, post, and comment
Blogs and other online outlets have to be a part of your social presence - there is no way around that. I write for a variety of different online outlets because that is one of the easiest ways for a company in my industry to socialize with its customers. Chances are good that if you have trouble finding cute photos related to your business for Pinterest, you're in the same boat. Email a few of your favorite outlets and try to become a contributing member of that community. That means that, while you should be regularly writing posts and articles, you should also be adding to the wider conversation by reading and commenting on other posts.
A business can be social outside of the "traditional" social channels of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Google+. As the Ragan article pointed out, social marketing is not easy, nor is it a panacea for a company's marketing woes. But it is an excellent way to connect with your customers, and to reel in new ones. Use your passion for your business as a guiding light for your social marketing strategy, and go from there. Your tweets and posts may not go viral, but they will make your company and your brand social.