Article by: MaryEllen | Monday, August 19, 2013

By: MaryEllen Tribby

“I have been spending four hours a day for the last six months on Facebook and I have not made a single penny from it,” said Barry, my new mentoring student.

Unfortunately, I have heard this kind of thing before: struggling entrepreneurs waste countless hours on a marketing channel that yields no revenue while zapping valuable time, energy, and morale.  In the end, they give up on that channel because “it did not work.”

The fact is, doing something and doing something correctly are two entirely different things.

Think about this: a brand new Mercedes “will not work” if you do not fill it with gas.

When people first get a new cell phone or computer, how many times do they say “it’s not working,” only to realize they just had not mastered its capabilities yet?

Or when your child tries to ride a bike for the first time and the bike does not move. In their little minds, the bike “does not work.” But remember when you taught them how to pedal? Not only did they get it – there was absolutely no stopping them.

I still remember Delanie saying, “Mommy, my bike is not working!” So I went out and showed her how to pedal. And wham! The next thing I knew, I was running next to her while she was pedaling down the street so fast I could barely keep up.

As moms, if the bike “did not work,” we would never just allow our kids to park the bike in the garage and give up on it forever. And we would certainly not let our kids sit on the bike in the driveway for six months letting their frustration build. We teach our kids the proper way to ride and get the most out of their bikes.

The same goes for marketing channels and tactics. Most of the time, when you do them properly and figure out the right mix, they will work for your business. That includes social media.

When used correctly, social media allows you to put your message in front of potentially huge numbers of people. You can create outbound campaigns to blogs and forums and chat rooms.  You can start your own blog. You can stimulate conversation on social media sites about you, your business, and/or your products by publishing special reports or covering news or sending out targeted surveys or questionnaires.

If you do these things gradually and organically and with a solid message, you can win over the users of these sites and build profitable relationships with them.

So the way I see it, you have three choices:

1)  Take the position that social media is a fad – something that will never add dollars to your bottom line – and ignore it.

2)  Spend countless hours doing it wrong, yielding zero dollars for your business.

3)  Do it and do it right, enhancing your business at the same time!

In celebration of #3, here are my top ten “Do’s and Don’ts” regarding social media:

1. Your company website is a great place to start: Build a strong social forum by giving customers who visit the site interesting articles or study results and inviting them to share their thoughts and feelings. The customers in your forum will tell you what you are doing right and what you are doing wrong; there’s no need to waste money on a customer survey. Heeding the advice you receive is likely to translate into dollars for your company.

2. Don’t do it because it’s cool: Doing anything because you want to be regarded as cool is a waste of time and money. Cool doesn’t win anymore. Instead, customers want authenticity and honesty. Take the time to educate yourself first, find worthwhile bloggers to subscribe to, who also use social media, and develop your strategy, or seek advice from someone who can help you. You must be clear on the outcomes you want to achieve through your social media strategy.

3. Be a “Giver” not a “Taker”: Social media is about invitations, not solicitations. If all you do is ask for things, no one will pay attention to you. Build your reputation as someone there to “serve.”

4. Brands are organic: So many people want brand recognition. In reality, you are your brand. The only way to have a great brand is to be great CONSISTENTLY. Building a great brand takes time.  So EVERY time you do anything, realize that it will affect your brand for better or worse.

5. Education and entertainment equal engagement: When someone values your message and is being entertained at the same time, you will gain a loyal follower for life. So don’t just say what you have to say – say it with style. Say it differently from everyone else.

6. Facebook is not the only game in town: You need to decide; do you want to be a small fish in a giant ocean or a big fish in a small pond? Depending on your business, Twitter may be more appropriate for you. Make sure you understand where the biggest bang for your buck comes in to play.

7. Quality wins over quantity every time: Don’t put emphasis on being popular, obsessing over statistics and analytics of how many likes/followers/connections you have: Showcase your character, values, personality, knowledge, and experience.

8. People judge a book by its cover: Sad but true. You have 5 seconds to make your first and possibly only impression. Put your best profiles forward, be consistent with your business branding, and make sure your information is always informative and up-to-date.

9. Use social media as an introduction, not a replacement: Don’t sit behind your social media account and rely solely on it for all your business networking: Yes, use it as a quick icebreaker, a learning tool, and a conversation starter, but meeting prospective clients and partners face-to-face can never be replaced.

10. NEVER use social media in place of your direct response marketing strategy: Social media is only a piece of the marketing pie. Plan realistically what your business, marketing objectives, and goals are, and integrate your social media objective into your overall plan. Remember to measure your progress, so you can change your strategy when necessary.

Now here’s the best part, you can start testing today!