Tuesday, September 9, 2014


If you have received such an email, you probably felt you were being yelled at by the sender, and rightly so. As it turns out, most humans don’t like being yelled at or interrupted, which is why the vast majority of us skip or tune out marketing messages that are loud, interruptive, or irrelevant.
Most businesses and brands treat social media like a broadcast channel. The content isn’t targeted toward humans; it’s targeted toward “anyone who will listen.” Guess who listens when “anyone” is the target?  Yep, you guessed it: no one. The key to effective social media is treating each of your brand’s social channels as a unique opportunity to engage 1:1 with potential prospects, leads, and customers.
Four years ago, Brian Halligan and I wrote a book encouraging companies to get in the game on social media. At the time, people were skeptical. Okay fine, they were extremely skeptical. Now the good news is that most companies know they should be doing something on social, but don’t really know how or where to invest their time.
Below are my top 5 tips for building your business and your brand with social media:

1) Start with Remarkable Content 

Social media and cocktail parties have one important thing in common: no one gravitates toward the people talking about themselves non-stop. If you’re constantly tweeting and posting about your company or products exclusively, your audience will quickly lose interest and only visit your profile when they have a complaint or question. Instead, give them a compelling reason to tune in by sharing content that is so educational, inspirational, or entertaining that they not only want to consume it, they want to share it with their friends.

2) Don’t Always Be on Your Best Behavior

In an effort to avoid controversy or complaints, many marketers resort to playing it safe on social media. But the best brands in the world aren’t afraid to take risks, and social media is no exception. Start a compelling dialogue, take a stance that inspires a healthy debate among your audience, and don’t shy away from juicy headlines. Part of being relatable and accessible to your followers is having a unique voice and carving out a personality; no one is going to thank you for playing by the rules. Instead of thinking about how to “check the box” with social, invest some time in to thinking about how you can earn your audience’s attention.

3) Get Visual

First impressions are made in milliseconds, not minutes, so rather than trying to tell customers they should care about your brand, show them instead. Visual content doesn’t have to be expensive: create simple visuals sized appropriately for social with Canva, use PowerPoint to create highly shareable SlideShares, and don’t underestimate the power of beautiful photography with an iPhone. You don’t need a stable of designers to get in the visual content game, and doing so can go a long way to break through social media clutter, so it’s worth the investment.

4) Publish Early and Often 

Brian and I knew LinkedIn was important when we wrote the first Inbound Marketing book, but we had no idea that its publishing feature would become a massive opportunity for personal and business branding alike. I was fortunate to be part of the beta launch of LinkedIn publishing via the Influencers program, and about six months ago, engagement on LinkedIn outpaced Twitter for me. The channel’s rapid growth (LinkedIn now boasts 313 million users worldwide) and added utility for publishing now make it hard to beat for catering to B2B audiences and building your employment brand, so publish early and often while other brands are still planning their strategy.

5) Test, Learn, and Apply 

Most businesses try to be all things to all people on every social channel and end up falling flat and feeling frustrated. You’re better off starting with 2 core channels that are important to your target audience and testing the types of content that resonate most, then building off that success. Measure what works and what doesn’t, from timing to topics and traction, and adapt your approach for each channel accordingly.
The digital world moves quickly and if you don’t stop to look around and figure out what the best practices are in social media marketing today, your brand will get left behind. Think about sharing valuable content, starting compelling dialogues, and carving out your brand’s voice on social to build relationships with your audience. Use tools like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn as platforms for engagement, not broadcast tools, to earn your audience’s attention instead of renting it. Your followers, fans, and connections will thank you.

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