First things first: Simply “being on” social media isn’t going to help your business; in fact, it can harm it. A neglected social media profile is worse than none at all, and just because you have thousands of “friends” on your personal Facebook page doesn’t mean you’ll be a good social media manager.
Experts in social media marketing and management can demand a substantial fee for a reason, especially if they specialize in retail or e-tail customers, and come with a proven track record. If you don’t have the big bucks to pay them, however, that doesn’t mean you can or should ignore social media altogether.
As an e-tailer, no matter what your size is, it can be tough to put a face to your brand. But that’s what many customers want: to feel heard, to have customization, and to develop a personal relationship with a brand.
They don’t want pitches or sales tactics, and they like to be entertained when they stumble across your brand. Social media is where you can make these connections happen, but there are a few principles you’d be wise to follow.
Weigh the benefits of “boosting”
If you register as a small business on Facebook, you’ll have plenty of free analytics options at your fingertips. Keep in mind that Facebook is a business just like you, however, and people aren’t going to see your posts unless they’ve explicitly liked and followed you.
The vast majority of business posts don’t get posted to newsfeeds unless you pay for this by “boosting” (easy to do with the blue “boost this post” tab that appears under every post you make).
You can set your budget for boosting, but make sure it’s within your means and check to make sure it’s leading to more exposure, traction, and conversion. Facebook constantly makes changes, as The Huffington Post has noted, but don’t let yourself feel bullied into paying for use of Facebook boosting just yet.
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Provide incentives for sharing
It’s now “illegal” to ask for likes on Facebook, but there are ways around that. For example, you can offer a giveaway or massive discount to a “random fan or lurker who supports this product.”
Facebook is crawling for red flags such as “like” and “share,” but not “support,” as yet. Plus, if you keep things vague (and the freebie is drool-worthy enough), at the very least it should bolster interest and conversations.
Engage with your customers
This means more than just responding to DMs, comments, and posts on your timeline within the same day (but of course that’s crucial). You should also like and comment on posts of people who are following you.
When you ask an open-ended question and get a reply, genuinely listen and respond to start a conversation. Check out this excellent TED post on how to listen better, and practice what it suggests, both in person and online, for better relationships with your customers.
Don’t forget SEO
Search engine optimization (SEO) and local SEO (LSEO) “count” for anywhere you have an online presence — not just your website. If you sprinkle SEO-rich keywords, phrases, and themes into your “about” section, in your Facebook URL if you can, and in your posts, they will only serve you better.
The more presence you have on the first page of Google results, the more powerful you’ll be.
Always keep it professional
This means having at least two people scan a post (for embarrassing typos) before making it official, and responding to posts and comments correctly. Deleting a comment or post from someone else should always be your last resort since it will make them feel unheard or that you’re hiding something.
The exceptions are spam and outright abuse. Otherwise, if the content is substantive, you must remain professional and others will see how well you handle business.
Social media isn’t for everyone or every business. But if you handle it well, it can be integral to your future business success.