I talk to stressed out business owners and non-profit leaders almost every day who are just plain overwhelmed with social media. Not because they don't know how to use it and not because they don't understand its value. They're stressed because the space changes at such a rapid pace—the ground is always shifting under their feet so they never really feel like they're gotten a foothold.
So what do you do to keep up with social media while running your business? It's impossible to get on every platform and more importantly, it's just not smart. You can't do that, so don't even try. Instead of focusing on quantity of social connections and sites, focus more on quality control. Here are 6 ways to do it.—<em>Amanda Miller Littlejohn</em>
<b>Don't Fixate on Specific Platforms or Sites</b>
The tools will inevitably change; what's hot today may be completely obsolete in 5 years. (Myspace anyone?) The other day I was telling a friend about a cool service that creates and organizes Twitter lists for you. He went to the site only to find that the service was to be discontinued in a few weeks! My lesson? Don't get too attached. Inevitably sites will shut down, or newer sites will emerge that make the sites you've been using obsolete. So the key is to…
<b>Build Strong Relationships Instead</b>
Real relationships translate across networks. If one social media platform shuts down today, the strength of your relationships should be such that you can find your customers, fans, and followers in other spaces. Or better yet, they will find you. So focus more on being a helpful resource and sharing information that keeps them coming back to you wherever you may be online. Still wondering how to build relationships and what to share online? Keep this in mind: according to White Fire SEO, 92% of users on Twitter retweet interesting content and 66% retweet due to a personal connection. So make sure you're sharing interesting content and building personal connections.
<b>Understand the Opportunities</b>
At the end of the day, social media is not a marketing burden. Don't look at it as one more thing you have to do to market your business. Instead, see that it has given you a huge opportunity. You can talk directly to your customers and interact with your audience immediately. I think if we can truly wrap our heads around this, we can approach social media with much less stress.
For example, 2011 study by the National Restaurant Association confirms that consumers who use social media, including apps, Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, UrbanSpoon and more, not only dine out more, but are more likely to become return customers. What an enormous opportunity for restaurants!
<b>Focus on Storytelling</b>
What stories can you tell about your business. I spoke this week to a group of arts, tourism and cultural organizations at Cultural Tourism DC's annual conference in Washington, DC. (Members range from Smithsonian Institution Directors to jazz clubs to tiny art galleries and film festivals). When cultural organizations approach social media, they can't go for the hard sell because arts marketing is more about storytelling. Take a cue from these organizations and focus on the story behind your service or product. Can you give your audience a behind-the-scenes view? Can you offer online previews to build buzz before a big event?
<b>Don't Be So Pushy</b>
What happens when you get hounded by a pushy salesman in real life? You zone out, ignore and disengage. Or worse, you have such a bad experience that you avoid the store, and tell your friends about the annoying experience. Guess what? The same thing happens on social media. No one wants to read tweet after tweet about your product, service, webinar or conference. Treat your audience like welcomed guests, not checkbooks. While it's necessary to market and let them know about your latest product or service, you, treat your audience like welcomed guests, not checkbooks. Remember there are people behind those avatars. So don't be rude.
<b>Go Where Your Audience Lives</b>
With the proliferation of more and more niche social networks, you have to focus your energies like a laser. If you only have a few hours each week to commit to social media, you need to pinpoint exactly where your customers are. For example, Pinterest is a photo-sharing-pinboard phenomenon that's been heating up in the past 3 months. 80% of users are women and of those women, the majority are in the 25-34 age range. So if your business caters to this demographic, you should consider a presence on Pinterest. But whenever you're thinking of setting up shop on a new network, research what your customers are using and where they are hanging out. Focus your efforts in those places instead of simply "throwing up a profile" on every network you encounter.