How to (re)connect with social media

What can social media do for a small business today, and how can you do it well? A reminder of the rules of social media engagement.

Up until this week, we’ve been pretty quiet on the social media front on this blog. It is a vital element in the valuable content universe of course, but the last time we wrote a post specifically on social media was back in 2012. I think it’s because social networking has become so much part of the natural fabric of our day-to-day communication here (little different for us than using the phone) that we forget it’s not this way for everyone.

A lot of the business world has caught on since that last post. The big social platforms – Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+ – are far more crowded noisy spaces in 2015 than they used to be.

But not every business has got stuck in with social media; not by a long shot. And not all those who have got involved are getting the results they seek.

With this landscape in mind, I think it is high time for a check back in.

So what can social media do for a business today, and how can you do it well? 

I’m writing this in the main for a very lovely client of mine, one of the many businesses still teetering on the edge when it comes to using social media. And I’m writing it in part for me too.

I was an early-ish adopter I guess – I’ve been on Twitter since 2008. Social media has been a fantastic tool for me, and for Valuable Content. Twitter particularly has been a serendipitous place. I’m constantly amazed and grateful for the connections I’ve made, and the things that have happened as a result. What I’ve read via Twitter has sparked ideas that have helped evolve our approach and I’ve met great people who have become our clients, collaborators, suppliers and good friends. But 7 years is a long time, and this winter with a book to complete and a lot on my plate I’ve been a bit off the boil.

So, for you and for me, here’s a quick reminder of the joy and the power of social media and the underlying principles that will help us all to do it well.

Social media makes caring more scalable

“Social media allows us to get as close to our clients as our grandfathers and great grandfathers did with their businesses: first name terms; knowing their likes and dislikes and demonstrably showing we care. Social media makes caring more scalable.”

Paul Hajek, founder of Clutton Cox Solicitors

I love that quote from Paul Hajek. It sums up the opportunity that social media brings. If we think of it this way then it’s easier to see why every business can benefit from an active social presence.

Here are a few other reasons:

  • It’s a way to show who you are. People do business with people they like – social media is a great place to show who you are, showing the real people behind the corporate façade. This builds trust.
  • It forges great connections. Business has always been about good relationships. Social media gives you a way to connect and keep contact, at a scale you could never achieve in the past.
  • It is where the people are. It is the way many people now expect to communicate, even in ‘traditional’ industries. Join the conversation to give your business a voice.
  • It can take your message wider. Importantly, it will help your ideas and content to fly – creating a ripple effect, spreading awareness of your business across your network and beyond.

All this connection and goodwill can’t help but do good for your business. And if our experience and those of our clients is anything to by, that’s exactly how it works.

What to say?

I can still remember when I first signed up to Twitter – that empty page and invitation to contribute, to say something interesting was seriously intimidating. So what should you talk about on social media?

If you are on social media purely for your own enjoyment then feel free to talk about whatever you like! If it’s primarily for business purposes, then do a bit of thinking about who you want to talk to and the conversation you want to own.

What are you better equipped than anyone else to help those people with? The answer doesn’t have to be complicated. The idea that guides the brilliant social content that HSBC’s expat banking division creates and shares is simply: “If you moved abroad, what would you want to know?So that’s the type of content they share.

If you are clear on your overarching mission and business story then start here. Share social content that delivers on the promises you have made. Let that golden thread shine through on social media so it’s clear to those that follow you what you stand for and where you play.

Valuable guidelines for all social networks

How you behave on social media is enormously important. Platforms come and go, but many of the same rules apply to all of the ones you’re likely to want to use for your business – now and in the future.

In a nutshell, it’s about being as human and helpful on social media as you are in every other area of your business. There are tweaks in tone, and nuances to negotiate, but if you stay rooted to human and helpful you won’t go far wrong.

There are many different social media options and there will be others to come, but if you want to get the best results across any social media platform there are some enduring rules to apply.

Rules of social media engagement

  • Be there. Join the conversation – be sociable, communicate – show up regularly.
  • Be valuable. Helpful, entertaining and interesting – become 
a valuable source of information for others.
  • Be generous. Be generous in the content you share and generous to others too. Share other people’s content. If it is valuable to your kind of customers then help them find it. Become known as someone who offers things up to others, and people will come to you.
  • Be polite. Say thanks to those that follow and share your stuff. And ‘remember your ABC – always be crediting.’ (Hat tip to Charles H Green for this one).
  • Be yourself. Let your personality shine through. You don’t have to force it. The personal touch wins over corporate party line every time.
  • Don’t be a content bore. Having really valuable content to share gives you a great head start on social media, but it doesn’t give you a free pass to use social media channels purely to promote your own content. Because we’re living in a world of content overload, any kind of content that is over-promoted starts to grate. We see good businesses that share great stuff, but it’s always their own content, over and over again (I think we’ve been guilty of this too on our VC feed sometimes – we’re determined to do it differently now).

The people who are best at social media follow these principles.

They aren’t constantly pushing sales messages. Social media channels aren’t noticeboards where you stick up a postcard advertising your cut-price products; they’re a place you meet, chat and share. The valuable mantra – help, don’t sell; show, don’t tell; talk, don’t yell – definitely applies.

It’s really important to remember that you need to be a person as well as a business to get the most out of social media. Yes it is a publishing and distribution tool, but it’s a very human place. It sounds obvious, clunkingly so, but you’d be surprised how many people fall down at just being plain nice.

So let’s remind ourselves of why social media is so useful, follow the valuable principles and enjoy the ride. If we do this, even in a crowded social world it will help our businesses to thrive.

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  1. Ben Wheeler

    Hi Sonja and Sharon,

    Thanks for three great social media posts this week – all of which have made me reflect on how I take part. The points I take away most are that it’s not the number of followers but the engagement and, that I could probably do with being more social! The two go together of course but people often wonder why results are poor – but overlook the social side. As someone once said to me “social media – the clue is in the name”.

  2. Sonja Jefferson

    Thanks very much Ben. We’re so glad they’ve been useful to you. We’ve really enjoyed writing them and thinking about social media hard again. Here’s to a very social April then all round! See you on Twitter.


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