Social media is a wonderful thing. Just don't forget what it really is -- a platform you don't own and ultimately can't control.
Google+ is all the rage right now. Will it kill Facebook or LinkedIn? Will it kill email or Twitter?
It's too early to tell, but one of the things you should be thinking about is the fans, followers, plussers, and connections you're amassing on a platform you don't own. Sure, you should be thinking about how the newest social media toy fits into your business, but not before you figure out how to move your community from one platform to another with ease.
The easy answer? Don't forget your database.
Here are 10 things to consider when you're using social media -- and when you're thinking about how to drive people back to an environment you own and control.
- Who are your customers, prospects, and referral network? You have to know this. And you should be building a database of everyone's email addresses. You can do this through blog subscriptions, lead nurturing, newsletters, and even content that you provide in return for a free reigstration. Yes, you need to be on Twitter and Facebook and (now) Google+. But you have to drive people back to something you own, and where YOU can collect their data. We don't yet know what, or if, Google will be providing businesses in terms of customer data, so it's always best to collect it yourself.
- It's hard work, but you have to do it. And this doesn't mean just on the social platforms. It means using content and community-building to engage your audiences and stroke their egos by commenting on and sharing their content.
- Your content had better be good. If it's not all good, publish only that which is. If that means you only publish a blog post once a week or a white paper once a quarter, so be it. If you're charging for content, price it accordingly, but make sure it's better than anything else in the industry. Find different ways to share your content. Things such as an Instagram feed of photos from work, a Tumblr blog of those photos, a podcast series of two-minute segments that help your audiences, or videos that show how your product works in the real world.
- Video. Create lots of two-minute videos. People love visuals. It all needs to be on YouTube, and then embedded on your blog and on your website. We do this in the sidebar of Spin Sucks and on the home page of Arment Dietrich. It's easily shared in less than five minutes. Don't worry about making it professional or snazzy. Buy yourself a Flip camera and start shooting stuff.
- Access. As a consumer, how exciting is it when the CEO answers your email or allows you to voice your concerns? Steve Jobs does this, and it blows people away. Granted, we're not all Steve Jobs, but people want access. Maybe it's once a week or once a month, but give them access! Add the element of surprise, and do something simple such as answering the customer service line or spending an hour answering email. It will go further than any PR, advertising, or marketing campaign.
- Virality. You can't plan to make something viral, and you never know when it might happen -- so you have to do it a lot. Often when something goes viral, it's the last thing you expect, so don't be afraid to put something out there that isn't perfect. People like to know that we're all human.
- It's not about the numbers. It's about making the web work for you 24/7. It's about monetizing new products and services via the social platforms. It doesn't matter if you have 100 followers or 100,000. If only 50 of those 100 or 100,000 buy, those are the 50 you need to engage. And let's be real. Wouldn't you rather have 50 percent of your followers buy than less than one percent of them?
- The A-list sucks. You're not a star. None of us are. Read Geoff Livingston's guest post about this on Danny Brown's blog. Think about it. Absorb it. And then do business just like you've always done -- by treating your customers, your prospects, and your advocates like human beings whose opinions matter to you.
- Add in some personal details. No one likes to talk to the person at a cocktail reception who can only talk about work. The same goes online. Talk about your hobbies, your family, and even your vacations.
- Grow from the bottom up. Just like in real life, we all have to start somewhere, and that means the bottom (unless nepotism is alive and well, and you get to start as the chief executive). You want to look like you're all about your community: Your customers, your prospects, your advocates, your influencers, your stakeholders, and your employees. If you look like you're in it only for the money (who isn't?) and you're only using the social tools to push your message, no one will care. And no one certainly will give you access to themselves or their email addresses.
Above all else, make sure you're building your contact database. Don't abuse it. Don't spam people. It just might save your bacon if you have to pack up and move to a new social-networking site. Or if there's a real emergency, such as Twitter or Facebook dying.