Social media is a great way to quietly market your business. You can use it to make connections, build partnerships, find clients you never would have met otherwise (because they live on the far side of the world), and even make fast friends.
However, there are right ways and wrong ways to use it.
My use of the word “quietly” in the first sentence may seem a bit odd, but it was used deliberately. Many businesses use social media as an excuse to shout. They start accounts and use them to loudly proclaim how great they are.
It’s a tool, not a soapbox. Here are five ways to build relationships , create trust, and grow your business.
1. Join forums
Look for groups that match your business and your target audience. For instance, if you sell gardening supplies, hang out in gardening forums and groups.
2. Read the rules
Each group is likely to have slightly different rules of the road. Some let you add a signature line, others allow links to your site, still others permit a mini-bio.
Find out what you’re allowed to do to promote yourself.
LinkedIn, for instance, allows you to send articles to members of groups you join. You can also include your blog feed in your profile.
3. Make friends
The best way to build a reputation is to make friends. Don’t shout, but be helpful. If someone asks for opinions on their web site design, post your review and point out what’s good (or not so good) about the site. This establishes your credibility and expertise.
Treat the other forum members like people, not targets. They’re there to learn, share ideas, and get opinions, not for a sales pitch.
4. Start a blog
If you don’t already have one, start a blog. Most web site hosts have a control panel with a tool called Fantastico that lets you install WordPress (blogging software) fairly easily. Here’s a video from Hostgator (my web host) with more instructions on how to install WordPress.
Blog posts get indexed faster than Web sites, and show up in Google alerts. I wrote a post about the biggest mistake advertisers make and a local paper linked to it only a few hours later — leading to a big spike in my blog’s traffic.
5. Write on other sites
Not just guest posts, but there are large sites that allow you to post (sometimes, they’ll even promote your post for you). For example, BuzzFeed will let you post on their site, as will Forbes. I knew about Forbes, but not BuzzFeed. Here’s a list from Neil Patel with more big sites that can drive traffic. Make sure, of course, to choose sites that are relevant to your business. Commenting on IMDb might be fun for me, but I wouldn’t expect it to drive traffic here.
6. Link to other blogs
Add blogs you like to your blogroll. Comment on the blogs you like. Don’t just say “great post.” add to the conversation.
Use another blogger’s post as a starting point for your own. Expand on something they said, or take it in a different direction. If you’re a food blogger and you see a post about great BBQ, write one about the biscuits that go with it. Or, rate your own local BBQ joints and link to the other blogger’s post.
What other ways are you using social media for your business? Have you had great luck with Twitter? Is your Facebook page critical to your marketing strategy? Share your experiences in the comments.