This article first appeared in the National Mortgage Professional Magazine’s July edition.
People will tell you that “you need to have a social media presence.” Unfortunately, in this case, “have” is the wrong verb. Truthfully, “you need to build your social media presence.” It’s easy to have a social media presence. Go to any social media platform, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, you name it; pick a name; create a password; fill out a profile and there you have it – a social media presence – an ineffective, unattached and boring social media presence.
You must build your social media presence which means you have to spend time growing your network, evolving your content, and expanding your skill set which, in turn, will keep your audience engaged, involved and interested.
It’s a Three-Step Process
First. Understand and connect with an audience.
It is easier and more effective to connect with people you already know than with those you don’t. Connect with your customers, leads and referral sources through social media by inviting them to join your network. One of the primary purposes of social media is to stay in contact with your database. And it’s easier to make new connections on social media through shared connections. By connecting with those you know, you can find other interesting contacts through those primary contacts and it makes it easier for secondary contacts to find you. Not to mention, you will have already established credibility by being connected to mutual friends.
Here’s how to do it. Communication and engagement are critical elements to building your social audience. Most people believe that they can create audience engagement by creating interesting content, however that’s only half of the equation. In addition to communication and engagement, you must pay attention and connect with your contacts’ content. If they’re asking a question – respond. If they post an interesting article – let them know how much you appreciated them sharing such valuable content. If they announce someone’s success – congratulate them.
Separate from social media and in our daily lives, do you have relationships where you’re always calling the other person, inviting them to lunch, or are the sole initiator of contact? If so, that can be frustrating and you’ll quickly begin to feel unappreciated while wondering if the person on the other end of your phone calls, emails or text messages even wants to have a relationship with you. It’s no different on social media. People want to be noticed and appreciated. Don’t just make them come to you – take the step and go to them.
Second. Make sure you’re creating and/or sharing quality content.
Building content is a marathon, not a sprint. All too often, people get frustrated when they join social media, post their first blog and don’t understand why they haven’t gotten thousands of views and gone viral. One part of the solution is consistency. You must be there, in their face, day after day, with interesting and compelling content. It’s certainly not one and done.
Your audience, or contacts, are a varied group and look at social media at various times. By continually and continuously posting, the likelihood of you and your content being seen increases dramatically.
Additionally, while it is important to be seen, it is just as critical, if not more so, to have content that is interesting to your audience. If you are only trying to engage people within your industry, posting nothing but industry information is acceptable. However, if you are trying to reach people outside of the industry, say consumers, the 80-20 rule applies. Eighty percent of your content should not be industry related to engage this audience. People are always interested in what is new in their surroundings. For example, there’s a new ice cream parlor opening up in town, post about it. Maybe there are new employment opportunities? Let people know about it. Is history being made (wettest summer) or a celebratory anniversary (town’s 100th anniversary)? Comment on it. Don’t forget, any time you are involved in a charitable or community event, post about it online. It promotes your community, elevates the conversation about the charity and puts you in a positive light. It’s an effective way to relate to your audience on a platform other than business.
There are two common mistakes people make in regard to content creation and they’re related. First, while there is nothing wrong with posting an inspirational quote occasionally, it is something to avoid daily. You need to vary your content. If you only post inspirational quotes, you will not establish yourself as an expert in anything other than finding and posting inspirational quotes. Additionally, you have not provided any original content. Your audience wants to know more about you, your opinions, your ideas and your expertise. They want to know what you’re thinking.
Secondly, don’t trick yourself into believing that sharing content is the same as creating content. Reading interesting articles and sharing them through your social media channel is a very effective way of dispersing information. However, this information is not original or unique to you and your audience can get the same information from other sources.
There is an effective way to share articles written by others. Instead of simply copying the article and sharing it, make an interesting and personal comment about what you learned from or found interesting about the article. Your comment or observation should be attached to your post of the article. This let’s your audience know that you didn’t just read the headline and copy it so that you met the consistency obligation of social media. It also allows you to share original information and ideas – your opinion. At the end of the day, to avoid the common mistakes regarding content creation, remember, your audience wants to hear from you and learn about you.
Third. Utilize multiple channels and communication technologies.
As it relates to platforms, do not limit yourself to just one. Spread your content across multiple channels like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram simultaneously. There are easy to use services like Hootsuite that allow you to post once and your content gets posted to multiple channels with minimal effort.
But as stated earlier, building involves change and evolution. Your posts should leverage multi-pole communication technologies – print, pictures and video. Print is not dead. If you only have something short to share, a sentence or two, type out your post and share your printed words. If you have an extensive amount of information to share, a blog or a white paper, once again, use the printed word.
When you come across something visually or audibly appealing, it is time for pictures and/or video. It’s very effective to include other people in your pictures and videos. When other people make cameo appearances in the pictures and videos you post, they tend to share that post with their audience. When you post something, you share it with your audience, those who already know you. When the other person in your pictures and videos shares your content, it goes to an audience that doesn’t know you… yet. That is how you get exposed to their friends and family – through their shares. That is how you go viral. And if you want to combine words and pictures, create an infographic. This allows you to share extensive amounts of information in a visually attractive way. There are multiple free infographic creation services online and they’re easy to use.
If you’re looking to grow your network and make a true impact on social media, it’s important that you have more than a run of the mill social media presence. You need to build your own social media presence through building your audience, creating your content and utilizing multiple communication technologies.