Top Social Media Skills for Entrepreneurs
By Tannette Johnson-Elie
Most people in the business world now recognize the importance of a strong social media presence. The trouble is many entrepreneurs don’t know how to effectively use social networking to build their influence and reach target customers.
Social networking has been identified by experts as one of the top skills entrepreneurs must have in their arsenal of weapons for 2014. Not surprising, given the explosion of social media and its impact on the business world.
The challenge for many entrepreneurs, who often are responsible for their own skills’ development, is figuring out which social networking activities they should make their central focus in order to lead their companies to success in today’s new marketing environment.
A major mistake many entrepreneurs make is they start social media profiles and then forget about them. Fostering a social media network is like planting a seed: You won’t see much growth in the beginning, but it’s still important to feed and water the soil,” says Augie Ray, a New York-based social media strategist.
“Because entrepreneurship is so demanding, it’s easy to think that your sleepy Facebook page or Twitter account may not need attention, but when customers post questions or comments they do expect a speedy response,” Ray said.
Research shows of those who engage with brands on Twitter, half expect a brand to respond to a tweet within an hour. This doesn’t mean you need to be monitoring your social networks 24-7, but it does mean you can’t afford to go days or weeks without checking in, responding and offering content.
Bottom-line is if you want your business to remain viable in the future, you will need to maximize the marketing potential of social media.
So what are the top social networking skills that every entrepreneur should possess?
To answer that question, I turned to Ray and Jules Taggart, a San Diego-based marketing strategist.
Ray has more than 15 years experience in digital media. Taggart is founder and president of amp&pivot, which provides content marketing for entrepreneurs and small businesses. Here are their suggestions for the top social networking skills every entrepreneur needs:
“Reaching out and connecting with other entrepreneurs can help you with everything from emotional support to practical advice,” says Ray. “Once you build a network, you can rely on people you trust for recommendations or advice. And of course, that network can be a source of business and referrals.”
Some big companies can succeed strictly on their efficiency, but nascent entrepreneurs need to be able to tell a good story.
“Your story is how you differentiate yourself from the competition, it’s how you earn and generate PR and it’s why people care,” Ray said. “In the age of social media, the ability to create and deliver a good story can make a huge difference to a fledgling business.
Every piece of social media content you create should be unique because each audience is different, says Taggart.
“People want 80% of the content on Google+ (meaning in the body of the post). Including a link to your blog post is important, but people don’t want to have to click on the link. That’s the nature of the Google+ platform (at least for now).”
Transparency and active participation
Too many businesses approach social media as though they were robots, failing to engage their customers. If your tweets or posts are too random and distant, customers will not feel a connection to your brand and may be less inclined to purchase your products or services.
“Your social media posts should always feel like a conversation,” says Taggart.
The day-to-day demands of running a business can be overwhelming, but building an online reputation requires making time daily for cultivation of social media channels.
“If you plan time every day to share something, respond to inbound comments and posts and thank people for Yelp reviews or LinkedIn recommendations, you will begin to build your reputation and network,” Ray said.
The ability to give
‘Before you ask, you must first give’ is the rule in social media.
Taggart suggests entrepreneurs focus the majority of their tweets or posts on sharing helpful ideas and examples for their customers and less about the sale of their products and services.
“We want people to go to our websites and buy our goods and services, but if you ask before you give, you’ll be tuned out pretty quickly,” Taggart said.
While social media can be a complex world to navigate, especially for busy entrepreneurs, understanding how to use it efficiently and wisely can be a cost-effective way to share ideas, grow your market and lead your company successfully into the future.