The biggest obstacle to social media business success

This is the third in a series exploring the keys to achieving business benefits in social media:
 
Connections + Meaningful Content + Authentic Helpfulness = Business Benefits.
Let’s continue the discussion with the second element, MEANINGFUL CONTENT.

To turn online connections into serious business relationships, you need to surround your cyber-self with useful, interesting content. Difficulty in providing consistent, meaningful content is the NUMBER ONE reason people give up and never achieve social media business benefits. So you just have to find a way to do it! First, let’s get those excuses out of the way:

  1. If you’re interesting, entertaining and funny, people will be drawn to you. But if you’re shy and have difficulty being entertaining, you just can’t provide content, so why try?
  2. Takes too much time. No person with a full-time job can possibly have time for the incremental effort needed for social media. Who has time to write a blog???
  3. Social media is just a stupid fad any way.

We are not going to accept these excuses, right? RIGHT! So, I’ve worked up a strategy for you to efficiently deliver meaningful content even if you’re not a natural writer. All you have to do is be yourself and tenaciously ENGAGE. Ideas to create content for the non-writer, in just a few minutes a day:

  • In the last post, I emphasized the importance of joining Linked-In Groups. Now become INVOLVED. Twice a week, respond to a question or comment in the group. You can answer questions can’t you? Of course you can! Time commitment: 20 min/week.
  • Once a week, peruse online magazines related to your industry. Find an interesting article. Leave an opinion or your appreciation in the comment section then tweet the article out to your followers on Twitter. You’ve created meaningful content twice. Time = 15 min
  • Find five or more blogs related to your industry and put them in an aggregator like Google Reader. Once you have this set up, review blog content at least once a week and comment + tweet out your favorite articles. 15 min
  • Find interesting and useful content that has already been created by your company. Are there ways you can reference this content to help others, solve problems, and answer questions?
  • In the last post we talked about finding connections through Facebook. Now visit them. Share, engage, comment, react, ask more questions. 20 min
  • Tweet AT LEAST three times a day (at different times), AT LEAST three days a week. (45 min/week)

At first, I know it can be difficult to figure out what to tweet, but you have to keep at it! When you get stuck, here are some subject matter ideas to get you going again.

  • An entertaining observation you made – it could be a funny bumper sticker, a movie or a commercial you saw on TV.
  • Something interesting related to your business or industry. But DO NOT SELL. Here’s an example of something appropriate: “Finally landed a great contract – business has been tough.” Or, “Went to a great training program on social media today – I recommend it”
  • Re-tweet a particularly good article or post provided by somebody you follow.
  • Comment on an observation made by one of your followers.
  • Take a picture from a place you’re visiting and comment on it.
  • Express an opinion on a national news story.
  • Ask a question and authentically seek help from the community.
  • Thank followers who do something nice for you, like mentioning you on a Follow Friday.

To provide meaningful content, you don’t have to write a lot, but you MUST COMMIT. You know that old saying: You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him tweet. I can’t make you engage, but I promise that you can’t be successful without it.

If you were to help a friend get started in social media, what other ideas do you have?

Tomorrow, the final part of the success formula: Authentic Helpfulness.

Other articles in this series:

Part 1: A formula for social media business success

Part 2: Building meaningful business connections

Part 4: Social Media’s Economy of Giving

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  • Nitin Gupta

    Mark: these are some very practical and very useful tips. I have been thinking about the concept of C + MC + AH in the context of building social communities.
    The formula acts as a basic building block for engaging a user community. However, we need to look at a different set of metrics when we are looking for successful online communities. We cannot simply look at the number of users but have to consider the level of participation (percentage of users who are creators or critics), frequency of posts per user, length of posts (longer posts is directly correlated to more engaged users). I have tried to expand on this in the latest post on my blog: http://unscramblesm.blogspot.com/

  • Jen McClurg Roth

    Mark, great points in this series. One thing we find is that people often underestimate the value of their own knowledge base. We work with real estate agents, who have a tremendous amount of information that prospective clients really want. It would be so easy for them to deliver this information using social media tools. People tend to take their own expertise for granted, even though it's their best source for shared information in social media.

  • MARK W. SCHAEFER

    Nitin, you are correct and course this article does not really suggest a measurement strategy. If you are new to the {grow} community, you might enjoy a series of articles I recently completed (along with guest blogger Jamie Wallace) on financial and non-financial measures that many people seemed to find valuable.

    The first article in the series is here:

    http://bit.ly/167XyN

  • MARK W. SCHAEFER

    Jen, that is such an obvious and powerful point. I wish I had included that in the orginal post! This is EXACTLY why the comment section is so important!!

    People do have a lot of native knowledge but often lack the confidence to express it!

  • Noah Weiner

    Well said, Mark. This is a very helpful walk through for folks struggling to jump into the Social Media pool. And those first steps seem to be the most daunting.

    We seem to preach from the same book. I stand on my soapbox here Web New Point 0. 🙂

  • Jim LeBlanc

    Maybe you have hit on another element of the formula: T for TIME : )

    I'm guessing that the more time you put into this, up until a certain point, the more you will get out, right?

  • John Bottom

    Another good sumary Mark. We like to tell our clients that they need three things to make a success of social media marketing

    The right material.

    The right format.

    The right channels.

    Sometimes they can do all three on their own. More often, however, this is a simple formula that highlights a skills/time gap on their part, and therefore how we, as an agency, can help them do it.

    A blog is on its way on this subject – I'll keep you posted. And thanks for the inspiration

  • MARK W. SCHAEFER

    @ Noah — I will check out your blog! Thanks!

    @Jim — The assumption of time in the formula is a big one but certainly an underpinning of success. It can take significant time to particiapte effectively but as I hope I've demonstrated, it is possible to still engage in as little 20 minutes a day, even if you are not a natural writer.

    Time management is a critical topic. Maybe some of other readers can comment on how they cope?

  • MARK W. SCHAEFER

    @ John —

    Helloooo my friend! Thanks for taking the time to contribute.

    There are a number of over-arching assumptions behind the formula I've proposed and the first is that you actually HAVE a marketing strategy! : )

    Before you embark on content, or channels or tweeting, you better be very clear on your customer needs/wants, points of differentiation, message, etc. Perhaps I should write a prequel!!

  • S

    Nice tips. I think much of this could also be applied to online video. You can't just present something dull and expect it to be spread around. Bring good content to the table and expand on something entertaining in a video on YouTube, AdWido, and so on. That's how you can draw exposure to yourself with social media.

  • Nitin Gupta

    Mark,

    I read through the articles you had written about the measurement and ROI. You are bang on. Social media or any other marketing effort cannot be successful or sustainable if doesn't yield in additional revenue or market share.
    If the investment is made in dollars (or any other currency), the return has to be in dollars as well.

    The metrics I had highlighted helps in looking at the "engagement index" for an online community. My belief is that if the users are engaged enough, it will translate into positive ROI.

    Thanks

    Nitin

  • steve811

    Hi Mark!

    Can't read a post about commenting on blogs and not leave a comment. 😉 I'm totally jealous of all the content you're creating here!

    In thinking about what content to create, I try to identify the biggest challenges or problems my clients are struggling with, and focus on those areas. I create articles or link to others' articles with solutions to their big problems (for my market, it's how to make a new product successful, how to get funding, attract more customers, create valuable partnerships, etc.)

    When possible, provide tools and resources for "what's keeping you up at night". (I even have a friend who specializes in insomnia if "what's keeping them up at night" is "what's keeping them up at night"). 😉

    Love the article and the direction of your blog!

  • MARK W. SCHAEFER

    Steve, so very, very good to hear from you! I think that is truly wise advice. Always good to be in tune with customer wants/needs and respond with meaningful content.

    Thank you for taking the time to comment. All the best to your beautiful family!

  • Leila Nachawati Rego

    Thank you for this great post. It´s very useful for people who, like me, are working at a social networking strategy from scratch. I´m the new (and first) Community Manager at a business school and I often wonder about what content to share, through which network, what to include in a newsletter in order to offer something useful without being overwhelming…
    Any further specific advice for Community Managers would be hugely welcome.

    Thanks again, I´ll be waiting for the coming posts.

  • MARK W. SCHAEFER

    Thanks for following the blog, Leila. Be glad to help you think through your ideas. Send me an email if you'd like to connect.

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