After 8 years helping people overcoming their fear and overwhelm of using social media, I'm glad to tell you that you're not alone. Social media can be unnecessarily cumbersome if you focus on the wrong things. I've personally learnt this myself through many years of experimentation on what works and what doesn't.
So today, I’m going to tell you what works and break it down for you into 4 easy steps. But before I do that, I want to bust a couple of social media myths.
I can use social media to make sales for my business.
This is a common misconception about social media. People who don’t understand social media perceive it as another platform for cold-calling. They think if they try enough times, someone will bite and buy from them.
The truth is, social media is like a networking event. People attend networking events to get contacts, learn, listen, be seen and introduce themselves to other people at the event. People don’t ‘sell’ at events.
They educate and share their knowledge with interested parties. Social media can certainly help to generate new leads and warm up those cold leads you already have, but social media is ultimately where you need to be serving, not selling.
[tweet_box]To build a new relationship, you need to be serving, not selling.[/tweet_box]
So as much as I do believe social media can help to grow your business and encourage the sales of your products and services, it is not the place where you close a deal. It is where your relationship begins.
I have to have a gazillion followers to be successful on social media.
You don’t have to have a lot of followers to network and build relationships on social media. You can even have only a handful of followers and you can still be successful. But only if those handful of followers are well and truly engaged with you and your content.
I started with a small list of 15 people on my Twitter, which grew rapidly in 6 months (even though my account was on private) because I worked hard on building meaningful relationships on that platform. I engaged in conversations and shared valuable content.
Even with my modest sized list, I still managed to get clients from my connections and engagement Twitter, became a well-known figure in my niche and travelled everywhere meeting many of my Twitter connections in real life.
The key here is TRUST. People don’t look at numbers to make a genuine connection. They look at VALUE. And if you bring a lot of VALUE to the table, TRUST can be earned and this is where social media can be your greatest ally. Why? Because never has there been a quicker way to spread news through word-of-mouth, than social media.
People don’t look at numbers to make a genuine connection. They look at VALUE.
To build a solid relationship on social media, everything ultimately comes down to TRUST – @Liz_Azyan
So, now that we’ve busted the myths, let’s get cracking on mastering social media!
1: Go on a treasure hunt. The 'Search' function on any social media platform should be your best friend.
Just as milk is the main ingredient for a kick-ass milkshake, the people you follow on social media is the main ingredient for having great meaningful conversations on social media platforms. It’s almost like determining who is going to come to your dinner party? You wouldn’t invite people someone who you know you’re not going to get on with, right?
The same goes for social media. You really got to do your homework and search or hunt for your ideal connections. A few things to keep in mind while ‘treasure hunting’.
- Remember, your goal is to make a CONNECTION, NOT to make a sale.
- Remember to focus on the QUALITY of the connection and not the QUANTITY.
- Remember, it’s not all about YOU, it’s about THEM.
How to Search
Every social media platform has a search for either people, pages or keywords. Use this to your full advantage. Just think of it like Google, but on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or any other social network. Whenever possible, use the ‘Advanced Search’ facility to hone in on your search.
Try to get specific in your search. Here are a few options you should look for when searching: –
- If you business depends on local customers, search for people in your area.
- Search 5 keywords that relate to your business or the product or service you’re selling.
- If a position or title of a person in a company is vital for your business, then make sure to search for keywords like CEO or Director in their bios to narrow down on the search.
- If you’ve recently been to an event that has a hashtag, look through people who have been talking about the event online by searching the hashtag. Look up their bio’s and get connected with them on your preferred social platform.
- If you speak a different language, you can look and see if you can narrow the search down to your preferred language.
- Look in social media lists that already exists and created by other people, like on Twitter and Facebook. This might be a list made by a competitor or an active member on a social media platform in your niche. Don’t follow everybody on the list, pick and choose those with the right fit for your connection.
- If your business activities revolves around trends, be sure to keep up with keywords associated with the trends within your niche everyday to keep up with people who are talking about it and listen to them on how they engage with each other – what phrases they use and what excites them. This will help to shape and give you ideas on how you can promote and market your products or services on social media in the future.
- If your business is focused on customer service, searching for mentions of your brand is critical for your business. Being present and listening to people talking about your brand can help you understand how to make your product better, respond to feedback and also pick up on any positive sentiments people are making about your brand, that you can use as testimonials for your website.
- When searching, evaluate whether or not this person is active on the platform or not. If they aren’t active but you still want to connect with them, check them out on another platform and see if they are active there and if you can make a connection with them.
- If you’ve found someone who is active and is present on that platform, observe who are the people talking to them and interacting with them on a daily basis. This can people commenting on their updates or RT their tweets or pinning their pins. They are great people to connect with too, because they are present and are connected to the same people you are connected to. This is what I call, the search within the search. 😉
So, once you know where to find your connections and have gathered an idea of what your ideal connection looks like, jot down how you found them on all the different platforms you are using. Because you want to repeat this process whenever you can and finding a ‘Search Recipe’ that works for you on different platforms can really speed up the process next time around.
2: Breaking the ice. Getting the smalltalk right on any social media platform
Once you’ve found your party, the next step at any networking event is breaking the ice and getting on with the ‘smalltalk’. Many people stumble early on in social media because they fail to see the significance of breaking the ice. Some people get connected (i.e. like or follow on social media) and they stop right there or skip the small talk.
Just like a room full of people at a networking event, unless you go ahead and introduce yourself to someone and make small-talk to break the ice, you’re never going to move on to the next stage of the relationship. Have you ever noticed that if you have met someone in real life, it’s much easier to talk to them on social media? This is because you’ve broken the ice. They’ve seen you and know you as a real person.
Whereas if you connect with someone on social media, there is still a great distance between you and this online avatar. They don’t know if you’re real or just another spammer. They’ve never heard of you and they have no idea what you’re about, other than what your bio says.
So here’s a few tips to breaking the ice on social media: –
- Find out something about what they’ve done on their website or blog. If anything sparks your interest, mention that you saw them working or talking about it somewhere online. Tell them what you thought about their work. Remember, the key here is to show your interest in them and what they do.
- If they ask a question, try your best to answer or find the answer for them. This is a great way to show that you’re here to also add value to the conversation. And to show that you’re not just a taker. Giving is a high value commodity on social media.
- Ask a question about something they’ve said. Asking questions means you are interested in what a person has to say. As long as your question isn’t rude or questioning their skills, knowledge or authority, you should be good to go.
But one important thing to remember when breaking the ice on social media is, be unattached to the outcome. Because not everybody responds they way you would like them to on social media or even at all. The main thing is you’re showing interest in making a genuine connection.
3: Understand what makes them tick & be present.
The next step might sound obvious, but when on social media it can get a bit mixed up. People think that in order to get someone interested in your product or service, is to talk about it or topics around it.
The truth is, on social media people connect with people for WHO THEY ARE first before they connect with people for WHAT THEY DO.
So finding similar areas of interest like parenting, fishing, music or any other interest you might have with another person online is far more important than ‘talking shop’ when creating meaningful relationships. These are topics where one does not have to think but simply do because it’s part of their lives.
We can sometimes find these types of conversations at the water-cooler or at the smoking corner in real life. And finding these topics that are easy to talk about and engage with can also activate attraction-based marketing, where people are want to doing business with people they know socially and TRUST.
In order to get people be a genuine FAN of yours on social media, you’ve got to be PRESENT. You’ve got to show up to be top of mind. What does this mean? This means, you’ve got to be contributing to the conversations.
Commenting on updates and responding to your connections online, where ever they might be. Being seen and showing up allows you to be counted, to be accepted into the inner circle. The inner circle is almost like when Robert De Niro tells Ben Stiller in ‘Meet the Fockers’ talks about the circle of trust. 🙂
Tweetchats are conversations on Twitter that revolve around a hashtag at a specific day and time. This can also be an online event or conference, where live training or talks are streamed and people are interacting with either the content or other people attending the event. This is like online networking events.
You go, you mingle, have small talk, exchange business cards and leave. But it is the action of turning up at events again and again with the same group of people that will then make you a familiar and recognizable face that people will learn to TRUST.
So, once you understand what make them tick and are in their circle of trust, you can move on to the final step of the process, which to me is the most FUN!
4: Take the relationship to the next level
Social networking really isn’t that much different than online dating. The premise is the same. In order to progress any online relationship, you must then meet face-to-face or have a one-on-one communication to really benefit from the relationship.
Real relationships take longer to build on social media, but they last a life time and rewards can be beyond your imagination.
This can take place in different forms. Of course the ultimate form would be a meeting in real life. But this is not always possible, especially if you’re in different countries.
Here are some ways you can truly engage on a higher level.
- Start communicating one-on-one using Private Messaging facilities on social networks like ‘Direct Message’ on Twitter, ‘Private Chat’ on Facebook or InMail on LinkedIn.
This can a response to a public conversation that is continued in private using these facilities.
I’ve found that some of the most exciting and beneficial conversations that either lead to more work or interesting projects almost always originate from a communication I’ve had on a private messaging facility on a social network.
This is probably because not everyone has your email address, making your presence on a social network the more accessible option to connect on.
- You could also ask if you continue a conversation on Skype or the phone.
Having a voice conversation can really solidify your online relationships with connections online. I once called 20 of my Twitter followers in the space of 2 weeks.
Those phone calls were probably what really helped propel me on social media. Because out of all the people they were following on Twitter, they’ve probably have only ever spoke or met one or two of them.
And because these 20 people were already connected to each other on Twitter, I became the strongest and most real connection these 20 people had on Twitter at that time.
And of course, thanks to social media, word-of-mouth about my conversations with them moved at the speed of light. It’s so easy to stand out in a noisy crowd once you stand up and be counted.
- Attend conferences or events that people you know online are attending.
If meeting one-on-one is a bit awkward for you or not possible, attending events where you know your online connections are going to be are a great way to socialize on a higher level.
You can make plans to meet at the event and really put a voice and a face to your ‘username‘. I’ve probably met hundreds of my online connections over the years in various locations all around the world, who I have even been to have dinner with at their house all the way in Scotland! (This is like a 6 hour train ride from where I am).
You’ll not only strengthen your relationships, but also have great friends who will recommend you, talk about you and your work, always be interacting with you online and helping you, should you ever find yourself needing a bit of support. And all of these, are the greatest benefits of social networking.
And that concludes the 4 easy steps to mastering any social media platform out there. I promise you, if you can apply these 4 steps, you’ll be reaping the rewards exponentially. I speak from experience and a lot of experimentation, so I hope you’ll TRUST me!
I hope this was useful!
Liz Azyan is a digital consultant who helps public organisations and businesses add value to their products and services through smart digital solutions. She has been awarded the Google Fellowship Award for her work and initiative in the arena of technology, politics and social entrepreneurship. She has also been listed on several lists around the web as a top digital expert by her peers and industry leaders.