Whether you’ve begun already, or haven’t even taken the first step, it’s good to have a sense of what you’re getting into with social media. Here are my tips on what not to do.
Set up an account and never post anything. Too many accountants realise they should get on the social media bandwagon, and set up a Facebook page, Twitter feed, LinkedIn profile, and a few others and then put nothing on it. People notice these things. If you’ve set them all up and you end up spending more time on Twitter than Facebook, for instance, that’s okay. People will recognise that. But if they try every means of connecting you and you’re not visible, it reflects poorly on you.
Become a ‘sales spammer’. We’ve said before that social media is supposed to be primarily social – not pushy sales. Posting about your new products and services all the time, or only offering deals and discounts, or telling the world they should ring you right away, points out to everyone listening that you’re only concerned with yourself. “Join the conversation” is the phrase – don’t take it over and annoy everybody else. It’s the equivalent of going to a networking event, walking up to a group of people chatting cheerfully, and handing round business cards to each person saying “Give me a call!”, and then leaving. The cards would go straight in the bin, and the group would talk about you negatively once you left. On social media the repercussions are even worse. They’ll disconnect with you (unfollow, unlike, etc), and what’s more is, they’ll tell others about it. The other fail in terms of sales is stalking others’ messages and trying to get an edge in. I’ve had this happen before – when I have a perfectly cordial conversation going on with one company, and another company notices this and wants the business. So I get an email from the competing company saying, “I noticed you wanted this product, we have it, you should talk to us!” Very off-putting. If anything, it makes me want to talk to the other company even more, because they weren’t like that. And worst of all, I’ve now got a very negative impression of the competing business, and will not follow them, speak well of them, or be interested in their product. If you do notice a good prospect, simply follow them. If they follow you back, thank them or send a (public) personalised message. Keep it all in the public arena, because that’s how social media is supposed to work.
Systemise it to the point of impersonalisation. One of the things I hate more than anything is following someone on Twitter and getting an immediate DM (direct message) that says “Thanks for following. To read more about our products and services, click here [website] or ring us on.” It’s clear that they’ve set up this instant-response without any interest whatsoever in who I am, what I like, and how we can (or should) connect. When someone connects with you via social media, they’re saying, “I’m interested in who you are and what you do. I’d like to hear a little more.” If over time they don’t like what they hear, they’ll disconnect. If they do like it, they’ll engage a little further. If they end up deciding to buy, it will be on their own time and from their own initiative. Remember, sales via social media should be so incredibly smooth and easy that it never even feels like sales.
Follow the wrong protocol. Social media has its own language, and its own rules. They’re all rules of culture, by which I mean they’re not published anywhere (unless you find a good blog post on it). For example, USING ALL CAPITAL LETTERS is the equivalent of shouting at the top of your voice. If every one of your tweets does this, people will switch off or worse, unfollow. The same applies for using too many exclamation points or smiley faces, or using a wink for a business-related Tweet. Linked In is primarily a business network, for professionals or recruiters (and those seeking work). Posting photos of your cat, and entering status updates as though you’re on Facebook, doesn’t give the right impression.
Make it all about business. Many accountancy firms fail by not making their social media conversations personal. Every post is a stiff, formal introduction to the business, or a link to an article, or an invitation to an event. Social media is an opportunity to enable those connecting with you to see that you are not just a building or a logo, but a real person (or real people). There are a variety of ways to do this, and generally it centres around being yourself. A book that you’re reading, a charity walk your team members are taking, a photo of your city on a sunny day, what you love most about the work you do. Things that help those listening to want to do business with you, not because you’re such an expert but because they feel they would connect well with you.
Give up (or fail to begin) because you “haven’t gotten anything from it”. Marketing is (as I’ve said many times before) a marathon, not a sprint. You’re in it for the long haul. Some companies use social media regularly and within days begin to see massive results. Others plug away at it consistently for a long time before it all starts to come together. If you’ve been at it for a while and are beginning to question it, don’t presume that it won’t work – try a different tack. Talk to social media experts. Attend webinars and live events. If Twitter doesn’t do anything for you, try Linked In. If Facebook isn’t your field, perhaps Tumblr is. Read online forums and talk to others in your industry. Check out your competitors – where are they most visible? Chances are, one or more of your competitors are cleaning up in your area because they’ve stuck at it, or done it really well.