by S.A. Brandley

It took while for the world to embrace social media, and even more time before I saw major ad companies start to realize what the rest of the population had known for a while: social media is wonderful. When they did blow the dust off their keyboards and log on, they proceeded to bombard the internet with old fashioned, annoying advertisements and commercials. While I’m sure this worked to a degree, it’s clear it did not go as they had planned and someone needed to teach them the rules of social media marketing.

When working with children I often find myself trying, somewhat desperately, to get them out of trees, or the mud. The best way to do this is by setting up rules before the children can go and play. Some of my rules for these youngsters include no fighting with sticks, no kicking, no playing in the dirt and mud, the big kids have to be nice to the little kids, no yelling, and absolutely NO pretend wars with the other children. These rules may seem hard to the youth, but I explain my reasons and, for the most part, it works to my advantage.

Although we are adults, the same principles apply to our lives, especially when it comes to the internet, and social media marketing. We sometimes get caught up in the mud, or the bad, of online marketing, only to find ourselves at war with the internet (SOPA, PIPA, or ACTA).

The solution is simple. We must set up rules and guild lines as we do with children and become aware  of our surroundings in order to better understand why things are done certain ways.

That is one of the main differences between children and adults; children see the change… but don’t understand it. We must come to understand the social media world and embrace its changing nature.  If you want to really make social media work in favor of your business, taking the time to understand will give you a leg up on and even help you beat out the big kids in the industry.

To get you and your business going, here are three terrific rules:

Rule 1: Be Yourself

I’ve heard the Internet described as the world’s largest water cooler. This is particularly true when it comes to marketing your product. Nobody is OK with being shouted at, particularly not to buy some random thing you weren’t even looking for. However, in a conversation where questions are asked, pertinent answers can be given and relationships are formed.

This is how social media marketing works as well. If you want to be an effective social marketer, BE YOURSELF. Be conversational and casual. Your product is so good it sells itself right? Let it. Tell people about it in casual terms.

People of all ages enjoy movies. Make a movie showing what your product does to allow them to see the answers to most of their questions with their own eyes.

Ask a repeat customer if they’d mind telling their friends where they made their purchase. People rely on word of mouth more than commercials anyway because it comes from people they trust. They’ll know you have something of worth quicker than you’d think. It’s a matter of treating the internet like a lunch with friends rather than a super bowl spot.

Rule 2: Think Before you Post

We’ve all heard stories about people getting fired over a Facebook status or Tweet. What a lot of companies don’t understand is that, online, your company is viewed as just another individual in a way. What you say, how you say it, and what you don’t say is quickly analyzed and results in a certain type of image.

It needs to be as carefully cultivated as your personal appearance. Want your company to have a friendly, approachable feel? Market that way. Respond to personal inquiries with warmth and understanding and communicate casually with your clientele. Encourage discussion and suggestion on how you can improve… and listen and apply what they say.

Want to kill your social media campaign? Be annoying, offensive, rude, indifferent or preachy. Just like people in the real world, it turns out that nobody wants to hang out at a company website that promotes that kind of stuff either. Think before you post. I cannot emphasize this enough.

Rule 3: Use the Social Media Platforms that Reflect Your Company

There are hundreds of heavily used social media platforms out there. You have a business to run. How in the world are you supposed to keep track of all of them, much less establish a presence for your company on them?

The answer is that you don’t. Let 90% of them slide because they aren’t remotely related to what you do. You are enabled as never before to reach the people looking for your product. Focus on them and the sites they frequent. Sometimes that is hard to determine because there are numerous sites (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) that cover a variety of demographics.

Consider finding a more complete social media marketing tutorial online or a training course through a company that specializes in the industry. Before you buy, use the internet they claim to know all about to verify the effectiveness of their work.

Are their ads, posts, and videos annoying as can be? If so, head elsewhere because your customers will think you are too. Do they peak your interest and drive you forward? You’ve found a keeper. All companies claim to be industry innovators, but remember their “innovation” needs to reflect your identity as a company and your relationship with your clients.

So there you have it: the three basic rules for social media marketing. And “Wow!” I hope more people followed them and stay out of the muck and IN the marketing of social media.