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How to connect with people through social media

So you have a Facebook fan page, Twitter account or other social media tool and you’re wondering what to post and how to get your fans and followers to engage in a conversation with you. This is the article for you…

Who are you?

When someone connects with me, one of the first things I do is look at their profile. I want to know who they are and what they tweet about or what their interests are. If they leave their “about me” section blank, I don’t follow. I don’t know who they are or whether their posts will even interest me.

A simple one or two sentence description can do wonders to increase your followers.  Keep it simple and don’t try to pitch your product. Mention your main niche or what your primary topic is so you attract people who share your same passions. In other words… introduce yourself.

Start with the 80/20 Rule

Social media is not a marketplace for spam.  If you do nothing but plug your own stuff, people will instantly be turned off and un-fan you.  They might even just be polite about it and “hide” you from their stream.  Either way, you lose.

This is where the 80/20 rule comes into play and it’s relatively simple. For the most part, you want to post things that are NOT a sales pitch (see ideas below) – that’s your 80%.  The other 20% of your posts can be pitches for your product or a special offer, etc.  So if you tweet 20 times per day, only make about 4 of those related to selling something. Your fans won’t mind the “ads” as long as there’s more fun and useful content sandwiched in between.

If you start out with this rule in mind, it will be smooth sailing for you. If you’ve already blown it and posted 100 product links in a row, delete your account and start over.  No one is paying attention to your current one.

Make a plan

HootSuite - Social Media DashboardSocial media is typically spontaneous. People usually post things as they happen – like a news outlet of sorts. That doesn’t mean you have to constantly be checking and posting to your social media apps. With some careful planning and some secret tools – like HootSuite – you can create a months worth of posts more and schedule them in advance. This is an incredible time saver and it enables you to reach visitors in different time zones or keep your fans engaged while you’re on vacation. You can still post spontaneously, and use the scheduled content as a backup for when you’re too busy to keep up or your creativity is momentarily tapped.

Planning what to say can be tough, but if you stick to a few predetermined themes it can be as easy as copy/paste. Here are some ideas to get you thinking…

Creative Ideas

As stated previously, social media is usually spontaneous, but coming up with topics on-the-fly is not always a good way to roll. It can give you instant writer’s block and trying to come up with a single tweet can be a great way to procrastinate.

Instead, pick a topic or a theme and start brainstorming a list of potential ideas from the suggestions below. You then build an arsenal of content to pluck from when you need it, or you can take your brilliant ideas and schedule them as future tweets.

  • Ask questions that are fun and easy to answer. For example if your audience is mostly female, ask who their favorite author is and why. Be current – if the Oscars are on, ask about a movie that may be relevant to your topic. Keep it simple and make it related to your niche as much as possible.
  • Post a poll. Some social media tools allow you to poll your audience. People are a little more prone to participate when it’s as easy as clicking a button to vote. Polls can also be embedded into your blog (ask us about setting this feature up for you) and integrated into comments.
  • Ask an off-the-wall question. “When was the last time you went to the bathroom outside?” Often the answers you get make for a good blog post later. Keep it relevant or just plain fun. Let people know you have a sense of humor.
  • Post Videos. Who doesn’t like videos? Or retro commercials or 80′s flashbacks? Throw in some fun YouTube clips or even make your own. Be smart about it and try to work your product in like the blender guy.
  • Post facts, inspirational quotes, historical trivia…whatever fits your theme. For example, a feminist site would do well to post “On this date in…” type trivia with facts about the women’s movement.
  • Share the Love! Don’t be conceited and post only links to your blog, your products, your site or links to other sites that mention your site… share your knowledge. If you’re aspiring to be an expert in your niche, then you probably already have a pretty steady stream of content and related topics flowing into your RSS reader. Don’t hog the resources – retweet (share) them. Your fans will thank you.

Step it up a notch

  • Use pictures. Whenever a social medium allows photos, use them! They are guaranteed to get more attention than text.
  • Use hash tags. Hash tags are words and phrases preference with the pound sign. Like #BadDay, #girlsrule, #MarthaStewart. You can make up your own or use ones you see others using.  These tags help others find related content for a specific topic.
  • Give credit where credit is due. If you borrow a quote, cite the author and also mention the person who posted it. Use the RT (retweet) feature and promote others in your niche. Do this and they will come… because if you promote others, they will most likely reciprocate and you will gain new fans you wouldn’t have otherwise reached.

Mix it up

Unless it makes sense for your particular topic – like if you study obsessive compulsive disorder for example – don’t be predictable. Don’t fire off the same promotion or put your “quote of the day” in the same time slot every day. You will miss most of your audience. Remember the Internet is on 24/7 and your biggest fans could be on the other side of the globe. Mix up your content and vary your posting times. You can still use an automated schedule (see HootSuite above).

Double up

Doubling up only works well if you have a lot of content you can spread out over a day or so. To double up means to post the same link to a blog post or promotion more than once (or even more than twice). This is also helpful to reach an International audience because you can post the links several hours apart to reach different time zones. You’ll have to be careful with this one so you don’t come across as spammy. Apply the 80/20 rule here.

Talk back

Once your fans start replying to your tweets or commenting on your quote of the day, be sure to acknowledge their comment even if it’s just to say I agree or thank them for sharing their thoughts. Just be sure you aren’t starting one-sided conversations and then not listening for a response. In other words, don’t start topics you’re not interested in discussing. You never know which ones will spark mega discussions or even go viral.

Getting Fans

Fans can often be hard to come by, but when you’ve got them you certainly appreciate them. Your social media followers can often be more valuable than your web site visitors. Why?  Because most people will check their Facebook account daily. Make sure you’re a useful part of their stream. Provide them with quotes, jokes or inspirational stories they look forward to reading and you’ll have a fan for life. And eventually they may buy your product or refer your service because they have connected with you on a social level.

The first thing you should do to get fans is ask. Make sure you have social media icons/badges/fan boxes in prominent places on your web site. Point blank ask people to join your social network in a blog post or on your personal profiles. The cool thing about social media is that once someone joins, several of their friends may see your site listed on their friend’s profile and also connect with you.

The Facebook “Like” button (as seen at the end of this article) should be an important part of your web site. If it isn’t, contact us to have one installed immediately. Bookmarks and other social sharing options should also be present if you write compelling, relevant content that you want people to read. Your web site content will get a lot more attention and you will gain fans when you make it easy for your visitors to share your stuff with their friends.

Recommendations from a friend are the number one way to make sales. Thyme For Design is living proof of that. Our business is 100% referred – we’ve never had a need to advertise.

And look below to see how easy we made it to share this article about social media with your friends. Go ahead – click one of those beautiful buttons and spread the love…