Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9 pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with @TedRubin. Ted Rubin is a leading Social Marketing Strategist, Keynote Speaker, Brand Evangelist, and Acting CMO of Brand Innovators. Many people in the social media world know Ted for his enthusiastic, energetic and undeniably personal connection to people. Ted is the most followed CMO on Twitter according to Social Media Marketing Magazine; one of the most interesting CMOs on Twitter according to Say Media, #13 on Forbes Top 50 Social Media Power Influencers, and number #2 on the Leadtail list of Top 25 People Most Mentioned by digital marketers. For more info, visit tedrubin.com.
SmallBizLady: Why should small businesses be using social media?
Ted Rubin: The most prominent reasons Small Businesses should be using social media are responding to customer questions, networking and education. Social is also an incredibly efficient relationship-building tool when you bother to interact and engage. Social is not that complicated… think about what you do face-to-face and translate it to the digital world. With all the informational available it’s easy to look your customers, and prospective customers in the eye digitally. It gives you the ability to interact and engage with your audience/community 24/7.
SmallBizLady: So what does it take to get the small business involved?
Ted Rubin:Well, extra time (possibly the biggest barrier), money (but really not much) and people. With social media being so time intensive, and best results coming from directly being involved, the barriers to entry get higher as a business gets smaller, but not insurmountable for those willing to put in the time, especially since it can be done at all hours, and some of the most effective times to connect via social media are very early in the morning and very late at night.
SmallBizLady: Why does social media seem so complicated?
Ted Rubin: Social is not that complicated. Contrary to popular belief, people don’t suddenly sprout two heads when they sit in front of a computer monitor or pull out their mobile phone to look something up. In fact, just look at history. They didn’t sprout two heads when radio came along–or television–or cell phones–or any other communication medium for that matter. We didn’t re-invent our species; we just learned to communicate using different channels. We’re still motivated by the same buying emotions.
SmallBizLady: Take us back to marketing basics, a little 101, if you will.
Ted Rubin: Here are Three Key Marketing 101 Lessons that never go out of style and all small business owners need to remember:
- You are NOT Your Customer–Do Your Research: One of the most important lessons every marketer should remember is to market to your target audience–not yourself. Yet how many times does your inner voice tell you ‘They’ll never buy that…?’
- Don’t spout information YOU THINK your market wants to hear: Listen to your prospects first–and social is just about the greatest listening tool ever invented. It’s focus groups on steroids! Use social media to listen to who your ideal customer is and what she wants before you start messaging.
- Frequency Isn’t a Bad Thing: Social reach and frequency are tangential to good marketing, as long as your content is relevant to your market. How many times does a potential customer or partner need to see your message before they convert? You might as well ask how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop (remember that old TV commercial?). Some will bite after a dozen licks; for others, it’s three–depends on where your audience is in a given moment when they see your message. And remember, you’re not just talking to one person here–you’re getting in front of your audience’s friends and their friends as well. The more the merrier. So do not forget about good ole “reach and frequency.”
SmallBizLady: Why is content important?
Ted Rubin: Your content is the ad for your business. Content marketing is so much more valuable than straight-up advertising. Content engages people and brings them back again and again. Content lends itself to story telling and relationship building. Good content, that people get value from, creates loyalty and advocacy.
Don’t lose sight of the fact you should be testing different things in your social media channels. You can always take something down quickly if you need to.
SmallBizLady: How do you approach content marketing and creation for a small business?
Ted Rubin: Don’t over-complicate content creation. Responding to people on Twitter is considered content, for example.
Consider posting your blog posts on as many places as possible like Facebook, Tumblr, Google+, Twitter. Repurpose your posts on sites like Listly (where you can turn your post into a list). Repurpose material that you already have into Facebook posts or Tweets or short videos.
Test blog post ideas out on Twitter. If people respond to it, go ahead and write the blog post.
SmallBizLady: How can employees assist and be involved?
Ted Rubin: Empower your employees to build their own personal brand. They can be tweeting, posting on Facebook, etc. You can also repurpose their content.
Make it easy for people to re-post your blog posts. Consider testing incentivizing people to share your content.
SmallBizLady: Where do small business owners get social media wrong?
Ted Rubin: Don’t think of social media as advertising. Think of it as communicating with your audience and building relationships.
Have a strategy in place for how you’re going to drive people to your social media channels. You can aggressively grow your following on Twitter without any fear of retribution. Just make sure you are giving value.
Don’t buy Twitter followers. It doesn’t work. Follow people who are also following brands in your own industry and competitors.
SmallBizLady: How do you create the social buzz?
Ted Rubin: If your product is fantastic, when identified and energized your Advocates will spread the word like wildfire. Social networks and traditional word-of-mouth will start buzzing with your product, and sales will reflect your Advocates’ delight. But your advocates won’t try to get someone to buy your sub-par product, and they certainly won’t apologize for you or your product. Don’t try to make your Advocates do that work for you, because they won’t… and they shouldn’t have to.
The sale starts with your product, not your Advocates; your Advocates are simply the reward you get for ensuring your product is and does everything you promised it would (if not more!). Your strongest relationships are built on trust – trust that your brand is committed to producing quality products and services – and if you don’t deliver that top-notch product, that essential trust is quickly lost. Along with the sales.
You might be tempted to use social media to over-highlight the best parts of your product in the hopes that the disappointing parts won’t be noticed. But even the best social media relationships can’t perform magic… they won’t make up for a less-than-great product, and in all likelihood the strategy will backfire.
However, the good news is that when your product is strong and does carry through on your brand promises, advocates (both consumer and employee), through their social relationships, can skyrocket your product sales. Advocates engage, word gets out, and sales happen. As Seth Godin says, consider the category of ‘without apology:’
“People will go out of their way to buy and recommend products that don’t require an apology.”
They will go out of their way for you. Because they want to… because your product is what it is supposed to be and has passed Social QC.
Don’t waste your time trying to hide your product flaws. Invest your time in striving for a flawless product, and give your Advocates something to get excited about!
SmallBizLady: Building customer relationships, how and why?
Ted Rubin: Customer service should be considered an investment center and align closely with your marketing team. No matter how good your branding is. It’s really about what people say, think and feel about you.
After every interaction with your company, your customers should be “skipping away.” It’s about making every interaction remarkable.
If you’re not using social media to listen to and engage with your customers, you’re missing the point. Clicking a button does not a friend make. Take the time to develop real relationships with people. It scales because most participate vicariously.
Most people are “lurkers” in social media. They’re consuming your content but not responding. You’re still building a relationship with these people.
If you want to build a sustainable business, you have to add value. Relationships are a very big part of that.
Ask your customers how they found you. It’s so easy to do this.
A/B test your marketing efforts. Meaning, start doing something different from what you’ve been doing and if you see a positive result, continue.
SmallBizLady: What are some tips for small businesses starting with social media?
Ted Rubin: Start by listening and following people in social media so you can understand the medium. If you’re just starting out, one of the best books you can read is “Crush It” by Gary Vaynerchuk. Another book that’s a must read is Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People.”
Before responding to people on Twitter, look at their profile. Refer to them by name; mention something personal about them that’s in their bio.
When starting out, don’t worry about having a full-blown strategy. Jump into social media.
Things will likely change within the first 30 days anyway. Evolve your strategy by DOING. Pick a couple platforms where your customers are and then you be there too. Instagram, Facebook and Twitter are likely good places to start.
SmallBizLady: What tools would you recommend small businesses use to manage their social media presence?
Ted Rubin: When asked, my suggestion for the best social media tool is… the very personal tool of relationship building.
2015 needs to be the year of doing what I call… Looking People in the Eye Digitally. The last few decades of marketing tactics have made us lazy communicators and I’ve had just about enough. Most often we don’t even pay attention to whom we are talking to other than via the data we collect (and even that’s a maybe). In order to fix this and really start to benefit from social relationships we need to start looking people in the eye digitally. It’s time to stop making excuses, and start bringing in-person social skills to the digital world. All of the positive benefits are out there waiting, and it’s up to us to make the effort to realize them.
If you found this interview helpful, join us on Wednesdays 8-9 pm ET; follow @SmallBizChat on Twitter. Here’s how to participate in #SmallBizChat:http://bit.ly/S797e. For more tips on how start or grow your small business subscribe to Melinda Emerson’s blog http://www.succeedasyourownboss.com.