Social media is a series of web apps that allow people to communicate. Because it has billions of users it's also a powerful marketing tool.
There you have it. Social media explained in 140 characters - the maximum number of characters that can be included in one tweet. As you can see above, even 140 characters is enough to communicate a powerful message very succinctly. However, the point of social media is isn't merely communication. In fact, the incredible potential of social media can be summed up in a single 10-character word:
The concept of "social selling" is a lot like traditional relationship-building rather than the advertorial hard sell. It can be a powerful marketing tool the same way an incredible salesperson is - it begins with a relationship. When you engage your target audience using the power of social media, you can develop trust around your brand, allowing your company to reach an individual's mind when they're ready to buy the products or services you offer.
Take a look at some of the best ways you can use social media to develop trust, authority, and positive associations with your brand.
Create connections and build relationships
One of the coolest things social media allows is for individuals to interact with brands, spokespeople, CEOs of major companies, and even world leaders - people who were once inaccessible. This provides an opportunity for companies to form closer relationships with existing clients, with the potential of a ripple-effect that that will reach prospective buyers.
Each social platform offers a different way to connect. For instance, Twitter is an excellent way to field questions, give quick responses, share content related to your niche, and interact with industry influencers. LinkedIn is a valuable resource to capitalize on your professional connections. On Facebook you can build a fan base and interact with them using posts.
Relationship-building is not about updating a Facebook status or blasting your latest product offering out on Twitter. It's the same as building any relationship: you interact. You engage. You talk about what's important to your client base. You let them know you're there for them. Pretty soon, you'll have a community of people who really like you - and people prefer doing business with companies they like.
Build your brand
Many other businesses may have similar products and services to the ones you offer, but your business is unique. Social media marketing offers a way to capitalize on that by serving as an extension of your voice, allowing you to more effectively communicate your brand. Use your social influence to demonstrate your core values, your company's culture, and your business's goals. When you interact with people, interact with them with the weight of your brand, and you'll begin to generate trust.
Your journey toward thought leadership begins with authenticity. As Brett Relander put it in an Entrepreneur Magazine article,
Every brand that succeeds on social media achieves authenticity and a consistent voice. Their audiences recognize the brand’s voice as authentic and influential, shaping the opinions of people and driving action.
Social media is a great reminder that people don't interact with brands, per se. They love to interact with people. As above, in interacting with you, they'll start to like you and they'll be much more likely to check out your business.
Always be helping
If you're following the right people - those who could benefit from your products or services - you'll find opportunities from time to time to lend a helping hand. People use social media to be informed and entertained, but they also use it to air their frustrations (as you've probably noticed on your own Facebook page!).
This provides a truly valuable opportunity. If someone's frustrated about something involving your industry, or asking questions and not getting helped, you can step in as an industry expert and offer them the help and answers they need. One of the best ways to create a raving fan of your business is to offer an unexpected helping hand.
Offer your expertise when a problem in your industry is on the news or trending on social media as well. Offering commentary and solutions will only solidify you as an industry expert. Furthermore, there's also the potential of going viral - people in the news industry scour social media for qualified opinions about industry-specific issues, and having your Facebook status update or tweet shared on broadcast television will draw huge awareness to your brand!
Provide value through content marketing
If you're among the majority of businesses doing some form of content marketing, then social media can be a huge ticket to success. (If you're not doing content marketing, here's why you need it!)
When you develop content that people want to see, it's critical that you're sharing it socially. The reason behind this is simple: good content tends to get passed around. Social gives you the opportunity to entertain and inform a much wider audience, keeping your brand in the front of their minds. Eventually your company will be seen as a subject matter expert - an industry authority to be trusted.
Content marketing supported by social media is also one of the best ways to bolster your site's rankings in the search engines. As you create useful and engaging content, Google begins to view you as a contributing voice in your niche and starts ranking you higher for keywords and phrases that relate to your business. As you share this content socially, it gets exposed to a wider audience.
Ultimately, your business's destiny is in your hands
With social media you have the opportunity to expand every other marketing goal of your business. The best thing about it is what it requires of you: to be sincere, helpful, engaged. To be yourself. It used to be that you'd mix with a room full of people, shake hands, and have a conversation with as many as possible to show the person behind the brand.
Today you can do the same thing with a strong social presence - but instead of an audience of one, you'll have an audience of millions.