3 Social Media Tips For Businesses

Want to know where the social media heavy hitters come to roost each year—the not terribly angry birds who stand out among run-of-the-mill winged species? Award shows honoring innovators who churn out the clever newsletters, direct mailers, landing pages, electronic media ads, and other communications mankind uses to grab attention, allegiance, and sales.

Media innovators come up with clever campaigns to drive traffic and--if the gods are kind--snag an award or two. Check out Webby Awards winners and Social Influencers to discover what they come up with to drive traffic and loyalty.

Why visit a website showcasing digital stars on today’s social media scene? Because as a small business, you need muscle, great ideas and inexpensive methods to support your enterprise and you can’t afford the click-driving professionals Google, Netflix, TED, Tumblr, and Dollar Shave Club hire to mount campaigns. But you can be equally clever by “borrowing” ideas and twisting them into campaigns that meet your need for exposure. A word of caution: be realistic and adapt wisely. The right adaptation could make your name a household word—even if you’re operating your small biz from your own household.

1. Recognize the importance of timing. E-mail, tweet or post to your blog so your marketing message lands on electronic devices at inopportune times and you might as well save your effort. Marketing consultant Jay Baer told Forbes’ magazine that timing the arrival of social media messages is an exquisite skill: you want your information to arrive when there’s enough time not only to read but to click through to learn more. Baer coined the phrase “micro-opportunity window” to describe the exquisite ballet that takes place when decision makers have enough time to thoroughly explore your message, offer and call to action. For that reason, late in the day is an opportune time to spread your message. Social media expert Dan Zarella agrees. He Tweets in the late afternoon and early evening to attract commuters and folks working late. His weekend Tweets are as productive, he says, pointing to noticeable increases in click-throughs.

2. Ask for what you want. It’s as plain as the nose on your face and likely a lesson you learned as a kid, but in today’s competitive social media milieu, it bears repeating: your target audience isn’t made up of mind readers. You must not only grab attention but get buy-in by engaging visitors. Do that by asking probing questions, using images, offering a deal or even challenging visitors to take your “quiz” with a reward awaiting their participation. Pepper every message with the hottest of hot keywords related to your business and avoid keywords that turn people off. A study of 20,000 random tweets warns against using the words “clearance,” “coupon” and other discount phrases; perhaps because people have become de-sensitized by so many assaults on their sensibilities via website and retail store penetration. Bottom line: your message must include a compelling reason for clicking through and that all hangs on asking for what you want via your tone and call to action.

3. Fight competitors on their turf. Investigate your competitors assiduously enough to find out what they lack. Case in point: Soft drink brands have historically battled for market share, so when the Pepsi Next team launched their introductory campaign, they knew their market: people who love soft drinks, crave less sugar and dislike the taste of diet soda. Pepsi creatives conceived a hysterical “Internet Taste Test” associated with Funny or Die. When launched, the viral campaign that ensued—because it was so silly--bounced off Twitter and Facebook to generate traffic Coke people could only envy! Not bad for the reinvention of a product that’s already so heavily populated on grocery shelves, shoppers must plunder a jungle of bubbly liquid to find their brand. This directive bears repeating: Find out what people want that the competition isn’t providing and then give it to them. Your website, blog, media blasts and other tools exist to serve you so get serious about your research efforts and you and your team could morph from David into Goliath when you’re done.

The aforementioned three tips are only the tip of the iceberg. By upping your timing game, asking for what you want and sleuthing out the vulnerabilities of your competitors you’ll be armed to do battle on the field of your choice. That’s why it’s so important to develop your own “swipe file” to help you organize and “borrow ideas” from everyone from your competitors to your friends. Re-purposing ideas on the fly are no easy fete, but if you monitor websites, squirrel away business cards, retail campaign collateral, collect newsletters and direct response vehicles--and keep an eye on landing pages and pull-down menus as part of a regular "reconnaissance" routine, you can outsmart them all.