#1 Research and plan
Research what your public is interested in and plan the social media campaign around that. If you do this right, you've won half the battle. The way to do this all-important research is by first finding out where your customers go - which websites, forums and communities… then be there! Don’t waste time on sites your target audience would never visit – like a gaming site if you are targeting young mothers (they have no time for games). If you are working in the beauty industry, for example, check to see if your consumers are interested in things like the potential side effects of certain ingredients on the skin, environmental impact and animal testing. Become a master of the "soft" sell. If consumers have certain concerns, explain your point of view on them in friendly conversation by joining forum conversation threads. Be sure you never lie!
#2 Be Honest
Telling the truth (in this case about your company, yourself, your services or products) is essential to building a reputation and creating your positive image. People will trust you if you follow this guideline. Even more important, if you do make a mistake, go ahead and fess up then apologize. People are more prone to “forgive” when you are upfront.
Do you have something to say? Then say it in an interesting and creative manner. Don’t just throw random messages into the social media space. Every post in your blog, every Tweet or LinkedIn discussion should be planned around a pre-determined social media strategy (yes, you do need one). Respond to questions and comments from everyone who visits your networking sites; comment and compliment other people's posts on a competitor's blog, re-tweet good stories - share. Use tools and widgets to spread the word as fast as possible. Try adding the “share” button to your own posts or connect the company website to your own Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts. You want your message to reach as far as possible.
#4 Listen, listen, listen
Talking and sharing are half of the conversation necessary when using social media. Listening is equally as important if not more so. If you have an unhappy customer, find out why. Consider the complaint and answer it immediately. Show respect and understanding for everyone who takes the time to enter your conversation, even those who are not potential customers. Everyone will be appreciative and flattered by the attention. Every person you connect with online has a personal network with an average of six layers of "interconnectedness." Conversing with one individual also means potentially spreading your message to others.
# 5 Get ahead of the competition
Monitor what the competitors are doing online. Equally important, you must also start tracking your own reputation using online tools and software programs. Trackur, twitrrart, trendpedia, socialmention, buzzlogic insights, streamwall, socialminder, blogpulse, and even simple google alerts can be useful toward this end. Follow the trends. What are other consumers in the industry interested in or talking about and what are your competitors doing about it? Be “one step ahead,” whenever possible. If you can provide more helpful information, interact more often and pay extra attention, you will come out the winner.
Trying to market anything via social media is a lot like being in a successful relationship. It requires planning, effort and lots of attention!