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The Twelve Secrets of Social Media Success

By Hector Cisneros
Courtesy of Flickr
Several years ago, a friend told me about this great new network that was going to eliminate my need for going to network meetings. He said he could go online and connect with people. I decided to join that network to see what all the hoopla was all about. At the time my friend was talking about LinkedIn. A year later I also joined Facebook and then followed that up by joining Twitter. Later, I also joined FourSquare, Stumbleupon, YouTube, Ecademy, MerchantCircle and Google+ (just to name a few). I soon learned that using social networks was very different than most forms of online marketing. I quickly realized that social networking was very much like face to face networking. Both were a form of word of mouth marketing. Both had fairly ridged rules of how you could build credibility, specific rules that would endear you to followers and rules that would get you un-followed or un-friended very quickly.

Back then, I was determined to come up with a set of social networking rules that would be considered unchanging. A set of principles, if you will, that would guide a social networker through the ever changing landscape of social media. In 2009, I had just published the first edition of my book called "60 Seconds To success". This book was all about the principles involved in face to face networking, also known as word of mouth marketing. I had learned these principles over the last 30 years of my business career. I learned many of these principles through experience by using them as a member of various networking Groups. In particular I learned a lot as a BNI member (for 20 years) and BNI director (6 years). I found that lots of people liked and bought my book and felt it was very useful. I published the second and revised edition in June of 2010 and again it was a big hit.

My first book on Amazon
In 2010, I also had a big revelation. I discovered that a lot of the principles that worked for me in Social networking were the same principles that I had written about in my book in 2009. I set out to see if all the principles I had learned in face to face networking would apply to online social networking. I quickly discovered that there were many overlaps with only subtle differences. I also discovered that these two different forms of networking could complement each other. Since then I have compiled 12 rules, (actually a baker’s dozen) that act as guidelines both in social networks and face to face networking. This article explores these principles and lays them out for you to learn and use. These 12 secrets will allow you to grow your following and build your credibility. Doing so will increase sales and make your social networking easier. So let's get started. 

The 12 Secrets of Social Media

1.    No one joins a social network to be advertised to.  At the same time, they are giving up a lot of personal information. This information is in turn used to target them with advertising messages. To reach these prospects, provide targeted and useful information that fulfills their wants. Rarely post subtle commercials. Any commercial had better provide useful benefits like discounts, coupons or free access to other useful material. Overt-selling is a fast way to get blocked and unfriended. They join to connect with friends, find interesting facts, be entertained and to share information like documents, photos and videos.

2.  Social networks are best utilized as a word of mouth marketing medium. Testimonials and referrals are powerful and viral in this medium for getting your message out. If you can get your customers to sing your praises, you will do well. Every testimonial can be used many times. They can be used in multiple networks and be introduced in multiple ways. Also once posted in a testimonial album, they can become focal points where you can send prospects who need reassurance. They can also be used in ads via pay per click. These ads can be very powerful. This is especially true if you incorporate testimonials from that specific social network in that network’s ad space.

3.    Social Networking is Not Free!  It takes a lot of time and effort to set up a social network profile. Multiply this times the top five networks and you can see why you could spend a significant amount of time getting set up.  However, this is only the beginning. You now have to provide useful, relevant and timely content to build your audience. Researching this type of content takes time and posting it also takes time. In any endeavor time equals money. This is why social media is used by so many start up businesses. They have more time than they have money. However once you reach the stage that you have revenue coming in (cash flow), it makes sense to outsource this because it takes a lot of time and thus you would be losing money because this will take away from production and sales.

4.    Social Networks are not private. You also give up a significant amount of your privacy. For some this is a heavy price, for others it’s worth getting the infrastructure for networking without having to pay a monthly subscription fee. Having said that, understand that social networks are frequently perused by criminals fishing for unsuspecting victims to defraud them or steal their identity. Make sure you never provide financial information, passwords or too much information that could allow a criminal to guess your password. Purchase Life Lock or other ID protection plan and be vigilant and suspicious of what people are asking for.

5.  Followers need your attention in two ways: The ones you want to keep need one type of attention and those you want to get rid of need another. Once you start having followers you will need to manage them. Thanking, engaging followers and answering their questions takes time. You will also have to manage who is following you. Removing undesirable followers is a maintenance chore that must be done on a regular basis. You don't have to follow everyone and you don't have to accept everyone who wants to follow you. You will have to walk a fine line between being tolerant and selective.

 6. Social Networks don’t grow on their own! To build a large social network you will have to actively invite people to follow you. Most people underestimate the time it takes to build a following of customers and prospects. A network of a few hundred people is not that useful. To play a significant role you need 1000 plus followers. This cannot be reached overnight. However, you can easily reach 1000 followers by inviting 10 people a day and converting this effort to 4 new followers each day. By the end of the year you will have over 1400 followers as fans.

 7.  Subscribing your company to the top five Social Networks does not mean you’re using social networks! Having social network symbols listed on your website is useless if you're not actively using these networks. Networking means Net-Work, not Net-wait! Having set up your social profiles and adding them to your website is only the beginning.   If you want to get a return, you will have to put the effort into utilizing your networks. If you post  useful content and have either a highly targeted audience (like your customer base) or a very large audience (say 10,000+ followers) you can use your network to launch products, and drive traffic to produce sales.  However, this is all predicated on the premise that you have built up social equity, credibility and trust with your followers; otherwise your posts will be ineffective. Think of the sales rule of 10! For every 100 people you touch only 10 will be paying attention and of those 10, only one may be ready to act.  If you are not working the network it is not going to do anything for you. Work means posting useful content and engaging followers on a weekly if not daily basis.

 8. Your audience will only follow you if you give them want they want! Audiences follow people for many reasons. They might follow you because you both share similar views. Another reason could be that you provide useful and relevant information they want. A follower may find your content timely and or entertaining or they may just follow you because you are famous in their eyes. All of these reasons have one thing in common: It’s all about them, the follower and not about you! Make them happy by providing them with the timely, useful, relevant and entertaining content they crave on a consistent basis. Sometimes you have to give, give, and give in order for followers to reciprocate!

 9. Always strive to look professional and competent. Make sure your posts are checked and double-checked for grammar and spelling errors. Grammar and spelling mistakes never make you look good. Always give credit where credit is due. Never take credit for something you did not create. Understand your audience and provide posts at their education level. Don't try and be cool, fancy or smart by using big words, unless your audience is a bunch of PhD's. Minimize tech speak and acronyms if at all possible. Try and write on a fifth grade level whenever possible.

 10.Use “leverage” to magnify your message and to produce buzz and viral distribution. Whenever possible, post to as many social networks simultaneously as you can. Be aware that some networks require a different format or have different limitations. A post written for Facebook can be very different than a Tweet! Use aggregation tools like Hootsuite, Hootlet, Tweet Deck and others to schedule and post to your networks. Use information gathering services like Google Alerts, PaperLi and others newsgathering services to have content brought to you. Gather and organize your posts in advance then schedule your posts with the aggregation software of your choice.

11.  Thank all followers whenever it’s appropriate.  This includes new followers, mentions, retweets, shares, forwards, likes, comments and even questions. We all have he ard Grandma’s rules of social etiquette. Rules like: Be nice to nice people. Be courteous, say please and thank you, help others, etc. If you want people to follow you, be nice to them. A simple thank you carries more weight than you realize. However, don't patronize people, it makes them mad and it's disingenuous.

 12.  Helping others get started can be a way of helping you grow your network.  As a matter of fact, helping others in general will help you grow your social networks. Helping new subscribers connect with others builds social equity. The more help you provide, the more value you create, the more social equity you will generate. Go through the trouble of pointing out help files and network tutorials. Show followers a few of the useful tools the network has and of course, add them to your network. Then ask them to connect you to their friends.

 13.  Ask and you will receive. If you want people to share your information, retweet your tweets and comment on your latest post, ask them to!  If you want to engage people, be engaging, ask open questions, compliment their achievements, praise their good fortune and don't forget to "like", share and retweet their post as well. Don’t be pushy! Like begets like, if you don’t ask you won't receive!

Since I began using social networking in 2004, I have looked for universal rules that govern all networks. In my 30+ years of business I have engaged in face to face networking and found many principles that have not changed in all that time. Online social networking follows many of these same rules. I have written extensively about word of mouth marketing and have been writing about social networking since 2009. The fact of the matter is that social networking is word of mouth marketing gone electronic.  This makes it faster, viral and much more pervasive. It is also more powerful as your message can be spread faster and farther than face to face could ever do. However, these two word of mouth venues are not mutually exclusive. They actually complement each other. Face-to-Face networks allow you to build trust and credibility faster. In turn, you can use this trust to create testimonials and referrals that can spread around the world much faster than they could with face to face networking alone. In this article, I have discussed over a dozen universal principles of social networking. Use these principles to grow your prospect contact sphere, expand your client base and spread your positive message around the world. Used correctly nothing can outperform word of mouth marketing ability to ease the sales closing process. Use these principles wisely and make this your best year yet.

If you liked this article pass it along to your friends. If you have a comment or other ideas leave them in the comment section. If you want to contact me, my contact information is listed below and on this blog.  

That's my opinion; I look forward to reading yours. 

If you like this article, you can find more by typing “social media" in the search box at the top left of this blog. If you found this article useful, share it with your friends, families, and co-works. If you have a comment related to this article, leave it in the comment sections below.  If you would like a free copy of our book, "Internet Marketing Tips for the 21st Century," fill out the form in the upper right-hand side bar to get instant access. 

Hector Cisneros is COO and Director of Social Media Marketing at Working the Web to Win, an award-winning Internet marketing company based in Jacksonville, Florida.  He is also co-host of the weekly Internet radio show, "Working the Web To Win" on, which airs every Tuesday at 4 p.m. Eastern. Hector is a syndicated writer and published author of “60 Seconds to Success.”

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