Are You Socially Awkward?

You’ve no doubt heard about how social media is taking over the world – or at least the Internet marketing world. And depending on your perspective, this takeover may seem hostile, especially if you’re new to online marketing and have just started to build your own Internet business.

The sheer volume of different social media types and websites can be overwhelming to new marketers. Between Digg, Reddit, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Twitter, Flickr, and countless others, even seasoned Internet marketing professionals can have trouble keeping up.

It’s important, however, not to let fear and inexperience keep you from a marketing channel that could do wonders for your business. You may be “socially awkward” now, but you don’t have to stay that way. I’m going to give you a few techniques that will help you get started marketing your site through social media, starting with the first and most important one:

• Don’t try everything at once

The biggest mistake new social media marketers make is trying to play catch-up by creating accounts on every social media site they’ve ever heard or read about. This is a surefire way to rapid burnout.

The amount of time it would take to maintain all those accounts would suck any and all time away from running your business. Plus, by trying to juggle profiles and build networks on too many sites at once, you’d do an ineffective job of marketing.

Start slowly. Maybe even start by surveying your current customers to see which social media site most of them use. Once you dip your toe in and get a feel for how a particular site functions, how its users behave and the kind of content/conversations they respond to, you’ll have a better idea of how that site fits with your message. And once you know that, you’ll know if that is a site to keep and nurture or one to scrap. You can ramp up from there.

If you run a political blog or website, for instance, you may find that Reddit members respond to your content better than Digg members.

Or, if you’re a photographer, you may think it’s a no-brainer to open a Flickr account, only to find that you can get more inquiries from users of Google’s Picasa.

Then there’s Twitter. What can I say about Twitter? Okay, I’m not going to lie… I hate Twitter. The minutia of Twitter drives me crazy. But that might be because I haven’t figured out a good use for it. Dell certainly did. They managed to turn Twitter into a million-dollar sales channel for their computers by using it to alert users of new sales and discounts.

But that’s the beauty of social media. There is no right or wrong way to use it. It’s like every other marketing channel. You have to test to find out what works best for your business.

• Have a unique purpose

Another mistake marketers make is using different social media sites to simply regurgitate the same tired message over and over – sometimes with the same exact copy!

How could this be useful to your customers? Why would they want to connect with you through Twitter or Facebook, only to get the same thing they can see on your site or in your newsletter? That’s like telling someone to put on the TV, radio, portable DVD player, and iPod at the same time to watch the same movie.

What your customers want is the equivalent of the special features section of the DVD. They’ve seen the movie. That’s your main content, right? Your main message on your site, in your newsletter, or your blog. Now – to really get to know you and build a relationship with your business and your content – they want the interviews, the outtakes, the deleted scenes, the director’s cut, the commentary. You get the idea.

Here at ETR, for example, we strive to provide additional unique content for you through our YouTube channel. We include things like additional business and copywriting tips, clips from conferences, and even the opinions of your fellow ETR readers.

Because we’ve received so much positive feedback on this additional content, we’re expanding to bring you our soon-to-be-launched ETR TV channel.

The point is to use social media to deliver a different message, a unique spin – to show your personality. Make sure the message is remarkable in a way that’s a bit different from your regular content, and you will keep your customers interested. Plus, you will entice new prospects to start a relationship with you.

• Be genuine

I’ve mentioned this before when talking about using social media for link building. It’s especially important when you’re trying to build relationships with customers and prospects. No matter which site or sites you choose to use, make sure you really are connecting with them and not just hammering them with ad copy.

You are networking, after all. You wouldn’t go to a business networking cocktail reception wearing a sandwich board and handing out flyers. Don’t do it online either. Your customers have needs, their friends have needs, their friends’ friends have needs. Fulfill those needs – even in the smallest of ways – and you’ll have an army of advocates faster than you can say “social butterfly.”

When it comes to social media marketing, the rules are pliable. So long as you are connecting with your audience in a meaningful way, you can experiment and have fun.

I’ll leave you with an example of some really daring social media marketing by Skittles that has the Internet marketing community tweeting in their seats.

Go to Skittles.com and take a look at their new corporate website. Thanks to some clever thinking and a few programming tweaks, they’ve turned their site into a social media extravaganza.

Will this bold move be a success? Only time will tell. Let me know what you think in the comments section here – and feel free to share some of your own social media marketing success stories!

[Ed. Note: How have you used social media to market your business? Which networks do you belong to? Which networks have worked? And which have bombed? Let us know right here.

Social media is just one way to market your business. For a dozen proven methods of connecting with your prospective customers, pick up a copy of Michael Masterson and MaryEllen Tribby’s Amazon.com bestseller, Changing the Channel: 12 Easy Ways to Make Millions for Your Business.]

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