How to Use Social Media Effectively – The 5 Golden Rules

Published on November 2, 2013

If you're a small business owner, chances are you've come face-to-face more than once with the idea of promoting yourself on social media. Maybe you've even created a Facebook page profile, or have sent a Tweet or two out every once in awhile.

If you haven't been generating much activity or are a complete beginner to social media, listen up. Here are our 5 golden rules for marketing yourself on social media websites.

1. The more you give, the more you'll get

Social media typically doesn't respond well to the waiting game - that is, one post on one topic on one platform at one point during the day. If you want to be recognized, frequency and volume are your best friends.

Say you have a blog on your website (the best way for small businesses to generate website activity, we've found). You Tweet the link once, hope someone will see it and click on it, and are done with it.

Here's what is wrong with that picture. Lets equate the social media to a 24/7 crowded and loud house party. Each room is equivalent to a different social media site. Say you're standing in the living room (Twitter) and you say something that you want everyone in the entire house to hear. If you only say your comment once, your immediate neighbors may or may not hear you, and those standing in other rooms probably don't even know you exist.

See where I'm going with this?

If you want your message heard, you have to rise above the noise by simply being ambitiously active. Just because you've said what you want to say once doesn't mean it will be heard. The more you say it, the better you'll be heard.

(Disclaimer: Don't be spammy. Literally posting the same link/phrase over and over again will only get annoying. Be creative. Share your information differently, keeping the same core message or intent.)

2. Let social media work for you while you're NOT on the clock

Sure, social media posts should frequently appear on multiple different platforms. But don't worry - you don't have to be living on these websites in order to make this happen.

There are a good array of social media posting services out there that can schedule your posts for a future date and time. Our favorite is Hootsuite. Hootsuite allows you to schedule out posts across multiple different social media platforms at multiple different times. If you really wanted, you could schedule out your posts for months at a time and not have to worry.

3. Tags, Hashtags, @names

You want your posts to be found. One of the best ways to do this, particularly to reach an audience that isn't already "following" you, is by using keyword referencing tools and personal "tags". These work on most social media platforms now - Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus certainly allow searching and identifying by hashtag and name respectively.

If you're a coffee company, for example, and you're advertising your new pumpkin spiced caramel chai (...which should 100% exist), you may want to use some hashtags like: #coffee #chai and/or #falltreat. If you think that a particular person would like this product, you can "@name" their username: "@geekchicago I know how much you wanted a #pumpkinspicechai #yourewelcome". Remember that hashtags are good if someone is searching for them (e.g. #Chicago #Dining #BostonRedSox), but you'll often see hashtags used non-intuitively, a sort of cultural meme (e.g. no one is searching for #worldsgreatesthotbeverage, but sometimes it gets a point across).

Similar disclaimer here, moderation is the key. If you're overloading all of your content with hashtags, your tweets will look like social media pit crews, not the nuggets of gold they should be.

4. Share content that is NOT your own

It's not all about you. I mean, it can be, but if you want to really generate some social media back-and-forth contacts and gain some new leads out of it, sharing is caring.

Have friends and family share interesting posts, or are you seeing some interesting content from a company you like? Re-tweet their content, or "share" it on Facebook. Not only will this put you on their radar for them sharing YOUR content down the line, it shows that you are an active member of the online community - it will be appreciated.

5. Patience, young Padawan

Generating interest doesn't happen overnight. If you are truly a beginner to social media, we suggest you read our Social Media Startup Guide, which will help you with developing brand recognition and direct you to where your activity should be.

Need some help getting started? Don't forget to check out our "Social Media Startup Guide," or send us an e-mail if you want some personal help from us! We'll be happy to get you on your way.