Five pillars of social media marketing

Whether you’re just getting started with social media or you're a major influencer, here are some basic principles that you should know.

Five pillars of social media marketing

It's easy to get whipped up into the hype of social media marketing. Maybe you're just getting started with a new brand account, or maybe you've just been put in charge of all the company's existing followers. Either way, here are some basic principles that'll help you move forward.

1. Focus on quality, not quantity.

When engaged in an endeavor as complicated and subtle as social media, it’s hard to know how you’re doing, since there aren’t really any useful ways to measure effectiveness.

Unfortunately, this means people have reverted to relatively useless ways of measuring their effectiveness, such as the number of friends on Facebook, followers on Twitter, blog visitors, etc.

Social media isn’t a numbers game; it’s about building real relationships. You’re better off with ten people who actually understand you and care about what you’re doing than 10,000 people who can’t remember your name or why they’re connected to you.

2. Make it a two-way conversation

It’s tempting to try to apply traditional advertising and marketing techniques to social media, and to use it as a vehicle for one-way communication with an audience.

Those who take this route usually don’t last long, though, since people don’t respond well to someone talking at them rather than communicating with them.

Instead, focus on engaging with your connections. Talk to them. Ask them questions. Give them answers. Find out what makes them tick. Find out what value you can provide to them. And don’t just do this at a superficial level (occasionally replying to one of your thousands of followers), but really dig in and get to know the people you’re connected to.

As with almost everything else, the more you give, the more you’ll get back.

3. You don’t need to be viral to be successful

Popular discussion of social media tends to focus on the wildly-popular sensations that get a million views on YouTube in a matter of days. The stories you don’t hear, though, the success stories that have taken months or even years to develop, which are far more common.

Get the notions of sudden stardom out of your mind, and focus on moving forward at a steady pace, methodically and intentionally building a community around your company. Don’t give up a week or two in, when you’re wondering why you’re not famous yet. Just keep moving forward.

4. Come to people on their own turf

Instead of trying to bring people to your content, focus on bringing your content to the people.

For example, instead of only posting a video on YouTube and then trying to get everyone to visit that page, post it on YouTube, Vimeo, and other major video sharing sites. That way people can see it on the site where they already have an active account (and friends), and are more likely to comment, share, and engage with your content in other ways.

Spread your content around. Decentralize. (If you do this right, you may not even need your own website at all.)

5. Be original (even when it’s difficult)

One of the most difficult things about social media is that you’re often expected to generate a lot of content. Normal, average people are suddenly expected to be writers, photographers, videographers, designers, etc.

It can be hard, and it’s tempting to slip into the habit of just reposting other people’s work. “Hey, check out this video” becomes a substitute for actually creating relevant content.

Unfortunately, reposting other people’s content provides very little value (compared to original content), and you wind up watering down your social media sauce. Nobody’s going to link to you for linking to someone else.

You may not be able to post as frequently when you focus on original content, but people will notice when you do (and they’ll appreciate it).