The only difference between Facebook and your local Chamber of Commerce gathering is that Facebook happens 24/7 and has a much broader reach. (And you can network on Facebook in your pajamas if you want.)

It’s very useful to keep this analogy in mind as you decide how you’re going to use social media as a sales tool.

When you go to a local Chamber of Commerce gathering, do you walk in and start blasting your sales pitch in the face of the first person you see? Of course not. You mix and mingle and expand your business network. You show, rather than tell, people that you are competent and trustworthy and community-minded.

This is exactly how you should use social media for your business.

Your goal on Facebook (and Twitter) should be the same as your goal when you walk into a Chamber gathering: to expand your network and win the trust of the people in it.

The #1 rule: Your Facebook and Twitter posts should not be sales pitches. Your role on Facebook and Twitter is to provide people with useful, meaningful, unobtrusive information that shows that you are invested in your community and care about the people in it. Whatever you post on social media should help someone else besides you.

Of course, you do ultimately want to reap some benefit too – but the benefit is that you build a reputation as a trustworthy local businessperson with local ties, who isn’t fly-by-night, and who isn’t going to screw people because you value your reputation for integrity.

So what do you post on social media to establish your reputation in the online community?

  • Mostly, you should think of your Facebook and Twitter accounts as additional outlets for your blog content. (Because, of course, your blog is chock-full of useful, meaningful information, right? If your blog is just a bunch of bald-faced sales copy, it’s time for an immediate course correction!) There are even software programs that will automatically “push” your blog posts to your Facebook and Twitter pages without your ever having to think about it – ask your web team to set these up for you.
  • Building on this foundation, you should add a few unique posts that are not on your blog. Scared that your posts won’t be “cool” enough for social media? Don’t be. Social media is full of ordinary people who talk about their children, their pets, their health, what they’re cooking for dinner or watching on TV. All you need to do is come up with 140 characters that will be of interest or value to other people just like you.
  • Start with useful information – something you’d tell a neighbor just to be neighborly. Like, “It’s going to freeze tonight, so don’t forget to empty and turn off your outside faucets!” Is it thrilling? No – but how much are people going to love you after you save them an expensive plumbing bill?!
  • You can spice up your social media posts with trivia that is related to your business, like (on the first really nice day of the summer) “Did you know that you can save $80 a year by hanging your clothes outside in the sun?”
  • And, our favorite: you should post often about your community and charity work. This is a win-win: it gives valuable publicity to worthy causes, and it makes your business look like a real team player.

Of course, the best social media content in the world will only help your business if people are reading it…so next week we’ll give you some useful strategies for increasing your “Three Fs”: Friends, Fans, and Followers.