In his book Tweet Naked, online marketing expert and Social Media Firm CEO Scott Levy provides the critical information entrepreneurs need to craft a social media strategy that will boost their brand and their business. In this edited excerpt, the author offers tips that can help you figure out how you want the world to view your brand.
Transparency and authenticity are more than just "buzz words" in business today. They are what a rapidly growing number of consumers expect from the companies with which they do business. Quite frankly, people are sick and tired of big corporate monsters being untouchable and indifferent or aloof. The days of reclusive, faceless companies are disappearing. People want honesty in business and expect corporations of all sizes to provide transparency and authenticity. They also want to know the human beings behind the website, the logo, the commercials and the print ads.
Today, your personal brand or business needs to exhibit the same transparency when it comes to social media. Transparency applies to everything from who you are to what you stand for. No matter who you are, people want you to be open, honest and straightforward.
But there's much more to transparency than providing your annual report or putting the ingredients on your packaging. People want to connect; they don't want that automated phone system, but the human being instead. It's about being engaging, sharing passions, and talking about your brand as it relates to real people.
Here are five ways to exhibit transparency:
1. Share your successes. Share your successes, such as closing a big deal, winning an award or getting a major accolade, by showing your humility and enthusiasm, not by tooting your own horn or bragging. Showing that it really means something to you to win an award is a very honest reaction. People get excited when they win something, and it's human to share it.
2. Share your passions. Talk about the community food drive you ran, the Little League team you sponsor, or the greener mode of transportation people are using to get to and from the office. Perhaps you and your employees get your hands dirty working for Habitat for Humanity or in some other community effort. Share this with people.
Let people know about your interests and hobbies as well. Just like in the real world, it's a great way to start a conversation--and to let people know the person behind the brand.
People gravitate to those with whom they share interests. If, for example, you're looking for a lawyer, are you more likely to choose one who shares that she's a dog or cat lover or is into sailing, or one who only talks legalese?
3. Talk about your corporate culture. This is a great way to win your followers' trust. They learn how your company conducts business and how you treat your employees. It's a way of reminding followers of the age-old saying "We do business with people we like and trust." How can people like and trust you if they don't know who you are or what you stand for?
Let potential followers and customers see the human side of business and appreciate the candor. Talk about the funny things that happen in the office such as the Super Bowl bet the CEO lost to an office temp. Discuss group activities, such as how the company softball team got clobbered or how the sales department managed to capsize their canoe on the company fishing trip. Do you have casual days? Do you bring your kids to work on occasion? What is it like working in your business? Even a one-person operation has stories to tell about the work atmosphere that are real and engaging.
4. Let people know you aren't perfect. Transparency isn't all about your successes. From recalls of anything from aspirin to automobiles, to airlines losing luggage, things go wrong in every industry. Companies that try to hide it or act like it didn't happen are the ones that lose customers in a major way once the truth gets out ... and it almost always does.
Being honest, transparent and humble and admitting you screwed up is what transparency is also about. Being honest and authentic means talking about your failures and showing humility when you ship something to the wrong place, get called out for a code violation or find yourself in the news for a billboard others found offensive. Apologizing and talking about your errors makes people relate to you and creates empathy.
5. Include your expertise. Of course, you do need to talk about what you know and impart some information along the way. You need to play a dual role, being personable and honest while also talking shop. But don't get overeager when it comes to talking business. Social media users can spot a sales pitch before you finish your tweet or your post. And like the guy trying to sell you real estate investments at a party or social gathering, you'll be shunned quickly.
Subtlety is the name of the game when it comes to talking business in social media. Your objective is to engage others in conversations about your area of strength and show that you know what you're talking about. Showing knowledge and expertise rather than saying "Buy this product" or "Use my service" is how they come to respect you. The trick is getting them to want to use your services or champion your brand without asking.
Scott Levy is the founder and CEO of Fuel Online, an online marketing agency that focuses on social media and SEO. He has been specializing in online marketing for more than 15 years and is a respected speaker, writer and consultant. Scott was nominated for a 2014 Shorty Award for "social media's best business influencer" as well as recognized as a 2014 Hubbies finalist for "Influencer of the Year". Scott is based in Nashville. Follow him on Twitter at @FuelOnline or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/FuelInternetMarketing