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Why Being Human on Social Media Is the Best Strategy You'll Ever Have

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You’ve read a million list posts on how to do Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and (insert another social media network here) for your business. In search of faster growth, more engagement and that elusive return on engagement, you’ve tried tactic after tactic and tool after tool but it’s just not working the way you’d hoped. 

Tactics can be great. And tools can save you time. But if you lose sight of this one simple principle, it’ll be all for naught: Social media at its core is social. It’s about real relationships with real people.  

Businesses that anchor their social strategy on this golden rule have loyal audiences, bigger followings and more sales. 

The beauty of social media is that it allows for a two-way conversation and it can be the fast track to real relationships with  an audience if done right. But to build real, genuine connections, those doing the sharing must be human.  

Here are three common mistakes that businesses are making on social media and how to fix them: 

Related: 6 Reasons to Make Your Business Human on Social Media

Mistake #1: Being so starched and professional it's boring.  

Everyone has read or rather skimmed past those status updates like “Join us in welcoming Frank Smith, our new vice president of blah, blah, blah" that were oh, so boring. 

The fix: Don't send out any more glossy brochure corporate speak. Don't just show the polished, shiny side of your business. It's time to be real. Show the real people who make up your business. Let people see them, get to know them and laugh with them. 

Snap some selfies. People love to see the real you.

Show behind the scenes of your business and your life. A window into your offline life helps create real rapport.

Share some off-the-cuff videos. Grab your smartphone and just do it. 

Find a way to let people get to really know you the businessperson. Because as sales expert Kendrick Shope said, “All things being equal, friends buy from friends. All things being unequal, friends buy from friends.”  

Related: The Year Ahead: 5 Social Media Trends Every Entrepreneur Needs to Know

Mistake #2: Making it all about you. 

People want to know you, yes, but posts can't be all about you. Everyone knows what it’s like to have a conversation with that person who just will not shut up about himself. (Get me out of there!) 

The fix: Make members of your community feel welcome, understood and heard. This means celebrating with and listening and responding to the people in your audience. Share content that solves their problems. Ask for user-generated content (and do something with it). And participate in the conversation. 

Two Junes ago, Chris Brogan shared the results of an experiment he conducted evaluating how four groups involved with health and fitness (companies, the media, celebrities and the public at large) were using Twitter. 

“Three of the four groups, Brogan wrote, referring to the companies, the media and celebrities, "were missing several opportunities to improve relationships and thus potential business with the people they served.”

He continued, “In lots of cases, I’m pretty sure people didn’t even think about their use of the social network as an opportunity to serve a community. Instead, they used it like a bullhorn, whether or not anyone was paying attention.”

The community at large "worked the hardest, connected the most, and reaped the benefits,” wrote Brogan. “I saw their subscriber counts rising every time they engaged and responded, and I saw lots of promised future activity.”  

Take advantage of the opportunity to use social media as more than just a bullhorn: Connect, reply and have real conversations. Really care about your audience and act accordingly. People can tell when they are being treated as just another number.   

Mistake #3: Taking more than giving. 

Social media is not just free advertising. Think about this: Are you more likely to help out a friend that’s been there for you or someone who approaches you in the street just to ask for money? Keep sales pitches to a minimum on social media, similar to how you would behave with your friends in real life. 

The fix: Give, give, give before you ever ask for anything in return. Create and curate great content that helps your customers, answer their questions, entertain and inspire your audience. At least 75 percent to 80 percent of a businessperson's social media content should aim to be of service. 

As Gary Vaynerchuk puts it so eloquently in his book Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook, when he referred to the need to provide nonpitchy material

"Without a proper combination of jabs to guide your customer -- I mean, your opponent -- right where you want him, your right hook could be perfect and your opponent could still dodge it as easily as a piece of dandelion fluff. Precede that perfectly executed right hook with a combination of targeted, strategic jabs, however and you will rarely miss." 

Regardless of the network, all social media is fundamentally about relationships and people connecting to people -- not companies or brands. So get human. Be real, build a community you care about and then serve this audience to the best of your ability. It’s as simple as that. 

Related: 5 Reasons Why Social-Media Marketing Is Overrated