For Success in Social Media Marketing, Follow the 4 E’s

Engage, Educate, Encourage, Entertain

Social media, this explosive sphere that fosters social interaction and helps businesses connect with prospects and customers, is long past the emergent stage. More than that, it’s safe to say that this interactive phenomenon that began to spread like wildfire sometime between 2003 and 2004 is here to stay.

And change is constant in this interactive space. New platforms emerge as others struggle to compete or fall off the grid almost entirely. New tips, tricks and tactics are distributed daily in the form of whitepapers, blog posts and webinars, purposed to help businesses build brand awareness and monetize on the time, spend and effort they’re investing in social media marketing. Paying for ad space or to push content on social sites has become more popular – even necessary for some businesses serious about leveraging their interactive social platforms to reach their market. (FYI – if you want to know why posts on your Facebook Page have been seen by fewer eyes and receiving fewer “Likes” lately, read this article.)

But with all the changes we observe in social media from year to year, the very essence of this space remains unchanged – namely, that it is purely and inherently social. With the flurry of social media marketing advice at our fingertips, sometimes the most beneficial thing we can do is to clear out all the noise and return to the basics.

I’ve created four simple steps, or guidelines, to follow for success on any social media platform. Think of these as the four main ingredients of a recipe; you can add all of the supplemental ingredients you want in order to enhance the taste, but if you fail to start with these fundamental elements, the finished product will be all seasoning and no substance.

1. Engage

Conversations flourish on social media channels. Never neglect or underestimate the power of initiating those conversations on your platforms. Post relevant questions concerning topics and issues your audience cares about; if you aren’t sure about which topics or issues your online audience cares about, invest time in listening to what kinds of conversations your audience is having. There are a number of useful social media “listening tools” – free and paid – that can help you discover trending topics and also who’s talking about you online. Surveys and polls can be helpful as well in the ongoing effort to discover what your audience deems relevant or important.

2. Educate

One of the main reasons people spend time on social sites is to learn: to stay informed of current events, to find tasty recipes, to receive valuable advice from thought leaders of every industry. In your area of expertise, what can your audience learn from you – from your company – that will add value to their lives? And while it’s probably best if the majority of your educational content is original, sharing the content of others in your industry pays off on two main levels: 1) you don’t come across as a know-it-all, and 2) generosity often begets generosity – if you share the content of others to your audience, they just might return the favor.

3. Encourage

Life is hard. And when times are especially tough, you’d do well as a company to deliver some inspiration and hope to your audience. This personal touch shows them that you are not removed, but are willing to extend a virtual hand of consolation. When a tragedy occurs in your community or nation, don’t even think twice about taking a few minutes to post or tweet a short message that simply shows you care. But you don’t need a tragedy to be a source of inspiration and encouragement; people like to read short, powerful quotes when times are good too.

4. Entertain

Simply put, we all love to laugh – this will never change. That’s why the simple act of sharing a humorous photo, meme or e-card can go a long way. Your fans will appreciate your brand’s choice to be real and personal. Who wants to interact with a corporate veneer, anyway?