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What have you done for me today? There is nothing more “today” than social media. What does social media do for us that we keep it deeply embedded into our daily routines? Social media is a constant stream of news and opinions. What makes social media so powerful is that all our friends have joined in. Marketing research has discovered that a friend’s personal recommendation far outweighs any expensive advertisement. Is there any wonder why businesses who need customers and clients drool over social media? Is this the promise land of “ready to buy” customers who have their wallets open?

The conversion rates (sales resulting from social media) are often lower than businesses expect. People join social media not for recommendations, but for a fix of bite-sized information. We are not looking to spend money, but rather for quick fun. A sale requires an investment of time and money to research out the product. Social media is often a place full of silly surveys and photographs. Perhaps an opinion or a birthday will enter into the social media stream.  So, how can a business tap into social media?

The Pareto principle states that 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. In regards to social media, there is a unique benchmark that works well: give 80%, request 20%. In other words, 80% of businesses online social content should be for the bite-sized joy of end users. These small pieces of joy are not advertisements. They are meant to be fun, shareable simple things. The other 20% should be subtle advertisements. Examples of this subtly include exclusive social media deals and coupons. The idea behind the Pareto principle of social media is to gain trust with the 80% and create a sense of urgency with the 20%.

How can this be done with the largest social media outlet – Facebook? A three prong approach may be best. The first is to get off of social media. Include Facebook account information on brochures, banners, and other marketing material. The second prong is to pay for Facebook users and clicks via their advertisement system. The final prong is to schedule the 80% “fun” posts with appropriate boosts. The idea is to have a stream of people seeing other people interact with your content. In the marketing world, this is called the bandwagon effect.

Each social media outlet works differently, so the strategy for each one should be different. Twitter may work well for one thing while Instagram works better for another. Understanding what 80% to post is also part of the challenge. A restaurant may choose Instagram to stream food photos while a writer may choose Twitter to stream quotes. Both may also have a Facebook account to encourage exclusive coupons. There are a lot of social media outlets out there, so taking time to discover the benefits of each is well worth the effort.

Social media outlets may work best when automated.  Facebook allows the scheduling of posts while several Twitter programs re-tweet posts. Social media management can take a lot of time, so automation is often the key to establish a bigger following. Sprout Social is an offering to not only automate, but manage social media across several platforms. This online service even allows a team of social media experts to manage the accounts together. The idea is to make social media management as simple, automatic, and easy as possible.

Potential clients and customers may also use social media to be social. That means that they expect a real person to be on the other end of the account. Social media accounts, even with automation, can not be “set and forget”. People may also report problems via social media; letting the whole world see. Make sure to harvest these complaints and turn them into support requests. These support requests are then resolved outside of social media accounts. The idea is to keep the public accounts as clean as possible, to present the best image possible. Again, social media is about trusting a friend for bite-sized content. Few people want to see a never ending stream of bite-sized complaints.

Because complaints are so easy to make, businesses find that market research can work well. An informal survey may seem unimportant, but a company may be watching what their key demographics decides. Beyond better social media, these surveys can help direct marketing efforts offline as well. By creating a test environment to try out tiny experiments, an organization can remain nimble. Gathering together an appropriate sample of user input is just one of many things social media does for a business.

Many companies ask what social media can do for them on a daily basis. The hope is to generate a never-ending stream of new customers, willing to buy. The reality is that new clients can be found, but they need to be nurtured first. Customers are often skeptical that a business is out for itself, which is true. Nurturing trust requires a series of small gestures. Once an organization gains trust, it is up to the business to protect that confidence. As many organizations have found out, removing or un-friending is all too easy in this digital age. Make sure that 20% answers your customer’s question of “what have you done for me today”.