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Finding Success for Your Brand in Social Media

Mar 28, 2012

Social media and social networking are terms that have blown straight to the top of the list of over-used and over-analyzed techniques to build buzz for businesses in recent years. But why have they become so powerful in today’s marketplace? It’s simple … because they work. Unfortunately, presenting the wrong online persona and using these tactics incorrectly makes it easy to develop a hard-to-reverse negative trend about your brand. Every company and, in fact, every businessperson, should be online embracing new tools for networking, marketing and public relations, but it is essential to have an effective plan to be successful. Regardless of your line of business or situation in life, we are all in need of a Web presence simply for the ability to manage our image and the story that others hear about us. When used effectively, a sound social media strategy can not only establish and build credibility and expertise, but it can also increase the awareness of your particular expertise and company to traditional media. Most of my experience in marketing has revolved around my career in real estate investing. Buying properties wholesale each month, determining budgets for repairs, assisting mostly out-of-state investors with purchasing those properties at a discount, overseeing the rehab and then managing the property after the rehab and marketing are all core components of my business. Through the years, I have slowly picked up additional marketing skills, operating a thriving real estate investing business. It’s vital to underscore the importance of being very careful with the image that one creates in the online world. The pace of growth for social media and marketing is expanding rapidly and most new programs designed to “teach” you how to market on the Internet or through social media only tell you where to go and how to possibly monetize it. Very few actually tell you how to be successful when telling your story. I have been lucky enough to learn about social media and social marketing from some expert marketers who have helped me go from a dark shade of green (completely new) to a much lighter one. Without being too self-deprecating, I know just enough to be dangerous and learn a little more every day. Here are five types of habits or personas to absolutely avoid in online social marketing and the best ways to avoid them: 1. The Shameless Plugger: Someone who posts nothing but spam. Every Tweet, post, blog, video or press release is endless, pointless garbage. How to avoid this: Communicate about yourself, your company and your community to build a relationship with your audience. Everyone has a story to tell, and everyone’s story is original. 2. The Online Troll: People who sabotage anything you do and attempt to ruin your image among potential clients. How to avoid this: “Talk nice” and forget your competition. Remember, everything you place online stays online. There will always be a record of it somewhere. Today, a legal precedent exists that dictates what you say online about someone else can be used against you in a court of law when facing suits for libel and defamation of character. Be cautious with the words you choose and the subjects you write about. A mentor of mine once told me that the “worst thing you can have for your marketing strategy is an enemy.” I naturally assumed that he meant someone out in the online community printing false or damaging things about me, but he quickly set my thinking straight. I had already learned to control the message about myself and my business and be the dominant voice online when it came to my company. It did not matter what my competition said about me, because I was going to bury that message. The real problem was that when I focused on my competition and gave them any of my online space by addressing them in my social marketing, I was losing focus on what was really important. 3. The Chronic Re-Tweeter: Twitter accounts that consist of nothing but re-tweets. How to avoid this: Online social sites are like a big party. Get in and party! Then do business. Tell people about yourself, about your day, about your company or about your plans. And when they are interested—sell, sell, sell! 4. The Self-Proclaimed Expert: This describes anyone who cannot back up what they say and do not think prospective clients will notice. How to avoid this: Just be honest. We surveyed our clients who purchased real estate with us and found out that they visited, on average, 3.5 sites before they purchased from my firm, Memphis Invest. The reason they bought from us was because of the genuine message and our refusal to use the word “Expert.” Instead, we prefer to say we have a lot of experience, both good and bad. That message resonates with most prospective clients because they know we are real. 5. The Clip & Strip Advertisers: These types are unable to be original in their marketing, so they choose to clip other sites or marketing pieces and use as their own. How to avoid this: Spying on your competition can be a good thing if you know how to use what you find. Find out what works, but do not copy anyone. Be original and it will pay dividends. Your social media focus should be on getting online and being involved every day in promoting your brand and your image to stimulate activity for your company. Many times when I speak to prospective customers or peers in the industry, the audience is made up of real estate professionals and investors that may or may not have a particular company to brand or promote, but by the end of the discussion they understand the need for an online presence. Protecting your image, your name and even your day-to-day story is more important now than ever. When the focus shifts to real estate investors, it’s important not only to tell your story in your own terms, but to also be aware of what stories your actions tell. We all like to talk about ourselves. That desire is inherent in human nature. Unfortunately, many of us also like to talk about others and when you do that online it leads to trouble in more ways than one. How does this scenario play out online? There are real estate investors in my native city of Memphis who constantly talk about their competition (and it's not always in glowing terms). Talking about your competition in a negative manner not only makes you look bad in the eyes of those that may want to do business with you in the future, but it also distracts you from the positive message about you, which should be your focus. There are only three results that can come from you discussing your competition, and two of them are negative. You can turn off potential clients, you can spend time talking about the negatives of others instead of the positives about you or you could win a client. I haven’t met many people who were won over by the smear campaigns of others. When using social media, it’s imperative to keep the conversation on you and your brand and keep it positive. It’s also important to recognize and focus on the trail you leave online each day at social networking sites. Many of the latest fads at these sites are games and they make up a huge and thriving revenue stream for these sites so you can bet they are all good with soliciting members to play. However, if your Facebook page shows you have a thriving little patch of green and are excelling at Mafia Wars, how much time can someone assume you are playing online relative to the amount of time you’re working? As we move further into 2012, the footprint of our daily actions that we leave behind is going to be more and more important and not just on social networking sites, but across the Internet in general. Every comment, every picture, every article, every video and every “Like” we have on Facebook and every group we join on LinkedIn becomes a piece of online history and every bit of it is searchable. It is becoming more and more commonplace for banks, lenders, insurance companies, hiring firms and colleges to run the names of those wishing to do business with them across several social sites and through an online name search, just to see what comes up. If you are not in control of your image and your message, you leave yourself vulnerable. Whether it's having a presence on a simple media tool like YouTube or Facebook, or something more elaborate like hosting your own blog, controlling the message about you personally or about your company is vitally important for 2012 and beyond. Social media and the use of social networking sites for business and brand development are here to stay and will only grow stronger as more people gravitate to best practices while developing online habits. Being aware of how to best position your brand while using these marketing mediums to your advantage can help you move to the forefront of your industry. Chris Clothier is a partner at Memphis Invest, a comprehensive real estate investment services company that acquires, renovates and manages properties on behalf of long-term investors who own rental homes. He may be reached by phone at (901) 751-7191 or by e-mail at [email protected].
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