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Avoid the Mute Button: DOs and DON’Ts of self-promotion on social media

When brands first recognized social media for the powerful communication tool that it has become, there were no guidelines for how businesses should behave on social. Most pioneering brands on social media arrived at their strategy through trial and error, with the tangible results arriving much later, usually in form of user experience surveys. Rules about how not to behave on social had yet to be written.

Thankfully, there is no longer a need to blindly feel your way around your social media strategy—the latest research clearly shows how social media audiences feel about self-promotion from brands. No matter the size of your business, you don’t want to spend your time and resources on a social media strategy that costs you customers. In order to avoid falling prey to the ‘Mute’ button, here are the DOs and DON’Ts of self-promotion on social media.

DON’T use your brand’s social media feed solely for advertising

Principal analyst at Altmeter Group Brian Solis put it best: “Don’t sell using social media—and I don’t mean that literally, I mean in a way that you think about selling.” What you want social media to reveal is why people should be interested in your brand, and the sales will follow naturally. Solis recommends the following three pillars for brand promotion: listening, learning, and engagement. When a customer feels like their concerns are being heard—and moreover, used to improve a product or a service—they are more likely to choose your brand over the competitors’. This doesn’t mean an occasional promotion or a contest are completely off the table; but these shouldn’t make up the majority of your social media presence.

DO promote and foster your brand’s culture through social

The engagement part in the abovementioned pillars of brand promotion is the key to winning over your audience. Facebook confirms the importance of telling a story instead of selling a product by revealing research about best-performing brand content (spoiler alert: storytelling content is better for engagement). Find out what piques your audience’s interest in your brand through the listening and learning pillars, and if you haven’t already, incorporate this information into your social media presence.

DON’T pretend you’re not selling

“[Organizations] are commercial players and therefore ignoring the fact that they have something to offer will make them seem disingenuous and untrustworthy,” notes digital marketing expert Matt Ramsay in his Journal of Database Marketing & Customer Strategy Management article on social media etiquette. We often promote the “join the conversation, don’t interrupt the conversation” principle as a foundation of your social media strategy. Say your business specializes in outdoor recreation clothing and equipment, and a change in season—often meaning a change in outdoor activities—is approaching. Create your social media content around a topic that will be on people’s minds (and social media feeds!): start a hashtag contest about the upcoming season, launch a giveaway, or offer a discount on anticipated items. Your customers follow your brand for a reason, so let them know that you’re aware of what that reason is, and use it to drive your social selling.

DO plan ahead for your social media content

It’s easy to fill that last-minute gap in social media content with promotional material. Don’t give it to temptation, and keep a schedule of content for your brand’s social media accounts. Anticipating the need for social media presence for major product releases and ad campaigns will diminish the risk of making any social media marketing mistakes, and ensure your audience always receives enjoyable, engaging content.

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