Unless you’ve been living under a rock, by now pretty much everyone has come to realize that social media is great for business.

Although the concept is still relatively new, I think we’re done having to convince business owners and company decision makers that there’s value in building a platform online.

Now, I believe the conversation has shifted from “should we dive in?” to “HOW do we dive in?” I get asked all the time the best way to start building a platform – be it for personal branding purposes or for small businesses.

And, while there’s no one way to do it (that’s the beautiful part about social media), there are 4 key principles I urge my clients to adhere to when they decide to take the leap into building a social platform for themselves or their businesses.

The great thing about these principles is that they aren’t just for beginners. They’re things anyone can revisit at any point in their social media journeys.

Social Media

1. Listen

In order to win in social, you MUST understand one thing: it’s about listening. And it really makes sense, right? Social media channels are tools we use to communicate. And, what’s THE most important component of communication? Listening. It’s imperative. There’s no way around it.

Observe what your target audience is talking about. What do they like? What don’t like they like? What seems interesting to them? And finally, where do they “hang out” online the most? (and it doesn’t have to be limited to one social channel, either).

The object of the game is to not only gain what Michael Hyatt calls “vanity metrics” (huge numbers of “fans,” “followers,” and “page views”), but to build an engaged community. That means listening to them because you want to build a relationship with them.

It’s really no different from dating. You don’t go on the first date only talking about yourself with no opportunity for the other person to get a word in edge-wise do you? NO! And, if they do get a word in, you don’t sit there impatiently half-listening because you’re formulating a response to what they’ve said (at least I hope not).

You have to be keenly aware and observant of the people you’re trying to appeal to, and if you operate from this place, you’ll win.

2. Give

A LOT. This second principle works so well that social media expert Gary Vaynerchuk wrote a whole book about it. You need to add value wherever you can whenever you can.

Look, there’s so much noise out there now in the social media world that if you don’t give your community things they value CONSTANTLY, you’ll lose. And by losing, I mean people will either: a). ignore you or b). banish you from ever appearing in their timelines. There’s no two aways about it.

Some of you may be asking, “but Champ, where do I start giving?”

Ah-haaaa…remember that whole idea of being observant and listening? You’re going to use that knowledge about where your community “hangs out” online to your advantage…(which I’ll explain a little bit later).

3. Ask

I’m gonna remix that famous portion of JFK’s inaugural speech for a second:”Ask not what your community can do for you – ask what you can do for your community.” :)

Another beautiful thing about social media (well, most of the time) is that folks are VERY opinionated and vocal. I mean, have you seen the comment sections underneath HuffPost articles?

These channels afford us the great privilege of knowing just how many people feel without having to exert a lot of time, energy and resources to do it. So, because so many people are vocal about what they want and what they don’t want, there’s great opportunity to find out just what you should be offering your community by asking them outright.

I urge you to get it from the horse’s mouth as much as you can because with so many ways to get feedback, the guesswork can be virtually wiped away.

4. Go

You’re going to use your listening skills observing where your community is hanging out online, giving as much value as you can, asking them what else they’d like to see from you…

…and then you’re going to GO where those people you’re trying to reach are. You have to meet the people where they are.

So, if you find out your audience is predominately on Facebook and Twitter, devote much of your energies to nurturing your growing community there.

Sounds simple enough, right? I really find this strategy to be effective because it makes sure that your efforts are centered around the people you’re trying to reach.

Remember, though, the most important thing is to have an engaged community and while having huge numbers of people following you is great – you want to make sure that they are devoted followers, not just passive participants.

To build a community that trusts you and engages with you takes time, patience and consistency. But, I guarantee if you do these four things, you’ll attract a quality group of people that you’ll truly enjoy interacting with.

So, go get ’em Champs!

Tell me: how are you building your relationships online? If you’re using any of these 4 principles, I’d love to hear how they’re working for you!
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