Spoiler Alert! This blog post is about positioning yourself or your business as the prize. These days, we are encouraged by digital agencies and social media experts to be online, publish regularly, and engage in conversations. The theory is you’ll create brand recognition, people will get to know you, and learn to like and trust you. Eventually, they’ll want to buy from you.

What if being available online 24/7 is creating the wrong impression for your brand? What if implementing this advice is causing more harm than good?  If you’re on any Facebook business group, you’ll see the same friendly faces pop-up regularly, answering every question within their realm of expertise or referring to others where appropriate. Be honest; have you ever wondered why these people can afford to spend so much time on Facebook? Are they not busy? Does that mean their product or service is not in demand? Is their offering inferior to their busy competitors? What’s wrong with their business?

Be the prize

By being too available online, you send a clear message that your business is not in demand. I recently met a guy who runs a thriving business where people often wait more than a month to hire his services. This guy doesn’t have a website and isn’t active on social media. He does, however, have a number of fantastic reviews on Google and on his Facebook page that he obviously doesn’t maintain and probably never reads.

Now, I honestly believe a set-and-forget website would serve this business well. At least, when people like me jump on Google to find him, he’ll have a stronger presence. Although I can understand what his opinion might be. He’s booked solid at twice the rate than his competitors.

Let me explain a little about how I met this guy…

I had car trouble with my Chrysler 300 for a while. I had several mechanics and auto-electricians look at it, and none have been able to fix it. I trawled through countless websites, asked for advice on Facebook groups and forums, and had no luck with all the advice I’ve received. I got to the point where I just want it fixed, so I asked a few people in the know who’s the best auto-electrician in town. A guy’s name popped up so I contacted him to see if he thinks he can fix it. He said, “Yes, I can definitely fix it. However, I’m booked out for the next five weeks.” He then went on to explain his hourly rate, which I knew was twice as much as the normal market rate.

This guy is in demand! While he’s a pleasant guy, you’d know just by looking at him that he’s not the kind of person who wants to be involved in chit-chat through social media. There’s a bunch of people waiting to use his services. The logical conclusion is he’s worth every cent. He’s the prize!

Are You a Social Media Junkie?

It seems like most people I meet these days want to talk about social media and the pros and cons of using it for business. People assume because I work on websites, I’d also provide social media marketing as a service. I don’t for a range of reasons. That’s not to say it doesn’t work; it certainly does as a marketing tool for many businesses.

The primary reason I don’t provide social media marketing is I believe in being a specialist in your field. I choose to focus on building or improving high-performing websites. There’s a range of social media experts that can serve you in their area of expertise. Adding social media to my suite of services would be in my best interest, not yours. I’d prefer to refer you to specialists in the field who will serve you well.

Another reason I avoid it is the fact that social media can be a massive distraction and time waster. I must confess, I have at times probably bordered on being a social media junkie. But I feel I’m free of that nasty addiction now.

Social Media Danger Signs

I think we could all rattle off a list of friends and family who seem addicted to using social media. Some businesspeople rationalise it in their own minds by calling it a ‘marketing tool.’ If it truly is marketing, then show me the results. You really need to count the cost to measure its usefulness as marketing in your business. How many hours do you put in and what kind of return are you getting? It’s my view that many people are using ‘social media marketing’ as a guise to what it really is: procrastination.

The worst addicts are those that use a variety of social media platforms, jumping from one place to next all day. What a distraction. They have allowed their social media to take over their whole working day. For these people, saying they are going to jump onto social media for a minute is just as realistic as a chocoholic saying they will have only one piece. It’s not going to happen.

If you are using social media as a genuine marketing strategy, you must create a plan to leverage your time effectively. You have got to use your time efficiently to produce the results you intend.

I am not saying you should be looking for a quick sale. Social media isn’t the place to blatantly advertise your products and services. Rather, it’s a place to build relationships with prospects and customers. Abusing this principle will ensure your social media is a complete waste of time.

Here are some tips you can apply to help you manage your time in social media:

Be Selective

In ‘The 4 Hour Work Week,’ Tim Ferriss calls it a low-information diet. You should be selective in who you follow on Twitter or Instagram and who you become friends with on Facebook.

You need to have discipline right from the start to read only the posts that are beneficial and productive to your business. Otherwise, you could find yourself stuck in cyberspace for hours each day.

It was popular to refer to the Internet as ‘the information super highway’ a few years back. Guess what, there are thousands of virtual dump trucks online, filled with junk and ready to dump right into your lap if you let them.

Develop a System

Your social media activity has got to be a combination of creativity and logical, systematic strategy. Without creativity, you will be as boring as bat poo. Without systems, you will be sucked into a vortex of meaningless conversations.

Keep your systems flexible so you can adapt and improve them as you go. The social media world is evolving, and people are interacting with it in new ways. Who knows exactly where it will all end up?

Managing your social networks is an ongoing process. You should monitor everything you do over time so you can identify what is most successful. Take note of the things that are working well, those needing improvements, and those that you should scrap. Most of us have heard of the 80/20 rule. I’d suggest in social media the ratios are even more disproportionate. I’d say it’s more like 90/10; that is, 90% of your results come from 10% of your actions in social media.

Reputation Management

There’s one place in social media that you must engage in the conversation. It’s not about chit-chat; it’s about responding to negative comments and more, specifically reviews. Your online reputation matters. That’s what we aim to protect by being selective on what we engage in and what we avoid.

While the Internet can be a great place where your brand can flourish, it can also be a place where things can go horribly wrong. In fact, there have been times when just one influencer can have a huge negative impact on a brand. Online, your brand success or failure is amplified more than ever before, and people have a voice that can reach the multitudes in seconds.

Be proactive, not just reactive

The reputation of your brand is at stake online. Now, with social media, interactive websites, and review websites, people can share their experiences with the masses with a few clicks of a keyboard. You must take the time to position yourself positively. If someone searches your business name in Google, you want all the first page listings to be positive. There is nothing worse than to have customers with a poor experience being found online. Spend time on search engine optimisation so what you want shows up in the search engines first.

Negative customer experience can have a considerable impact. Even if there is no justification for what they are writing, people will take notice of what is being said and how you respond.

Work hard on creating fantastic customer experiences and encourage them to share their experiences online. You want the positive experiences to far outweigh the negative. In fact, if you have a loyal following of customers, they may run to your defence if they read something that they don’t believe is true.

Responding to attacks

You should always respond to negative comments. However, you should never get caught up in a fight when someone attacks you. If you are being attacked on social media sites, blogs, or reviews, it is best to apologise and thank them for the feedback. Simply say, “Sorry you feel that way.” Follow up your apology with a positive experience you wish to create as a brand. For example, if someone complains a delivery was late, you could say, “Thank you, John, for your feedback. I am sorry your delivery was late. ABC Company always strives to be on time, every time. We will look into why your delivery was late. We will do our best to find a way to avoid this problem from now on. Thanks again for the feedback; it’s a great help.”

What’s your take on social media? I’d love to get your opinion on the most effective ways you use it in the comments below!