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The #1 rule for social media marketing

I recently attended a writing conference geared towards aspiring book authors. The first night of the conference, the speaker, Doreen Virtue, mentioned the importance of having a Facebook business page and of branding yourself now, before your book is finished, so that you can start to build your audience — or what is known in the publishing world as your “platform.”

When Doreen opened the discussion for questions, two separate people stood up and expressed confusion over what they could post to their Facebook page if they haven’t written a book yet. And from the murmurs in the room, I gathered they weren’t the only ones who were confused about Facebook marketing. I was practically jumping out of my seat wanting to answer their questions. As a Social Media Director for an inbound marketing agency, I run into this sort of thing with nearly every client we sign on.

If I could tell you only one thing about social media marketing, it would be this: Stop thinking about social media as a marketing tool. Think about it as a relationship-building tool. In other words, social media is not about you, it’s about your audience.

Stop thinking about social media as a marketing tool. Social media is not about you, it’s about your audience.

I like to think of this as the “dinner party rule.” Several years ago, I read the classic book How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. (If you haven’t read it, I urge you to check it out; it’s a must-read.) Carnegie explains how, if you’re at a dinner party, you don’t introduce yourself to everyone and immediately list your resume and your accomplishments. Rather, you ask questions. You find out what the other dinner party guests are interested in, and maybe discover some common interests. Carnegie even recounts how he once spent an entire conversation asking questions of another person and her interests, and she came away saying what a fascinating person he was, even though he never said one thing about himself.

Think of social media in the same way. You are here to provide a service or solve a problem for your audience. Just as people tire of listening to others drone on about themselves at a dinner party, the same is true of social media. Sorry to break it to you, but people aren’t going to be interested in you if they don’t already know you. But they will be interested in what you can do for them.

I love the story of Gary Vaynerchuk, entrepreneur and social media giant who built the website Wine Library. Gary went on Twitter and searched for other users who were talking about wine. He replied to their tweets, answering their questions and suggesting good wine pairings for the foods they were preparing. He never once mentioned his products or his website. And yet, people started following him and started buying from him — because he was helpful and because he provided value to his audience. Wine Library now has more than 42,000 Twitter followers and 37,000 Facebook fans.

At my business, we operate by the 80/20 rule: 80% of your social media content should provide value, and the other 20% can be about you and your services. What sort of value can you provide to your audience? What questions can you answer? What is your area of expertise? Think about the problems and challenges your audience faces, and come up with content that addresses those concerns. Then, deliver that content in the form of blog posts, free ebooks, videos, and visuals such as infographics or inspiring images. Create content that people will naturally want to share with others. Create content that only you can provide (sharing content from others can and should be part of your content strategy, but not exclusively. You also want to show what you can offer your audience).

Karen Eisenbraun is a professional writer and a Certified Holistic Nutrition Consultant. She has written on the subjects of nutrition, yoga, and natural living for many leading websites, including She is the Director of Content for a Platinum-level HubSpot partner agency specializing in healthcare marketing, and has been named one of the top 50 Inbound Marketing experts on Twitter.
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