Can you really gain market share with social media? That’s the big question we discussed in this week’s #SM4SMB conversation on Twitter. And the overall sentiment was YES, as long as companies follow these 5 rules:

Use the right tools for the right audience

Twitter and Facebook are not the answers to every social media problem. If you are a publishing company, for example, building author profiles on Amazon will sell way more books than Twitter and Facebook can.

“There seems to be an extreme trend among youth toward many forms of social media. Even people who are older than most would consider inside the tech savvy generation are falling in love with facebook & twitter. Using these forms of media allow you to capture all demographics.” @sitesketch101

Make sure you are using the right social media for the right audience!

Connect with real people

One of the challenges companies face though is how to build real relationships with people. Most have no practice since social media hasn’t been around in the past, and the only way for companies to build relationships was face-to-face.

“I mentioned the In-N-Out restaurant chain in a tweet, and they found me and replied. That’s making it personal.” @meanttolive

Likewise, I mentioned that @OneRiot always responds to me when I give them a free plug. They followed up later, offering me some freebies because I mention them so often in my Twitter stream!

Personally, I like when one specific person runs the social media for a company. It’s easier for companies to have real conversations with real people when there is a person representing the company. Ultimately, people connect with people on social media, not companies.

“A dedicated person involved in social media can definitely represent a company & engage followers,thus building brand loyalty.” @franklogic

JOIN the conversation

@norcross asks, “But are the businesses willing to actually be part of the conversation? What motivates those businesses to participate?”

“Most are not ‘in a conversation’ they just make promotional announcements, they miss the point, it’s just more spam”@GSWoodward

“I completely agree about the spam statement. They do that because it works for some people. But it’s lousy to most.” @sitesketch101

I agree – It seems too many businesses still do social media half-heatedly. It doesn’t work – social media takes effort, strategy, and long-term investment to get benefits. Too many companies dabble in social media because people tell them they should, and they just do it without putting any strategy or goals behind it. Dabbling is ultimately bad; it’s all or nothing, and doing social media half-heatedly hurts the company brand.

Talk about others, give, give, make it not about your company

I ask, How?

“By interacting personally like I’m doing with you right now. Questions. Answers. Conversation. Provide their users with resources, quotes, questions & information. I think too often people load their tweets with personal links. I do this too much. Getting real with people is vital!” @sitesketch101

“Write how their own personal customer services had helped their clients. People read these & start building trust.” @franklogic

There are tons of ways to create content that relate to your company, without overly self-promoting yourself.

Capture your contact list and follow-up

The way to capture who your company is interacting with on social media depends on which tools your company is using. For example, you could ask the customer for an email address so you can provide feedback. On Twitter, you can find the person’s real name and learn more about them in a professional way by responding to their tweets. On Facebook, there is a messaging system to interact with customers.