Today’s social media world provides a multitude of channels with which to reach your audience. Regardless of the vehicle,  it pays to cultivate some important habits, seven of which we’ve listed below.

1.  It’s not about you

People are only so interested in what you have to say.

Don’t take it personally – but the real secret with social media interaction, especially for small businesses, is that it’s not about you. It’s never about you. Even when you’re promoting your products, it’s not about you. Why?

Because in the simplest terms, people are into it for what they can get out of it.

In the social media world, people pay attention (and remain loyal) when you offer them something of value, something that benefits them, however small.  So when creating and posting content, put yourself in your audience’s shoes, and focus on creating value above all else.

2.  Go the extra mile for your audience

Somewhat related to #1, too often our social interactions can become a one-way-street. Assess your environment by visiting relevant forums, checking out a Q & A website,  and spending quality  time listening to your audience. Quite often, this process can direct your engagement more effectively.

For example, for a long time I was the editor of an Online Bridal Magazine. Odd, yes I know. As I entered my third month I found myself struggling for article ideas and becoming increasingly frustrated with the stale content my writers were submitting. The solution? Like any good journalist, I went out looking for what my audience wanted, which I found in the form of bridal forums, where  dozens of brides and brideszillas alike were asking one another for tips, advice and suggestions. BINGO!  A few hours later I had amassed more than 100 articles ideas and my coffers were full from that time on.

3.  Understand what motivates your audience

Not until you understand what your audience considers valuable can you really begin to provide them something of worth. Ultimately, everybody is motivated by self-interest in some way.

Generally, your audience will be motivated by:

  • Value – Your audience will appreciate feeling that they’ve been given something that they want or need. This also serves to build your credibility.
  • Entertainment – Be funny, interesting, and take a light hearted approach. Find a tone that works for you and try your best to be consistent.
  • Currency – No, we aren’t talking about paying your audience to listen to you.  We’re referring to current and relevant content…helping your customers stay ahead of the curve is a great way to build their loyalty and brand yourself as an industry leader.
  • Uniqueness – Be original, and offer something to your customers that they can’t get anywhere else.

4.  Be genuinely useful

Make sure what you are providing is useful, that it serves a genuine purpose – even if that purpose is to provide light-hearted relief from the daily grind! Sharing the same articles from Mashable as everyone else, or ReTweeting the NY Times doesn’t count. Go out of your way to provide useful information to your audience.

5.  Be a connector

Remember that line from Layer Cake? “The art of good business is being a good middleman, putting people together”. This holds doubly true for social media engagement.

In the social media space, your value is directly tied to your network itself. While it may be unlikely that you’ll be able to answer every question that arises as you navigate the web, it’s VERY likely that you up your chances to find that answer as your network grows.  There are bound to be experts on all sorts of subjects amongst your connections– and this expertise is a great benefit that you can also offer to your respective audience.

6. Actively promote others

It always pays to play the humble card and promote someone else above yourself. Deferring to or mentioning another party in the social media world can give you HUGE online cred. Not only will you get points for lending your support to another, you’re also demonstrating your ability to source and nurture other creative people.  And finally, chances are they will want to return the favor one day.

7. Caring!

Often overlooked, just being available, responding to users and caring is enough to make your social media efforts successful. The two things that successful social media participants have in common are simply being there and caring.