Social media has grown into a powerful force that can no longer be ignored by savvy business owners. Your customers are there, making it imperative that you join the conversation. When used with care, social media can become an important marketing tool for your business. 

Remember the Golden Rule: Balance

No matter which social network you use, always keep the golden rule of balance in mind. Few followers will tolerate an endless barrage of promotional messages but most will accept, or even look forward to, the occasional special offer. Finding the right balance is crucial. Social Media Examiner recommends following the 80-20 rule with 80 percent of your posts being other people's posts and just 20 percent being your own. That doesn't mean that all 20 percent of your posts should be promotional in nature, either. Remember, it's a social medium. Your main goals should be focused on building trust, authority, relationships, and brand awareness.

Build a Targeted Following

It doesn't matter how compelling your offers may be if you're sending them to the wrong people. One of the most important parts of social media marketing involves identifying your ideal audience and then building a targeted following to match. For example, Facebook's audience targeting features of its advertising program make building a targeted following incredibly easy. 

Share Engaging, Informative, and Relevant Content

As you follow the 80-20 rule, make sure to share engaging, informative, and relevant content with your followers. Since you've targeted them, you should already have an idea about what they are interested in, what their problems are, and how your business can help. For example, if you're targeting stay-at-home moms who are trying to juggle motherhood and the family budget, you might share articles about packing healthy lunches on a budget. On the other hand, if you're targeting prominent attorneys who need document management services, you might share the latest news about cloud security breaches or tips on how to limit access to an online repository.

Share Occasional Special Offers

Sharing the occasional special offer, especially if it's only available via one social channel, is a great way to reward your followers and keep them following you. Again, be careful not to bombard your followers with too many offers.

Incorporate an Opt-in Element

Encourage your social followers to opt into your email marketing campaigns by adding an opt-in form to your profile. Many email marketing providers such as MailChimp have easy-to-use forms that you can embed into a Facebook tab. By encouraging opt-ins, you can move more of your marketing to email campaigns.

Send Social Traffic to Your Website or Blog

Finally, share the occasional link to your website or blog. By diverting traffic back to your website, you'll have additional opportunities to share your marketing messages.

Social media is a powerful medium for business marketing. Use it primarily to build trust and relationships with the occasional special offer.

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