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Social media. It’s the latest fad. It has been for almost a decade now, and it’s not going away anytime soon. With the ever-growing hysteria over smart phones, it is surely not going away anytime soon. According to John Hall, a Forbes contributor, “We spend 23 days a year, and rising, on our phones.” It gets even worse. Social media and the internet are both such a hit that, Hall says, “On average each day, [internet users]: Upload 52 million Instagram photos send 500 million tweets; make 3.5 billion Google searches; and send 269 billion emails.” Even though those figures are unimaginable and intangible, there is, regardless, a massive opportunity here to sell, sell, sell. But, people are smart; they won’t just follow you and your content for no reason. You need to connect with them on a personal level and engage them in order to sell them things these days. You need to have a well established brand identity and understand their “User Persona,” to really make an impact.

Once you have established your brand identity and identified your specific target audiences, it’s time to get to work on your social media marketing plan. Here are the three things you absolutely must do in order to be profitable, relevant, and authoritative online.

1. Broadcast content.

One, create and share unique content. You can do this through creating blogs, lengthening company and team member biographies on your website(s), posting social media status updates, optimizing social media profiles, syndicating blog content onto second tier blogging mediums (e.g., Medium, Blogger, and Tumblr); and creating and sharing images, infographics, presentations (think SlideShare), and videos.

Two, curate relevant and authoritative content. This is where you find relevant and popular content on the web and social media profiles and re-share what someone or some company/organization has shared. This can be content other people have created and published or content those people found and re-shared themselves.

2. Listen to users.

This is where the handy marketing tool, “keyword,” comes into play. Keep track of keywords that are relevant to your industry with websites like Hastagify.me and RiteTag.com. Search for these keywords on your social media profiles and see what users are talking about. Specifically try to find opportunities that you can act on, such as seeing people who are expressing some kind of need or want. By doing this, you can find people who are much more likely to hear your pitch and purchase a product of service from you, because they are already talking about their need or want online.

3. Respond to users.

Once you find the opportunities to meet a need or want online, respond to those people with personalized words, offering them what they seek. Responding to people also comes in the form of responding to engaged followers who are trying to connect with you.

These responses includes forms of communication, such as comments, direct messages, likes, follows, and shares. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

  • Thank people personally for following you and sharing your content.
  • Like people’s status updates to show them they are important and share good content themselves.
  • Comment on people’s comments or statuses to offer quality customer service.
  • Usher any users who express negative emotions toward your company into a private conversation–first into a private messaging stream and, then, into an email, phone call, or video conference if necessary.

What else should companies do online to further establish their brand identity, meet clients’/customers’ needs, and market their products and/or services? Share your ideas with me @RickHevier on Twitter!