The first goal of internet marketing is getting people's attention.

But there's too much noise today. And it's only getting worse.

Your potential customers have thousands of things to pay attention to. And their Twitter Stream or Facebook News Feed is already full of other alternatives to your product or service.

The problem is that companies want to rush in to the tools and tactics of social media, without giving much thought to their marketing strategy.

And the result is that they look, sound, and feel just like everyone else. They're lost in a sea of mediocrity.

So the key to social media is to stand out. If you want to see return on your efforts, then you need to separate yourself from the competition.

Here are 3 social media tips that you can use to save yourself hours of frustration.

 

Social Media Comic: Why Don't Our Customers Like Our Facebook Page? Image courtesy of seanrnicholson

 

Tip #1. Define Who You Are

The first step to any marketing strategy is to define who you are. But not some wishy-washy "mission statement". Think deeper.

Businesses don't take enough time to really flesh out their principles and priorities. The result? They sell commoditized products/services, are virtually indistinguishable from the next competitor, and don't have a clear vision of who their target audience is.

The first step to positioning is by believing in something. Companies today want to "market" to everyone, and are afraid of taking a stand one way or another. But when you try to appeal to everyone, you really appeal to no one.

Instead, you need to "market" to those people who share your worldview. These people aren't just casual consumers, but your raging fans. Start with your strengths:

  1. What does your company/brand really stand for?
  2. Who do you (specifically) serve?
  3. What is the unique solution you provide?
  4. What specific qualities does your company embody?
  5. Why does your company even exist (besides to turn a profit)?
  6. Why are your products/services better than everyone else?

And it also helps you answer the next tip...

 

Tip #2. Position Yourself

How will you be different from all the competition? If you don't come up with a unique positioning, then you'll be forgotten. You'll get traffic, but it will bounce and never return again.

One way to define who you are, is by defining who you aren't. By taking a stand, you're aligning yourself with a specific set of beliefs or opinions. So by default, the "other guys" are your enemy.

This enemy could be a company, a trend, an industry, or an attitude towards business. But it's personal.

For example, Apple believes in amazing products, beautiful design, and easy-to-use interfaces. Their enemy is complexity, scope-creep, and the companies behind bad products. Here are some quotes from Steve Jobs:

"If, for some reason, we make some big mistake and IBM wins, my personal feeling is that we are going to enter a computer Dark Ages for about twenty years."
"Pretty much, Apple and Dell are the only ones in this industry making money. They make it by being Wal-Mart. We make it by innovation."
"The only problem with Microsoft is they just have no taste. They have absolutely no taste. And I don't mean that in a small way, I mean that in a big way, in the sense that they don't think of original ideas, and they don't bring much culture into their products."

Obviously you don't have to be this explicit. But you also don't have to guess about who Apple is, or what they stand for.

 

Tip #3. Do Less

Finally, do less.

When you don't have a lot of time, energy or money, then you need to focus where you invest to make a bigger impact. That means put more resources into fewer things. But what do you start?

1. Focus on the essential: Your website, your blog, and email marketing.

You own each of these channels (including all the data or content you're creating), and they're proven to be the most profitable channels. So start there. If your website is sub-par, your blog's content isn't engaging, or your email marketing is nonexistent, then start here first!

2. Focus on the highest ROI activities: Now figure out where you're receiving "uncommon" results.

Maybe your style of creating content resonates with people and you see a lot of engagement. Or maybe your Facebook page sends a ton of traffic back to your website. Whatever the case, you should be able to identify one or two tactics that are really giving you a lot of return.

There's absolutely no reason you need to prioritize more than two social networks. None. So don't follow what everyone's talking about. Pinterest for your business might be a waste of time.

Because most companies (outside of the Fortune 500) don't have enough time, money or staff to make the returns worth the cost. They will eat up a lot of your time and energy, without giving you the returns you need.

And your goal is to stand out, not fit in. So instead of spreading yourself too thin (like every other business), go deeper and create a more rich, fulfilling experience for your customers.

You'll get a higher ROI on your time & money, while also being able to stay sane in the process.

And you'll have a better chance of keeping people's attention, which is the first step of social media marketing.