Anyone can set up a social media account in a matter of seconds, the real challenge is building a community and turning those people into customers. So how is this done?

I have developed three rules for social media conversation: give, give and give.

Yes, it’s the same word three times, but how does this help?

Social media is nothing like traditional broadcast media. When you advertise on television, radio or print, you are broadcasting your message (much like you would spread a blanket over a bed). Some people might respond to the right message, but everyone understands that commercials are the price we pay to watch, listen and read content in traditional media. Social media, however, plays by different rules. 

On any social network — Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. — every person is using it to be... social. That sounds obvious, but let me put it in real-world terms.

Suppose you’re at a house party with a bunch of friends. You notice a man there you don’t really know. Perhaps you’re interested in learning more about him, but you just stand there and continue talking to your friends. Suddenly, he walks over to you.

“I work for ABC Pool Company and boy, do we have a great offer for you. For a limited time only, spend $100 in our store and we’ll give you 10 percent off your entire purchase,” he says.

Your first instinct is to ask if he’s crazy. He seems like a robot. Who just walks up to someone at a party and says that? By the way, YOU DON’T EVEN OWN A POOL!!!

This is what companies are doing on social networking sites right now: they broadcast. They talk and talk and talk. Try doing that on a first date and see how far you get. 

Give, Give and Give

Let’s say your company has a Facebook account and you’re excited to start using it. You post messages about all your upcoming events and sales, but no one responds or engages with you. Why? Because no one cares about your silly business! 

First, you have to make them care, and you do that by giving.

If you constantly give and provide value to your followers (potential customers) they will start to notice you and care about what you say. They will interact with you. 

NOTE: Do not hard sell on any social network. If the person who is following you is interested, they will look to find out more about you.

How Do You Give?

When it comes to social media, you have to think differently. You have to give your follows what they want. You have to give them a reason to follow you — and no, coupons for your company are not going to work. You have to be there and care for them. Basically, you have to be a human being, or better yet, a true friend.

Trust is what’s going get you leads. If you take great care of those leads, or wow them in some way, they will lead to more leads and more followers.

Does this seem like a vague concept? Fair enough. Let’s take some action!

I want you to do one of the following things on your Facebook account today, and see what kind of response you get. By “response,” I’m not talking sales leads, but rather likes, shares or comments. 

? Post a funny picture and ask people to caption it.

? Ask a question. For instance: “Who is using their pool or hot tub today?”

? Create and post a video thanking all your customers for a great year. (It’s easy to do on your smartphone).

? Take a group photo of everyone at your company wishing your Facebook friends a Happy New Year (again, use your smartphone. No fancy equipment necessary).

This is an experiment. I want you to take notice of how many people engage with these types of posts rather than a post about an upcoming sale or a coupon. You’ll see you get a lot more of your friends to see these type of posts. They may not turn into direct sales, but the point is to show your customers that you can be creative, funny and personable, that you're not some giant company robot hungry for money. If you saw that robot at a party, you’d run for your life.

If you want to talk more about this subject, you can email me and I’d be happy to share some more information with you: matt@swimuniversity.com

Also, if you’re interested in improving your business marketing this year, please stop by my brand new blog Pool Business Marketing, which was just launched on January 1st 2013. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the site.

Happy Swimming!