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Over 1.1 billion people in the world are on Facebook, including over 175 million Americans, or 1 in 2 adults. Twitter recently surpassed 400 million accounts. LinkedIn boasts over 225 million users. Small business owners are trying to take advantage of these trends, but few are fully reaping the rewards.

For many business owners, the temptation is to use social networks to promote themselves and broadcast their messages. But if you stop thinking like a marketer and start thinking like a customer, you’ll understand that the secret to social media is in the "social" more than in the "media" - it's in being human – being the sort of person at a cocktail party who listens attentively, tells great stories, shows interest in others, and is authentic and honest. The secret is to simply be likeable.

Here are 5 key first steps for business owners to be more likeable and ensure greater success using social media:

1. Listen first and never stop listening. 
Before your first tweet, search Twitter for people talking about your business and your competitors. Search using words that your prospective customers would say as well. For example, if you’re a dentist, use Twitter to search for people tweeting the words “need an dentist” in your town. You’ll be surprised how many people are already looking for you.

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2. Start with one social network. 
Often times, businesses are compelled to dive into multiple social networks at once. This can be overwhelming and very inefficient. When it comes to social media for businesses, quality trumps quantity. Start with one network where your customers are and that best fits your brand’s personality and goals and focus on it. Listen to your constituents, post engaging content, and once you’ve mastered one, then tackle another. Don’t know what network to start with? Just ask you customers where they spend their time!

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3.  Don’t tell your customers to like you and follow you, tell them why and how they should. 
Everywhere you turn, you see “Like us on Facebook” and “Follow us on Twitter.” Huh? Why? How? Give your customers a reason to connect with you on social networks, answering the question, “What’s in it for me?” and then make it incredibly easy to do so. Note the difference between these two calls to action: “Like my company's page on Facebook” vs “Get answers to your social media questions at fb.com/LikeableLocal

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4. Share pictures and videos. 
People love photos. The biggest reason Facebook went from 0 to 1 billion users in 7 years is photos. Photos and videos tell stories about you in ways that text alone cannot. You don’t need a big production budget, either. Use your smartphone to take pictures and short videos of customers, staff, and cool things at your business, and then upload them directly to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. A picture really is worth a thousand words – and a video is worth a thousand pictures.

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5. Spend at least 30 minutes a day on social media. 
If you bought a newspaper ad or radio ad, you wouldn’t spend 5 minutes on it or relegate it to interns. Plus, there’s a lot to learn, and every week, new tools and opportunities across social networks emerge. Spend real time each day reading and learning, listening and responding, and truly joining the conversation. The more time and effort you put in to social media, the more benefits your business will receive.

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Above all else, follow the golden rule: Would you yourself click the “Like” button, the Follow button, or Retweet button if you saw your business or your content here? Would you want to be friends with your business at a cocktail party? Just how likeable is your business?


This was adapted from an original post on LinkedIn. For more articles like this, check out Dave Kerpen blog, and Dave’s LinkedIn Influencer page. To learn more about Likeable Dentists click here: http://www.likeabledentists.com/.