Ever since I got my first job in PR I knew that marketing was essentially a load of old twaddle. I left that world years ago and now they call it social media or social marketing but it's all the same smoke and mirrors silliness.
I feel I can say that fairly safely because Great Escape Cars has just been shortlisted for the Excellence in Social Media category of the annual Birmingham Chamber of Commerce awards. So apparently I know a little about it.
I'd love to say that's true. But I don't. What success we've had has been less about reading the latest musings of social media gurus and pioneers and more about doing the stuff that should come naturally to most folk: being open, honest and enthusiastic.
Marketing bods give stuff names - like social media - to imply you need them to do it properly. Untrue. If you run a small business you should be using social media; there's no secret to it. Just like you don't need anyone to teach you how to have a conversation, nobody in a fancy suit needs to tell you how to do social media.
So, entirely free of charge and definitely not at £95/hr consultancy rate, here are my top 5 social media tips.
1. Be committed
The sole difference between successful and unsuccessful social media is commitment. Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin are happening 24/7 and if you jump in you need to stay in. Stay engaged. Keep talking. Keep interacting.
2. Be enthusiastic
I am lucky, I do what I love and love what I do. But whether you sell chrome plated widgets or hire classic cars, show the love. The people you want to talk to will respond to enthusiasm.
3. Be engaging
There are several ways to communicate with people - some broadcast their views at you, others sit and listen and others engage. The mistake many companies make on social media is to only broadcast. But social media requires engagement. Don't just broadcast your latest sales success because only you really care. Instead, talk about stuff your followers are interested in, and slip the sales stuff in occasionally. It works much better.
4. Be you
Too many corporate social media accounts read like a dull day in the dirctors' dining room. Social media is direct and immediate and it's your opportunity to show who you and your company really are. Forget the nonsense about 'brand values' because what you say and do on social media is what counts. Get rid of the suit and tie and get with the programme.
5. Find an audience
If you can get to grips with 1-4 you need to get an audience. This is where most budding social media-ists lose faith. As in life, people don't flock to kneel before your wit and wisdom. You need to build your audience. On Twitter you do this by following like-minded accounts. On Facebook you have to promote your posts and use other paid-for tools. Linkedin is self-explanatory.
Marketing is the science of the bleedin' obvious and so is social media. There are tricks to learn but most of what you need is common sense. Above all, try it: any business needs to be there. We are because we have a business to promote but it is really more than that: I enjoy the engagement with customers and enthusiasts.
Great Escape Cars is @classiccarshire on Twitter and Great Escape Classic Car Hire on Facebook. To find out more visit www.greatescapecars.co.uk or call 01527 893733.