THE BLOG

10 Traits Shared by Successful Social Media Entrepreneurs

01/21/2014 09:52 am ET | Updated Mar 18, 2014
  • Kim Garst Social media and brand strategist

It's not surprising that many of the traits of successful entrepreneurs overlap with the traits of successful social media entrepreneurs.

Any entrepreneur knows that in order to achieve any modicum of success in their niche or industry, they're going to need to be in the game for the long haul; and that means that traits like perseverance and having a thick skin are an absolute necessity.

But what makes social media entrepreneurs different? Are there any unique traits or characteristics one needs to succeed online? Can 'regular' entrepreneurs take their skills and knowledge and use them to achieve social media success?

The following are 10 traits that successful social media entrepreneurs often exhibit. Some of these are personality traits that can be nurtured and developed, and some are skills that can be practiced and learned. In any case, if you can confidently say that you exhibit most of these traits, you're well on your way to social media success!

1. They're happy to share content that's not their own
Part of being an authentic marketer is being able to put the needs of your community first. This means offering valuable content and information, regardless of where it originates from.

Sharing other people's content can be a challenge for some marketers; but a good idea is a good idea, even if it didn't come from you! Sharing relevant information enriches your community by providing a perspective different than your own.

This may mean sharing relevant blog posts with your email subscribers, retweeting clever comments (even when they're from your competitors!), or sharing a great Facebook post with your community.

2. They listen.
Successful marketers know that active listening is a key component of building a community. Too often I still see companies pushing a message on social media with little thought to how their community is responding, or what they have to say.

When you ask your community questions, do you actually listen to the answers? Do you read all the comments posted to your wall? Do you carefully consider feedback you receive on your blog?

Everyone knows asking questions on social media is a great way to get people engaged, but how many brands actually read the answers?

3. They respond consistently.
Not only do successful marketers listen to their community, they take the time to thoughtfully respond. I'm not suggesting that responding to each and every comment, question or concern is
necessary (or even possible, depending on the size of your community), but knowing when it's important to respond is paramount.

With 71 percent of consumers stating that they would be likely to recommend a brand who responded quickly on social media, the opportunity cost of not responding is just too high.

4. They have a plan in place.
Most successful social media marketers have a plan in place for how they will consistently respond to comments, both positive and negative. This is particularly important if your social media tasks are delegated, or managed by more than one person. Some of the questions that should be answered include:

• Which types of comments will we respond to? Just customer service queries? Just criticisms? Just positive comments? All of the above?
• How quickly will we respond? Within 1 hour? 24 hours? 3 business days?
• Will we share or retweet positive comments?
• Will we be responding as our brand, or as individuals?
• What voice and values will we convey through our responses?

5. They participate in the conversation, rather than trying to control it.
Consider these wise words from Scott Cook, founder of Intuit: "A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is -- it is what consumers tell each other it is."

Smart marketers know that in the internet age, consumers control the conversation. With social media giving them the ability to have their voice heard loud and clear, consumers have taken back the reigns when it comes to telling a brand's story.

People are talking about your brand, guaranteed. So would you rather stick your head in the sand and pretend that everything's okay, or would you like to have your voice heard too?

To participate in the conversation, you must first be where your community is talking. Figure out where your customers and target market are 'hanging out' online, and be active and present there.

It's also critical that you find out what people are saying about you (and not just to your face!). Searching for your product or brand name via hashtags, on-site search, or interest lists are all greats to monitor the conversation that's taking place.

6. They're flexible.
While I'm a huge proponent of having a social media plan in place, from time to time situations will arise that just can't be predicted. And your ability to respond quickly, in a manner that's consistent with your brand's voice and values is what's important.

For instance, even with the best-laid plan, the following situations may occur:

• A personal crisis prevents you from being on social media for a few days
• An employee mistakenly posts a confidential piece on information on Facebook
• A current event or tragedy means having to change the tone or scheduling of your content
• The rules or policies of a particular social network may mean changing your strategy

Your ability to respond quickly to unexpected changes or surprises, while remaining true to your brand's values is what will set you apart.

7. They're passionate.
True passion is contagious, especially when expressed on social media. And that's why marketers who are passionate about their product, business, and about the community they serve are far more likely to be successful.

Genuine enthusiasm spreads organically, and inspires and influences those around you. It also takes the pressure off: instead of coming up with strategies to inspire your community, a natural consequence of passion will be that they will want to experience the same passion they see in you.

In the words of author Simon Sinek, "People don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it". If you do what you love, this passion will be evident in everything you do; and there's no one more magnetic than someone who truly loves what they do.

8. They monitor their results.
Social media may be fun (I'll be the first to admit it!), but without contributing to the growth of your business, what's the point?

Successful marketers know that monitoring, tracking and evaluating how their social media efforts are contributing to the bottom line is key. Some of the key metrics they track include:

• Engagement rates
• Blog and email subscribers
• Organic and paid reach
• Referral traffic
• Share of voice
• ROI for each channel

Consistently tracking your social media metrics will allow you to quickly assess what you're doing right, and what you could be doing better.

9. They're strategic.
While anyone can use social media without a plan or strategy in place, doing so can mean never fully harnessing the power of social media. Successful marketers know that the best results happen when they not only have a solid social media plan in place, but when that plan is in line with their overall business goals and strategy.

For instance,

• What's the point of your social media efforts? Are they primarily to raise brand awareness, improve customer service, or increase sales?
• How does social media fit into your overall business goals?
• How will you determine whether social media is 'working' for your business? What metrics will you use to gauge this?

10. They show up -- consistently.
In order for your community to trust you -- I mean, really trust you -- you need to consistently be present and available. And no matter how much you may love social media, there will come a time when you just don't feel like showing up.

Successful entrepreneurs are active and engaged over the long haul, not just when they feel like it. We all know brands that seem to engage and interact sporadically, particularly when they want something. But smart brands know that the key to building trust is never giving up.

When it comes down to it, successful social media entrepreneurs are those that are able to build a solid social media strategy, built on and around the needs of their community. They know social media's not all about them, but about consistently providing valuable content that helps build long-term, profitable relationships.

What other traits do you think are important for social media success? Are these characteristics or skills that can be learned? Share with me in the comments below!