Social media has been around for more than 10 years. My guess is that by now, your organization is probably involved in some way with social media. Maybe you have created a Twitter or Facebook account. Maybe you even have some friends and fans on those accounts, and you share things with them when you have time.

Let’s rework this in 2013. Social media is now mainstream, and your customers are using it to connect. They connect easily to each other, and since the tool is the same, they will find it easy to connect to your organization, too ... if you make a few easy-to-do adjustments in your approach to business-facing social media.

Here are five simple adjustments you can make to kick-start your organization’s social media efforts in 2013.


Focus on conversations

First off, let’s focus on conversations. Many organizations and businesses have been using social media status updates as a broadcasting tool. They send out notices of events, sales, or coupons. Possibly, they have used social media as an easy outlet to send out press releases and important corporate announcements.

Guess what? If your organization focuses primarily on sending out corporate communications, your customers will tune out your organization and unfriend you in a heartbeat.

In 2013, instead of using social media as a one-way broadcast tool, work on starting and continuing conversations with your customers.

This will require your organization to do three important things:
1. Listen before you speak. Set up some listening tools (Google alerts and Twitter search alerts are good places to start) to see what your customers are saying about you;
2. Respond, using colloquial, conversational language. This will feel weird - you’re used to more formal marketing-speak. Make it feel like you’re talking to a work colleague at the water cooler - do this, and people will start talking to you.
3. Figure out what types of conversations you want to start. Do some brainstorming on the conversations your organization needs to hear in 2013, and start those conversations.


Focus on the visual

For the most part, many businesses and organizations have been posting text-heavy status updates in their social media accounts. That makes sense in text-based Twitter, but not so much in Facebook. In fact, Facebook best practices show that when you do one simple thing - add a photo or a video to your post - engagement increases by 100 percent or more.

So get those cameras out of your pockets (yes, that iPhone or Android smartphone makes a great point-and-shoot camera), and start taking photos around the office, the warehouse, or the store. Maybe think about the three most important things that your customers should know about your organization, take photos of that, then share those photos with customers.


Focus on video

That smartphone I just mentioned is also an HD quality video recorder, and we can put it to good use. There’s a reason Youtube is so popular right now — people love watching short videos. Studies show that people engage more with video posts than with text-only posts.

Here’s my guess — most likely, you haven’t made many videos for your organization. If you have created some videos, it probably resembled a TV commercial. That’s not what your customers want to watch.

Instead, get to the point immediately. Youtube suggests that the first 15 seconds are critical to connect with viewers. So don’t waste those seconds with titles, fade-ins and credits. Just start sharing your main points.

Then post that video to two places — Youtube and Facebook. Use Youtube to share in most places, and use the Facebook upload to share with your Facebook page fans. Facebook’s algorithm favors videos uploaded to Facebook, so those will get seen more than a shared Youtube video.


Focus on next steps

Many times, organizations post information to their social media accounts, but don’t include anything for customers to do. They don’t include a next step.

Let’s change that in 2013. Make sure that everything you do includes some type of “ask.” That ask can be as simple as asking customers to “friend or fan” a Facebook Page, or the ask might be to click a link that takes them to a new product or a buy-it-now page.

More people will click if you actually ask them to click. Because of this, make sure to provide customers with some next steps, and actually invite them to take that next step. Do that, and your organization will be one step closer to continued engagement with customers.


Focus on your customers

Finally, most businesses and organizations, believe it or not, don’t actually focus on their customers. Instead, they focus on their stuff, on their showroom floor, or on their sales staff.

In 2013, focus on customers. Engage them in conversation. Ask them if they like what they’re seeing. Ask them to take next steps, and invite them into your organization.

Follow these five simple reshaping steps, and you will be well on your way to having a great 2013 with social media, and with some really engaged customers, too.

David Lee King is the digital services director at Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library in Kansas, where he plans, implements and experiments with emerging technology trends. King writes the Outside/In column for American Libraries Magazine with Michael Porter. www.davidleeking.com.