What were your business resolutions for 2010? If they didn’t include something to do with social media, you may well be missing out on a lot of great opportunities, as even more of the population are joining the conversation. If you’re still not sure how to start, here’s a great, simple article to get you going. It’s by Willa Plank, writing for the Wall Street Journal. Check it out in context here, or read on!
How else can we say it: Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard of Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn as tools to promote your services and products online. According to a recent survey of 148 private companies by the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Center for Marketing Research, 43% say social media is “very important” to their business and marketing strategy, 52% are tweeting and 45% are blogging.
But don’t feel pressured to jump in quickly and create a profile on every site. First, decide if it’s right for your company. “Are you a social organization?” says Simon Salt, CEO of integrated marketing communications agency IncSlingers. “Everyone seems to know to have a Facebook page or a Twitter [account]. Is that what your business is about?”
For instance, a Facebook fan page probably doesn’t make sense for a business-to-business outfit, says Neal Schaffer, author of “Windmill Networking: Understanding, Leveraging & Maximizing LinkedIn.” And companies that target older or retired customers might benefit more from direct-mail campaigns, or even knocks on doors. “Don’t believe the hype,” Schaffer says. “Understand what fits your business.”
If you’ve decided to incorporate social media, remember that YouTube videos, blog posts and status updates are just a part of your entire marketing arsenal. Here are three best ways to use social media.
1.Stand out by trying less-crowded or up-and-coming social-media sites. Everyone knows about Facebook fan pages. But if you’re a neighborhood business that relies on local clientele, you might want to consider Foursquare or Gowalla, which combine elements of other social-networking sites (Twitter, Facebook or Yelp) to help spread word of establishments and provide rewards to encourage customer loyalty. John Jantsch, author of “Duct Tape Marketing,” suggests trying underutilized networks that cater to business owners, such as Biznik and BizSugar. If you’re strapped for time, at least maintain a blog that provides good content and answers consumer questions, he says. Or create quick, educational YouTube videos that – along with a blog – are more likely to come up higher in keyword searches. Samir Balwani, contributor to social-media news blog Mashable, suggests creating your own social network at Elgg.org.
2.Don’t expect instant sales, but make sure to get actual results. Social media is more about brand outreach. Make sure you have a reasonable goal and a well-thought out strategy to achieve that end. First, listen to what is being said about your business and competitors on Google alerts, RSS queries, Twitter, Yelp and BackType. Make sure you have your profile account names on all print communications you distribute, such as flyers and menus. Identify your biggest fans, and figure out how to organize them or point them out in some way. For example: On Twitter, if you know a person is a loyal customer, mention them in a post or announce a free service or product they’ve won for loyalty. Or reach out to other bloggers in your industry. Sarah Endline, founder of dark chocolate treat maker Sweetriot in New York, said she connected with blog site Hungry Girl and that lead to getting her company’s name out and sales.
3. Don’t forget social media is a tool to strengthen offline relationships. Many small businesses already have personal ties to customers in their communities, and these tools are designed to enhance those relationships, not replace them. For instance, you can use social-media tools such as YouTube to give customers a behind-the-scenes glimpse of your company, or display more of your personality than you can through an ad. “It also allows you to show your culture,” Endline says. “They’re not just there to [see] a static promotion from you. They want value.” And remember, a social network is “really a big room of people,” author Schaffer says. Use it to “meet” potential clients or business partners, but make sure you follow up with an in-person meeting or phone conversation.
Write to Willa Plank at firstname.lastname@example.org
Where are you with social media? What sorts of articles would be most useful this year? Leave your comments here and we’ll try our best to get your questions answered.