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It’s easy to mistake social media for a semi-frivolous, Internet-based time waster and give it half an effort. After all, how can you be serious about your business and spend any part of your day tweeting? So, if you can’t yet bring yourself to try and reap business benefits from Facebook or Twitter, try LinkedIn. LinkedIn is the most popular business-oriented, social-media site on the web and offers a way to focus on business while making connections online. Unfortunately, it also requires a little more attention to detail than it does to tweet what you had for lunch.
Here are some tips for beginners …
Finish What You Started: It’s one thing to leave your likes and dislikes off your personal Facebook page. Nobody will fault you if you don’t divulge your preference for lighthearted, romantic comedies. LinkedIn, on the other hand, is more like an online resume. So treat it as such. Leaving important information off your profile – such as past work experience, a bio, a photo, or specialties – will not only make you look like you can’t finish a job but it’ll also be less likely to catch anyone’s attention. And it isn’t only job-seeking college students who benefit from the social-networking site. There are more than 100 million members on LinkedIn. Which means, the more info you include, the more likely you’ll meet prospective clients or referral partners among that 100 million.
Invite Your Address Book: Okay, this isn’t as easy as it sounds. Sure, LinkedIn offers a way to import all of your contacts from your email address book. But be careful. After all, you’re setting up a professional network. In other words, you may not need to connect with your mother, old friends from high school, or your cousin Larry. Save the personal connections for your personal pages. Keep focused and professional.
Participate: So you’ve filled out your profile and imported any business contacts to your LinkedIn profile. The next step is getting active on the site. LinkedIn offers the ability to join as many industry-related groups and discussions as you wish. So do it. Search groups by category or keyword and focus on your region or industry. Once you’ve joined, ask a question or answer an existing query. If nothing else, you may learn something from someone. At best, you’ll make new contacts within your industry and region that could lead to business down the line.
Recommend To Be Recommended: On LinkedIn, recommendations bolster your credibility. After all, if you’ve got a lot of recommendations, you’re most likely trustworthy and not out to scam, spam, or swindle anyone. But how do you get them? Well, start by recommending people you’ve had positive business experiences with. Once you’ve made some recommendations, it’ll be a lot easier to get some in return.
Like the holiday season, social media offers great promise but also a high risk of offending and angering the very people you hoped to gather together. If done incorrectly, your online fans and followers will turn on you and ruin your expectations of online success. However, with a few reminders, some forethought, and a focus on finding a consistent tone and producing quality content, your dreams of social-media success can be as easily attainable as making a Christmas wish list.
Here are some hints and tips for bettering your online presence and your chances for success …
Your Past: The first place to start when beginning a social-media campaign is with former clients, customers, and partners. If you had a good business relationship with someone in the past, chances are they won’t be reluctant to join your page and like your posts. They aren’t, however, going to be as interested in marketing pieces and sales pitches. That means, you’ll have to have content that is both interesting and professional, but that will also appeal to a wide audience. Having something to share that can interest both your past clients and potential business is key. Keeping your former customers close to you is an excellent way to boost word of mouth and repeat business.
Your Present: This will be where you place the greatest amount of focus. After all, chasing down potential leads and turning window shoppers into clients is where the money’s at. That makes this is an important category to cater to when thinking about how to approach your social-media pages and profiles. After all, a lot of these people have expressed interest in your services and may be ready to bite. That doesn’t mean, however, that they want to be hit with an inbox full of reminders that you’d like their business. Don’t seem desperate. Instead, approach these social-media contacts as though you’re interested in them rather than just their money.
Your Future: This is the area with the most amount of promise. After all, the idea that you can reach across the vast and varied Internet and pull in new contacts just by keeping a Facebook or Twitter account seems both unbelievable and undeniably attractive. Social media and the Internet at large have given businesses a much greater ability to reach out to their community and industry. If you keep your online presence focused on business and respect people’s boundaries, you will no doubt come across new clients you wouldn’t have otherwise. But, much like in the previous cases, you have to be considerate and not abuse your contacts by overloading them with unwelcome advertising or incessant solicitation. Follow common sense and treat people the way you’d like to be treated.
Social-media success can sometimes seem like winning the lottery. After all, the potential payout far exceeds the cost to get started. But unlike the lottery, there are social-media strategies you can utilize that will increase your odds of success.
Here are a few ways to increase your chances of winning big with social-media …
Update, Update, Update: Social media requires you to be social. And updating your pages is the online equivalent of socializing. It’s how you start a conversation with your contacts. It’s also how you create a community, attract visitors to your page, and brand your business. In other words, what you post on your blog or Facebook page will help define your business for newcomers but it will also begin a conversation with your existing clients and customers. Keep a consistent flow of content and you’ll be rewarded with increased activity on your pages. Leave nothing more than your address on your page, and you’ll be ignored. It’s that simple, really. In order to win the prize, you have to participate.
Give And You Shall Receive: One of the quickest ways to draw attention to your page is to pay attention to other people’s pages and profiles. This means, spending some time perusing the pages of your contacts and clients and leaving a compliment or comment while you’re there. Recommend someone on LinkedIn. Thank someone for a recent positive business interaction. Follow their feed. Like a link. Just like in the real world, people on social media respond well to kindness, flattery, and friendliness. Reach out and you’re likely to see them return the favor. Don’t sit on your hands waiting for the public to discover you. Initiate.
Be Dynamic And Compelling: This doesn’t mean you have to change your personality or act like someone other than who you are. It does mean you should try to encourage interaction by posting things that are both interesting and relevant to your client base. It also means you should use pictures, post videos, ask questions, post surveys, and customize your pages wherever possible. The more dynamic your online presence, the more likely people will leave your pages with a positive impression of you and your business. It shows a bit of effort and care. It also shows you’re reliable, consistent, available, and interested in creating a dialogue with your customers.
Among social-media sites, Twitter has the least obvious professional application. It’s character limitation and cutesy lingo make it seem like a stretch for someone hoping to reap business benefits from social networking. Still, there are a number of inventive ways to use Twitter that will make it easier to find contacts, research your local market, and connect with industry leaders.
Here are some tips for using Twitter more effectively …
Use Keywords: On Twitter, people attach hashtags to particular words or phrases to make their tweets easier to find. Attaching a hashtag means people searching for that topic will be more likely to find that tweet. It also make eavesdropping on Twitter users even easier. Search for a keyword or phrase associated with your business and get an instant report on what people are thinking and saying about your industry. Use what you learn to craft better business strategies and address your customers’ needs and concerns. Using Twitter for field research doesn’t even require an account. It’s the fastest, easiest, and most effective way to use Twitter for business.
Go Local: Apply that same lesson to your region, city, or state and you can quickly find Twitter users in your neighborhood and community. This is a good way to boost your followers and make new contacts. Find some local Twitter users who either fit your target demographic or are influential or active in the community, then follow their feed. Chances are many of these new contacts will follow you back. Use that opportunity to introduce yourself and begin a conversation. You are, after all, neighbors. Keep it casual and conversational. Soon these contacts will become online friends and their word of mouth and familiarity with you and your business will benefit your bottom line.
Reach Out: It can’t hurt to take the first step. Reaching out and following people on Twitter is a quick way to generate some goodwill and gather some fans of your own. Finding people in your area or industry is a good start but don’t be afraid to also follow feeds of people and entities beyond your immediate grasp as well. By which we mean, follow the local newspapers, city leaders, national media sites, industry trade groups, and any or anything else that pertains to your business and interests you and, presumably, your followers. As always, keep it professional and family friendly. Ultimately, the more diverse and active your Twitter page is, the better chance you’ll have at making it work for you and your business.
At its core, social media is about communication. It’s about keeping contact with friends, family, clients, customers, and whoever else you’d like on the list of people you keep in the loop. For business purposes, that means staying close to your list of professional contacts. Sounds easy enough. But the trick is doing it in a way that doesn’t make you a nuisance or an annoyance.
Here are some thoughts and tips …
It’s A Conversation: That’s the easiest way to think about your social-media campaign. You’re trying to start an ongoing conversation with a group of people that are connected to your business. These are people that you’re either currently doing business with or hope to be doing business with in the near future. In other words, you want to keep it professional and geared toward making a case for your services. For example, if your business was blankets, you’d post links to stories about how cold this winter will be rather than turning your blog, page or profile into an advertisement. In other words, everyone has an interest in the weather but someone who isn’t currently in the market for a new blanket is going to get tired of receiving your ads rather quickly. Then, when they do need a blanket, they will have already deleted and forgotten about you. Keep it conversational, interesting, and geared toward your audience.
It’s A Two-Way Street: In order to achieve some success with social media, you have to get your contacts involved and participating. Not only does this help them familiarize themselves with you and your business, it also provides an opportunity to do market research and receive feedback. For starters, you should probably interact a little with the social-media profiles and pages of your contacts. Reply or comment on something they posted or “like” an article or picture they uploaded. This encourages reciprocity and generates some goodwill. Also, ask for opinions and feedback from your online fans and followers. It will provide you with ideas for bettering your business, encourage interaction, and make your contacts feel included and valued. Which is, after all, the whole idea.
It’s Not A Chore: The trouble a lot of businesses have when starting a social-media campaign is their approach. If you’re trying to establish a personal relationship with your clients, contacts, and partners, you don’t want them to feel like you’re doing it out of obligation. Enjoy yourself and it’ll shine through. Try to have some fun with your online properties and it’ll be noticeable. That doesn’t mean posting unprofessional pictures or off-color jokes. It means approaching your Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn page the same way you would approach a phone call with a client. You wouldn’t mumble your words or seem unhappy to hear from them, you’d try to put your best foot forward and make them feel appreciated and eager to do business with you.
Finding social-media advice online is as easy as finding cars in a parking lot. Which is to say, there are plenty of gurus and experts hoping to teach you how to maximize your potential and rack up huge numbers of followers and fans. But – despite their expertise and savvy – the best advice is usually just common sense. To that end, we’ve compiled 9 common sense tips to help you become a more successful and effective social-media marketer.
Respond: Answer questions, thank people even if it’s just a few words. Make it a two-way conversation, listen to what others have to say and appreciate suggestions and feedback. It will make what you do even better.
Know What You’re Doing: If you’re going to establish yourself on social media, get involved in social media. Start your own Twitter account, Facebook page, read blogs, and get engaged. That’s the best way to understand the culture, tone, best practices, and protocol.
Add Value: Share tips, tricks, and insights. People’s time is precious and they need to get something out of the time they spend on your page. Make listening to you worth their while.
Drive Traffic To Your Website: Adding links in appropriate places within posts, and occasionally in Tweets, can drive potential business to your official website.
Your Brand Is Everything, Everywhere: Your business brand is everything and anything you do. From your logo, colors, tagline, and Twitter background to your blog header, website, profile pic, and bio. Your brand is everything you post, anywhere you’re represented. Be cautious and consistent.
Integrate: All your marketing efforts should work together to present consistent brand messages and lead to your ultimate marketing goals. You should also cross-promote your various marketing efforts.
Be Active: Update your status, share, comment, send invitations to connect, start group discussions, answer questions, and comment on other people’s pages and profiles. It’s called social media for a reason.
Seek Feedback: If nothing else, social media should be an effective way of finding out what your customers and clients think of your business. When was the last time you asked them what they’d like to see on your page? Whether you’re asking them to vote on your next post or to choose a product or service they’d like you to incorporate into your business, don’t underestimate the value of feedback.
Understand Your Objective: Before jumping on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or any other network, ask yourself “Why?” Each marketing effort should be clearly and logically tied to core business objectives. Are you using this network for customer service, brand awareness, or community building? And what does success look like? Having more fans or followers is not really a viable metric. Having a more engaged community could be.
There’s a popular notion that Facebook created the idea of sharing and transformed the Internet into a purely social experience. But anyone with a memory – and an email inbox – can tell you that there was plenty of sharing happening over the web long before Facebook came along and made it possible for anyone to share anything with anyone. In olden times, we shared information with our contacts through email. And, in fact, most of us still do.
Here are some email-marketing ideas to boost your social-media presence …
One Thing Leads To Another: Nearly 50 percent of surveyed companies said they planned to use email to grow their social-media channels. And, when you think about it, why wouldn’t you? Separating and segregating your marketing efforts means limiting the number of contacts you’re reaching with each individual effort. Why limit your Facebook activity to your Facebook followers? Promote your Facebook page through email and you’ll be attracting attention from not only your current followers but also those who aren’t yet familiar with your page. It’s a great way to boost activity and the number of fans, followers, contacts, and clients visiting your online properties.
Getting A Head Start: The simplest way to incorporate your email contact list into your social-media marketing campaign is to invite your address book to join your page. Most social-media pages have an automated prompt to send out an invitation. If that leaves you feeling cold, write up a personal note saying you’ve started a page or profile for your business and encourage them to visit your new page. Getting your pages off to a quick start requires some initial activity. Relying on current contacts and past clients is a great way to start building a community while you’re still learning the ropes.
Keeping it Going: Once you’ve invited your contacts to join your page, keep them updated about what’s happening through an occasional email promo. If you’ve written a particularly informative blog post or started a contest on one of your social-media pages, send out an email announcing it. Also, incorporate the addresses of your social-media pages into your email signature. Promoting your social-media pages through email doesn’t always have to be a direct plea or solicitation. Adding links to your online properties is a great way to get people to visit and like your pages. Ultimately, integrating your email and social-media marketing campaigns requires a little creativity and commitment. Keep at it and, with a little common sense and commitment, you’ll soon see results.
The key to successfully marketing your business through social media is to make it seem like you’re not. Which is to say, social-media marketing requires a little slight of hand, a lot of patience, and some faith. You can’t expect to put up some pages, upload a bunch of sales material, and wait for new clients to come knocking down your door. You’ll have to build a community of followers, fans, contacts, and customers the old-fashioned way.
Here are some tips to marketing your business without seeming to …
Think About Your Approach: So you registered for some social-media pages and are eager to start selling your services online? Well, unfortunately, that’s not how it works. In fact, there’s no quicker way to turn off potential online leads than to hammer away with sales talk and solicitations. Social-media marketing requires a little finesse. That means, rather than posting everyday about your business and services, you should be offering information and help. Approach your online contacts as though you’re doing it out of the kindness of your heart and the familiarity and goodwill you generate will lead to word-of-mouth and business.
The Content Conundrum: What do you post when you’d really rather beg for business? Well, there are a number of things. The quickest and easiest way to generate some good content is to share interesting info you’ve found that may help someone in need of your particular services. Pass along some industry news that a consumer might not know but should. Explain and add context to any numbers, stats, or trends that a potential customer would benefit from knowing. Approach your updates and posts as though you’re a good friend hoping to assist someone with an important decision. Answer questions and ask for feedback. All of these things will generate a back-and-forth with your online contacts that can only benefit your business.
Turning Contacts Into Clients: Of course, to some people, the process of luring in business through social-media may seem like a wasted effort. After all, who has the time to be posting to Facebook or LinkedIn when they need to generate real money in the real world? With time and consistency, however, social-media can – and will – lead to business. It’s just a matter of targeting the right audience and keeping up with your contacts. Social-media is a word-of-mouth machine. Give it time and you’ll soon see that your contacts are not only turning into clients, but are also recommending you to their contacts and online communities.
A jazz musician needs to first understand the basic framework of a song before they can effectively improvise over its chord progression and melody. In other words, they need to understand the foundation of the composition before they can begin to build upon it. In much the same way, social-media success requires a basic understanding of the framework and foundation of sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Knowing how things work, what purpose they serve, and how to effectively build a presence for your business will be key to moving you forward.
Here are some hints and help for building a better social-media presence …
The Beginning: Social media, first and foremost, is about connecting with other people. Regardless of what site you use, you’re there to network. Which means, hiding behind a half-finished profile or protecting your tweets isn’t going to lead to new business or potential leads. Act like you want to be found and are interested in making a good first impression. Have a professional looking photo, a well-written bio, and all of your current contact information. Also, invite your current contacts to follow your page and start spreading the word. There are plenty of tools and tricks to master along the way but starting by including as much relevant info as you can is the best way to begin. The more information you include about yourself, the more likely people will find you and your page.
The Middle: The more difficult part of this process is how you take your page from an empty shell to a thriving community. And the easy answer is content. Unfortunately, however, content isn’t always that easy to create, which is why it trips up so many wannabe social-media marketers. You have to have something to say and you have to do it consistently. And, to add to the pressure, once you’ve developed a rhythm and are contributing consistent content, you’ll have to find a way to get your fans and followers to read, interact, and comment on your posts. In other words, it can be tricky. The good news is sticking with relevant, professional content means using what you already know. Give your followers insider tips, info, and exclusive offers and they will come back for more.
The End: Once you’ve filled out your page and begun to contribute some content, the trick is maintaining it. You can add apps and banners. You can run contests and polls. All of these things are good ideas and – once you’re operating within the framework of the site – the more creativity you can muster, the better. Ultimately, the goal is to keep a regular schedule and consistent quality. Give people a reason to return and interact with your page and you’ll begin to see the word-of mouth build within your online community. Most of all, keep at it and don’t give in too quickly. Social media takes time. Have patience.
It may be easy to convince yourself that you don’t need a Facebook page for your business. After all, you’ve gone this long without one. But if you’re interested in building your business and connecting with potential clients in your community, not having a Facebook page puts you at a disadvantage. As evidence, we compiled the following three reasons your business would benefit from having a presence on social media’s most popular site.
Reach: Okay, we’ve said this before but … The top reason you need a Facebook page is the number of people who check in with the social-media giant every day. Facebook is hugely popular and the most visited website in the country. That means, a Facebook page provides you with a platform to reach out to the millions of members who keep on top of their status updates, fans, friends, and followers. The trick, of course, is finding the right audience. Which is why the first goal should be to connect with people in your region and industry. The Internet may be a vast resource able to connect with people half way across the globe, but your goal should be to build a community of locals who may be in the market for your particular services.
Connectivity: In the ever-changing world of social media, Facebook may seem like old hat. But, though it’s no longer the newest or latest craze, it does have the benefit of already having established itself. And by “established itself,” we mean it’s inescapable. That means, Facebook allows you to connect with and link to just about anything you’d ever need, including your blog, Twitter profile, and an impressive list of applications to further increase the functionality of your page. If you can think of something you’d like to do with your page, there is likely a way to make it happen.
Competition: Not having a Facebook page for your business puts you behind the times – and your competitors. It may be a case of “everybody else is doing it,” but it’s true. The more ways you have to explain, educate, and engage potential clients, the better. So, in an increasingly technologically connected world, you can’t afford to be the only business in town that’s trying to connect with customers using 20th-century tools.
Management skills are an important part of having an effective social-media presence. Not only do you have to manage your content and keep up with contacts and comments, you have to effectively manage your time – which can be the biggest obstacle for someone new to online marketing. Here are some helpful hints and tips to making better use of your pages and profiles, as well as your time.
Get A Calendar: This may seem obvious but keeping a schedule will greatly increase your odds of staying on top of your social-media profiles. If you’re continually trying to find 10 minutes to update your Facebook page while juggling yet another busy work day, there will always be something more important to take care of. If, however, you block off a time of day or week to handle all of the notifications, emails, and updates you need to address, you’ll be more likely to get around to it. How often you need to check in with your social-media presence, depends on your business and client base. What works for one person won’t, necessarily, for another. Make a schedule and stick with it.
Put Your Followers To Work: Successful social-media pages are driven – not by their administrators – but by the fans and followers that tune in to what is being posted on the page or blog. In other words, when you’ve got a lively community of people engaged with the information you’re offering, your page will begin to take care of itself. Sure, you’ll need to stay on top of things, but having people reading and commenting on what you’re posting online will encourage others. And, with any luck, your page will become a forum for like-minded individuals exchanging ideas and questions. To get things going, offer a discount or prize for people who comment or contribute to your page. Along with your content, ask a question or take a poll related to the topic. Get people involved and your page will soon take on a life of its own.
Minimize And Simplify: If you’re someone who’s prone to feeling overwhelmed or tends to value results over patience, start small and don’t try to take over the Internet overnight. That means, taking one step at a time. Don’t register for 12 different profiles, fill out half of the info requested, and throw up your hands when nothing’s happened after one week. Start with one page and get familiar with the way things operate. Get used to updating your page and promoting your content. Once you start to have success on one site, try another if you’d like. As always, there’s no universal rule. Maybe Twitter works for you and Facebook doesn’t. Maybe you need both. Only trial, error, and time will determine the answer to what works for you and your business.
Despite what they say, you can argue with numbers. You can also argue with chickens. Neither of these activities, however, is likely to produce a positive outcome. That’s why, though it may be easier and more convenient to ignore reality, you’ll always do better if you acknowledge the facts.
To that end, here are some facts about social-media marketing …
Nielsen estimates that social media and blogs reach 80 percent of active Internet users in the U.S.: Not only that, Nielsen also found that nearly a quarter of all Internet usage is spent on blogs or social-media sites – double the amount spent on gaming. That means, almost half of all Internet usage is split between people playing games online and those perusing social-media pages, profiles, and blogs. And since you likely won’t be able to effectively market your business through online games, you should probably take a look at registering a Facebook page or setting up a blog. The potential upside is huge and there is little to lose. Having a shot at a new audience of potential customers and clients is ultimately what marketing is meant to accomplish. Social media provides an excellent platform to reach new people and generate business.
60 percent of consumers say they are willing to post about products or services if they get a deal: In other words, social media is a viable avenue for promoting and marketing your business. By interacting with your clients and customers over social-media, you are able to appeal to them directly, while offering them exclusive deals and bonuses. It takes a little creativity, but finding a way to get your Facebook or Twitter followers to spread the word for you is worth the effort. Offering Internet-only promos is a great way to boost interest in your business among current and potential clients. Just don’t overwhelm your connections with sales pieces and drive them away.
91 percent of experienced social marketers see increased traffic to their website and 79 percent say they’re generating more quality leads: Doubt all you want but more and more businesses are finding success marketing their services through social-media channels. The key word here, though, is “experienced.” In other words, you’re not going to see boosted traffic to your website and a bag full of quality leads during your first week online. It takes time, effort, and a bit of practice to learn what works for you and put it into action. Those who have had success with social media, have had patience with social media. Give it time and pay attention. After all, the stats say your efforts will ultimately be rewarded.
Choosing a social-media site for your business can be like choosing a lane on the freeway. A successful choice will help you move forward and reach your destination. An unsuccessful choice will get you lost or lead to a dead end. To help make an informed decision, here are some important stats and numbers to remember about the major social-media sites and their viability for business.
Facebook: With 955 million monthly active users, Facebook is the largest and most recognizable social-media brand in business. And though you may not associate it with making professional contacts, a lot has changed since its founding in 2004. Facebook is now an important part of any social-media marketing campaign, whether you’re a large corporation or a small business. On a daily basis, more than 550 million people check in with Facebook, making it an excellent place to spread the word about your products and services. Set up a page for your business and start inviting clients, customers, and contacts to visit your page.
Twitter: Twitter describes itself as a “real-time information network that connects you to the latest stories, ideas, opinions, and news about what you find interesting.” And though it’s often derided as a site where the self-absorbed tweet unread messages about their every thought and action, Twitter is actually a great source of information. In fact, it may be as valuable as a research tool as it is a platform for keeping in touch with potential clients and customers. But whether you’re using it to gather market intelligence or you’re using it to participate and promote your business, Twitter has proven to be a viable social-media site for all types of businesses.
LinkedIn: LinkedIn launched in 2003. Nearly 10 years later, they sign up nearly two new members every second. It is the largest professional network on the Internet with more than 175 million members and is on pace to surpass 5.3 billion professionally oriented searches this year. Being active on LinkedIn gives you an opportunity to be among the results of one of those searches. It also gives you an opportunity to meet referral partners, network within your region and industry, and make new professional contacts.
Pinterest, Instagram, Etc.: Social media’s popularity has spawned many new platforms, sites, and phenomenons. In the ever-connected age of smart phones and tablets, people are even more apt to share and consume through their favorite social-media site of the moment. That doesn’t always mean, however, that you and your business need to be represented on the newest and latest site. Among the most recent phenomenons, Pinterest and Instagram have received a lot of attention. But, though there may be a legitimate business use for these sites, their long-term viability remains to be seen. When choosing a social-media site for your business, it’s not always what’s “hot” that matters as much as it is what fits your needs and goals.
We know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “It’s 2012, do I really still need a business blog?” Well, the short answer is yes. Though blogs – in Internet years – are a nearly ancient form of online communication, they’re still an effective and totally customizable platform for furthering your business and boosting your brand.
Here are a few reasons you still need a blog in 2012 …
It’s RSS, Baby: RSS stands for “real simple syndication.” And syndication is the name of the game, even in this age of smart phones and tablets. Having a blog means you have an RSS feed. Having a RSS feed means your content can be easily spread across the Internet through any website or app that links via RSS. This feed contains all the words and photos and anything else you post to your blog. Now say you’d like to share that content on your Facebook page. Well that’s as easy as finding a RSS app and filling in the address to your feed. In other words, you need a business blog to use as home base for all the content you create to share with your clients, customers, partners, followers, and fans online.
It’s A Custom Fit: Blogs, as they were originally known, were nothing more than an online scroll of entries posted by whomever set up the page. These days, however, your blog can do just about anything. In fact, you can even set up a storefront and sell products complete with a credit-card checkout and shipping rates, if you wish. There are an endless number of themes and plugins, which make having a blog a completely customizable form of social-media and online marketing. It’s the closest thing available to a paint-by-numbers website. Having a dynamic online presence can only improve your reputation and help convince potential clients of your expertise and professionalism.
It’s Home Base: Think of your blog as home base for your social-media campaign. It’s where you create content and test new ideas. From your blog, you can see what does and doesn’t work and then take that to your Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn page. With a blog, you’re afforded more freedom and function than you are on any of the major social-media platforms. Because of this, you’re better able to get creative and see what your audience responds to the most. It’s also a great way to create traffic between your pages by linking to your blog from your social-media pages.
Among the top social-media sites, Twitter seems the most frivolous. It’s hard to imagine something that involves tweeting being a worthwhile thing to do with your time. And yet, there a countless examples of businesses that are successfully incorporating Twitter into their social-media marketing strategy. Used correctly, Twitter can help you boost brand awareness and familiarity, customer loyalty, word of mouth, and visibility. Here are some of our top tips, hints and help for businesses looking to capitalize in the Twitterverse.
Just Tweet: Okay, if you’re just starting out on Twitter, the first thing to do is tweet. You aren’t likely to attract anything but spam with an empty page. If you’re having trouble thinking of something to say, re-tweet something you found interesting or informative that relates to your industry or area. You can’t expect to gain any followers unless you’ve got something to share. Starting from scratch can be difficult but keep it professional, relevant, and regularly updated for best results.
Use the Hashtag: If you’ve heard the term but haven’t yet understood the concept, here you go … Hashtags identify the topic or subject of your tweet, making it easier for people to find it through searches. For example, if you’re tweeting about real estate, follow your tweet with #realestate. That way, it’s more likely your tweet will be found by people searching for real estate on Twitter. But think it through, as a hashtag for something as general as real estate will likely be among thousands of others.
Nearby Tweets: See who’s tweeting what in your area with nearbytweets.com. The simple setup delivers search results based on a keyword and a location. Search for anything anywhere and see who’s tweeting what near you.
Make Friends: The more people you follow, the more people will follow you. Choose some interesting people and businesses in your industry and region and follow them. Check their followers and follow some of them too. Not only will you have access to any tips and info they share, you’ll boost your visibility and attract your own followers.
Engage: Build a community by commenting and re-tweeting what other people have posted. Post something that isn’t directly related to your business. Talk about other businesses in your area. Point out interesting things in your community.
Be Thankful: Using Twitter properly – or any other social-media site for that matter – requires a bit of old-fashioned etiquette. Much like they do in everyday life, people online appreciate a simple thank you from time to time. For our purposes that means turning on email notifications from your Twitter page. Twitter will send you an email any time someone new follows you. Be sure to send a thank you. It’s a good way to encourage communication and requires nothing more than a short message.
Contaxio: A tool to help manage, track, and interconnect your Twitter account. With Contaxio, you’ll be able to find contacts with similar interests, review your activity, scan stats about the people you follow and those who follow you, and even keep up with new contacts from your Facebook page.
You’re an Expert: Now, you may not think of yourself as an expert. Few people do. However, if you’ve spent any time in your current business, chances are you know more about it than the people paying you for your services. Otherwise, they’d do it themselves. That means, at the very least, you can add insight, context, and explanation to any information you’ve tweeted. If, for example, you tweet a link to an article related to your industry, follow with another tweet that adds background or explanation. Give your Twitter followers some of your expertise for free and they just may end up paying customers down the road.
Interact: Twitter is about communication. It’s meant to be conversational, which explains the character limitations. Ideally, you’d encourage a back-and-forth with your followers and those you follow, using tweets to respond and reply to questions, concerns, and messages. Twitter allows for direct messages, which operate a lot like email. Respond to the messages you receive and to people who tweet about your or your business. It may sound like a lot of work but, if done correctly, the benefit to your business will outweigh the time you invested building a following. Keep your expectations reasonable.
Social media can seem like a relatively painless proposition until it comes to creating content for your pages. Content is the difference between success and failure online. But it’s also the part of social networking that takes the most time and effort – which is why it trips up so many would-be social-media marketers.
Think of it like throwing a dinner party. You want to have an interesting guest list and hope to dazzle them with your entertaining skills. But – in order to have a successful gathering – you’ll need dinner. Provide good food and a comfortable atmosphere and your guests will be clamoring for an invite the next time you’re having people over. Skimp on the appetizers and deliver a mediocre meal and word will get out, ensuring future invites go ignored. In other words, what you serve your guests matters whether you’re throwing a dinner party or promoting your services over the Internet.
Here are some tips on creating compelling content …
Go With What You Know: If you’re creating content for a business blog or fan page, this one should be easy. After all, your content should relate to your business and you, presumably, know something about your business and industry. Having to write blog posts can seem like homework. Make it easier by writing something you know well. Try industry news and updates, answers to frequently asked questions, or explaining something about your business that your clients and customers should understand. If you’re writing something you know well, it won’t be as difficult to think of what or how to say it. Make it easy on yourself and stick with topics you’re familiar with.
Write The Way You Speak: Writing doesn’t have to be a chore. If you’re writing something for your blog or social-media site, start by thinking of the way you’d say it if you were telling someone in person. You don’t have to change the way you communicate. Keep it simple and conversational. Don’t worry about the sophistication of your sentence structure. Pay more attention to whether or not you’ve effectively communicated what you set out to say. Ultimately, you want visitors to read it, not grade it. Keep it short, easily consumed, and professional.
Use The Internet: Ideas abound on the Internet. If you’re having trouble creating content, there are countless ideas, topics, and resources available to you online. Social media is about sharing and communicating. So post a link to a story or article your read that relates to your industry or region. Link to a video or re-tweet something. In other words, don’t always feel like you have to write 500 words on some challenging topic or issue. Keep it simple and light. You’re not producing a manifesto, you’re trying to deliver interesting content to encourage visitors to interact with you and your business.
If you were told that you could network your business to millions of people without spending anything more than your time and effort, you’d have to be crazy or independently wealthy to turn down the opportunity. And yet, many people ignore the platform social media provides to spread the word and promote their business. If you’re among those that still feel that social media isn’t important, necessary, or vital to boosting your business, a recent Harris Interactive poll of 2,037 may help change your mind.
Here are some of the numbers …
62 percent of Americans say they’re afraid of missing something if they don’t keep an eye on their social network. In other words, a majority of respondents are glued to status, news, and event updates received through their Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn accounts. Which means, social-media is as important a source of information to a majority of Americans as their phone and email messages. Having a presence on any – or all – of the major social-media sites is an opportunity to be among the updates being shared and read by the millions of Americans that check in on Facebook before reading their email inbox.
Among respondents 18 to 34, nearly 40 percent said they check their profiles every morning after waking up. Maybe you’re thinking that your business doesn’t appeal to a young demographic and that means you don’t need a social-media campaign. But the fact that an increasing number of young Americans turn to social media immediately after getting out of bed says something about the future importance of the medium and the probably longevity of its popularity. In other words, social media isn’t going away. In fact, it’s becoming more popular among Americans.
40 percent said they’d rather clean the shower drains at the local gym than give up their social network. Okay, maybe the drains at your local gym are spotless and that stat doesn’t impress you. How about the fact that the same number of respondents said they’d rather wait in line at the DMV, give up an hour of sleep every night for a year, get a root canal, or sit in traffic for four hours while listening to polka music?
Nearly 70 percent of LinkedIn users are just observing. Not all social-media users are interested in telling the world what they did with their day. In fact, a lot of activity on social networks doesn’t involve posting or participating. The fact that more than half of Twitter users and nearly 40 percent of people on Facebook are just looking means your information, content, and updates could be among those being read by users who log in to their social-media accounts as a source for information, recommendations, and news.
It’s been said that everyone makes mistakes. But that’s only half the story. After all, it’s not whether you make a mistake, it’s the severity of the mistake you make that matters. There’s a difference between locking your keys in the car and accidentally parking your car in the living room. One is an understandable error and the other – under most circumstances – isn’t. Like anything else, when starting a social-media campaign for your business, you will make mistakes. But avoiding the type of mistakes that will leave your page barren and ignored are more important than worrying about a typo in your bio.
Here’s a quick list of some things you can do to avoid making some of the most inexcusable social-media mistakes …
Use It or Lose It: When it comes to social media, the number one mistake people make is not using the pages and profiles they set up. Whether from lack of interest, time, or understanding, many social-media pages serve as nothing more than a placeholder. They’re like online business cards with little more than an address, a phone number, and a photo. But the difference between success and failure in social media is participation. If you bothered to set your business up with a Facebook page or Twitter account, use it. Contact people, promote your site, produce some content, join groups, comment on someone’s post. In short, interact. It doesn’t take much to get someone to like or follow a social-media profile. You don’t have to take them to dinner or earn enough of their trust to be given a key to their house. All you need to do is participate and not be rude, aggressive, annoying, or mean spirited.
Make A Good Impression: You’re introducing yourself to a whole new audience. Act like it matters. You want to present yourself as professional, experienced, consistent, and efficient. Make sure anything you put up online showcases only those qualities you’d like associated with you and your business. That means, no beach photos, questionable jokes, religion or politics. Keep it focused on business and make a clear distinction between any personal profiles you maintain and those specifically for your business. Google your name and scroll through some of the results. Those are the same things potential clients will see if they look you up online – which they likely will. Having a professional online presence is a great way to make a good first impression. More and more, people check the Internet before deciding who to do business with. Don’t scare them away before you even meet them.
Location, Location, Location: Much like anything else, where you set yourself up makes a difference. Which is to say, location matters whether you’re opening for business on Main St. or on the Internet. Make sure the accounts you register for make sense for your business. You’re fairly safe if you stick with some combination of the most popular sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. The membership numbers alone make them worthwhile. Outside of the that, do a little research before you register your business name and slap some info together. Make sure any sites you join serve a legitimate business purpose and can be used to your advantage. You’ll be most successful if your Internet presence is focused and consistent. Only take on what you can handle. And only go where there are potential business benefits.