Social Media is probably the single biggest opportunity for businesses big and small to build networks and awareness. I was talking to someone about it recently and their comment to me was “It sounds like a cult!”. I guess that’s because anyone who has started to seriously use social media and witness the impact it can have on their business can come across as a bit evangelical. Some of the Jargon such as ‘following’, ‘tweeting’, ‘re-tweeting’, ‘direct-messaging’ etc. can also make it sound, to the average novice, that you’ve become part of something bizarre.
Many business owners I’ve spoken to have negative opinions of Social Media, having seen the amount of time some of their staff spend on Facebook vs. engaging in productive work.
So, like all things with a fair bit of hype around it, there’s usually a fair amount of scepticism. You can wonder how it can deliver any real value or impact to your business.
Really the only way to get your head around it is to ‘join the conversation’ so to speak!
Obvious tools that most people are aware of are social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, You Tube, LinkedIn and more recently Twitter.
Social Media also refers to tools that can be applied to any website, such as live chat, forums, blogs, voting applications etc. Allowing users to engage in a dialogue, publish feedback on products or their purchasing experience, or perhaps vote for their favourite products or content gives you insight into what your customer, audience or reader wants and doesn’t want.
The single most powerful thing about Social Media, apart from the fact that it’s FREE, is its ability to generate word of mouth awareness and build new business relationships. It provides you with the ability to tap into large networks of like-minded individuals from your desktop any time anywhere. It also allows you to start a conversation with someone you are unlikely to ever get introduced to or meet in your normal social or business environments.
The trick to making the most of Social Media like any marketing is to only publish, relevant, interesting, valuable information and insights to people in your network. You can’t just be focused on flogging your offering. Your goal should be to create a community around your business through an authentic dialogue with that community.
Social Media represents a huge opportunity for business owners but it also takes commitment. Like anything in life – the more you put into it, the more you are going to get out of it!
My top tips for taking advantage of Social Media in business are:
Be prepared to commit and engage.
- You need to probably be prepared to spend at least 30 minutes to an hour a day on updates and finding more people to connect with. Communicate with your network about what you are doing and share any useful/funny/or interesting content or information you might have.
- Be responsive – if you get a request, respond with not just an acceptance but also a question. Social media is all about ‘Conversation’ vs. an audience.
- Respond to any friend requests/invitations to connect on LinkedIn or ‘Follows on Twitter’ – with “Nice to hear from you. How are you?”
- It’s primarily about building a relationship, do that first and the business connections follow. Think about any business meeting you have. You spend some time breaking the ice where you talk about non-business related things. It could be what you did on the weekend, whether you have kids and the challenges and pleasures that go with that. It’s the same with Social Media, you need to give people a full view of who you are – not just what you do. So have a joke, share what you are up to in lots of aspects of your life.
Spend some time on your profile when you get started
Give info on your bio about who you are – include links to your website and/or blog and upload a photo, or any image you find interesting or amusing – it could be a photo of your dog or an image of a favourite piece of art. It all makes you more interesting to people in your network. It also means next time you are at a conference or business event someone in one of your networks is likely to come up and introduce themselves and start a conversation in real life, as they’ll recognise you!
Let everyone you meet know you are a Social Media user
- Put your social medial links on your email footer – even your business card.
- Publish social media links on your website too
- You can add a ‘follow me on twitter’ button – you can also place a feed of your tweets on your website.
Respectful and appropriate behaviour is critical
- In those mediums such as Facebook and LinkedIn it’s important to send invitations to connect or become a friend only to those people who you do truly know. If you’ve met them once and spoken for 5 minutes years or even months ago it’s doubtful they will remember you. People are easily turned off by people asking for a connection from someone they’ve barely met or never engaged with. Nobody likes a stalker!
- The same goes for Twitter. On Twitter you can follow anyone you find of interest. However, the basis of Twitter is to share interesting information – not to spam people. It’s a major turn-off amongst social media users, when users send automated messages only using the platform to try and flog their product or service.
Start a blog or make sure you are regularly posting to a current one
If you have a blog, let people on your networks know when you’ve added a new posting. A blog gives you the opportunity to share more information than you can on a social media site. It also gives anyone you are connected to or who might be ‘following you’ a reason to visit your site and find out more about you and what you do. You can now also embed your blog into your LinkedIn page, giving any people who look at your profile more of an idea about what you do.
Have a website you can be proud of
Engaging in Social Media will deliver more traffic to your website from people who want to find out more about you. It pays to take a good look at your site before you dive into the Social Media universe. If it still has press releases on it from 2007, it?s probably not doing you justice. Make sure your site gives people a good idea of what you do and encourages them to engage with your business somehow. E.g. subscribing to a newsletter, posting a comment on a blog, voting on something, or even better; buying something!
Engage in offline real-life events organised through your Social Media Network
Many Social Media Networks are now organising real world events allowing active networkers an opportunity to meet face-to-face. The recent Sydney Twestival was a perfect example of this with similar events also taking place in other states. Also if you are travelling interstate or overseas, you could extend an invitation to anyone in your network interested in meeting up to see if there’s a potential way you can support each other’s businesses.
If you put the effort in you will reap the rewards. Since I’ve started engaging in Social Media I’ve seen my social networking activities start to deliver significant traffic to my website, not to mention what I’ve learnt in new information and the inspiring, passionate people I’ve met or re-connected with.
So get started – tell us what you are doing and what you are working on.
I look forward to meeting you online!