Friday, May 20, 2011

Social Networking – Just Do It and do it Well!

The last time I checked the statistics - 350 million plus users are on Facebook.  By the time your read this that number will be even larger and growing!  If you’re not using Facebook and other social media sites like Twitter and Youtube to promote your business you’re missing a huge marketing opportunity and likely losing business to your competitors who are using social media!There are so many advantages to using these sites for promoting your business.  First of all these sites are free!  Second, they are a great way to keep your business “front of mind” to current and potential customers and they are a great way to make connections and network with other like-minded people.

Other benefits of using Social Media include
~allows you to disseminate information quickly and receive rapid feedback
~is alive, dynamic and flexible
~encourages others to talk
about you
~can boost your search engine results

Social media marketing is word-of-mouth on steroids!

A few examples of businesses using social media effectively include an insurance company that had been resistant to using it.  After learning of the potential marketing power of these sites  - the company decided to give it a try.  They are now using Facebook to offer insurance tips and advice.  They are using this site to build credibility, increase visibility and reach an audience they likely wouldn’t have reached through other means.  A jewelry artisan posts photos of her new creations to Facebook and often sells them before she even gets them in her store!   A marina operator makes Youtube videos of activity in the boatyard including instructional videos of how to care for boats and posts them on Facebook along with photos of boats for sale.   Restaurants use Facebook and Twitter it to promote specials and last minute deals!

Although these sites are free to use, there is a cost associated with the time you have to put in keep them updated.  Is the investment worth it?  Will it pay off?  I can cite many more real stories of businesses that have seen an increase in their bottom line as a result of their social media presence but if you are seeking real data, check out this report – the 2010 Cone Consumer New Media Study that found…
Users who engage with you through social media sites are more likely to:
~share info about you across SM networks (62%)
~feel a stronger connection to you (61%)
~feel better served by you (60%)
~purchase from you (59%)

I have seen businesses using these sites effectively and others that have done themselves more harm than good.  

 When using social media sites you should never…
~create a page for your business and not update it consistently
~oversell or “spam” your followers
~post anything negative about a customer, supplier, stakeholder or employee 

~create a positive presence on your sites
~use multiple sites and integrate them (post Youtube videos on Facebook)
~post and reply to feedback consistently
~add links from your website to your Facebook, Twitter and Youtube pages and vice versa

If you’re just getting started – I suggest you try Facebook first.  Start by looking around for other businesses that are using the site and see how they’re using it.  You can start with a personal page and you can set up a page for your business specifically.   The key is to just get started!  To think it was only a few years ago – people would ask, “Do you have a website?” Now they ask “Are you on Facebook or Twitter?”   Every day more and more of your current and potential customers are logging onto social media sites!   If you want them to find you – you’d better be there too!

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