February 09, 2012

Using Social Media for Business

Social media websites are services that provides tools for people to share information and communicate. Most of them are completely free to use. They includes Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, location-based services, blogging services, photo-sharing services and Youtube, a video-sharing service.

Your Next Customer is Online

Business people need to reach out and get connected to their customers via social media. Some sites are expanding rapidly - Twitter now distributes 2 billion postings (tweets) per month, and most users are between 25 and 54, not kids. 80% of individuals aged 16 years and older used the Internet for personal use and half the country is already using Facebook. And 85% of moms share photos of their kids online before they're two years old!

Getting Started in Social Media

Your business should get your feet wet with Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and a blog. Have a strategy in place, especially if you have your staff using the accounts. Your aim should be to create a community, communicate with people, and establish your brand online. It's important to commit your business just as you would for promotion and advertising. And most important of all, be transparent and authentic online.

Most of the social media sites require you to open an account. I suggest you create a new email account for your business just for social sites (you will appreciate this separation later). You can create a Facebook page for your business once your have created a personal account - the business page can be public even if your personal account is private. Facebook will delete your account if you use a fake name. Twitter postings (tweets) are completely public and can be searched by a word or hashtag (word prefixed by #). Register a short "name" since Twitter is restricted to 140 characters, including the name. LinkedIn requires an account to use it and caters exclusively to business. Make the information as accurate and complete as possible as soon as possible to you can connect with the right people.

Using Social Media Sites

Use social media sites regularly to create an identifiable presence for your brand. Don't just create an account, post once and then abandon it for weeks. Use social media Monday to Friday (especially lunchtime) when people are online - they have better things to do on the weekend.

When you post to social sites, you shouldn't just talk about your products and services. You should communicate interesting information that is useful to your customers such as how-to tips or information related to your community or your business area.

You need to create a community to win people over to your company or brand. It's tempting to be deadly serious, but maybe your staff can get together and come up with some good ideas. If you try something creative, people will find you online.

Humour is always a useful tool. You don't need to tell jokes, just be entertaining once in a while. Humour is especially useful if you make a video about some aspect of your business. If your staff has a baseball team, take some video during the game and afterwards - edited of course! And don't forget to get permission from people before publishing them online.

A Blog works with Social Media

Because Twitter is restricted to 140 characters, and Facebook posts are usually short, it can be useful to provide a link to a web page with additional information. If you are posting about your business, then a blog serves this purpose quite well. In addition, a blog belongs to your business and you have complete control over it. You can post videos and photos, and any interesting news or information. A blog can expand on problems your customers may have had and explain any new policies that your business has adopted to improve services. Be sure to set your blog to allow "comments" (and email notifications) so you can communicate with people. If your blog software allows it, be sure to setup an RSS feed so that people can "subscribe" to your new posts. A blog adds your voice to the online world. Treat it with respect but don't be afraid to use it!

Get connected to your customers online!

In the end, don't be afraid to use these terrific online services. The sooner you begin, the better, and the faster you will understand what they can do for you. They will expand your business into the online world to reach people and other businesses that you could never connect with in any other way.

How I use Social Media
I am almost retired, but still operate two websites that benefit from using social media.

Boating in Canada on Twitter
Boating in Canada Blog
The Manotick Directory on Twitter
The Manotick Directory on Facebook
Pat Drummond (Manotick Directory) on LinkedIn