How To: Use Social Media to Promote Your Business
by: Larry Bills | ChooseWhat.com
Once you’ve started your business it’s important to let potential customers know you exist through traditional marketing as well as through social media.
The explosion of social media tools offers your business an unparalleled opportunity to easily and quickly build credibility and industry relationships.
Social media is the use of Web-based tools and mobile technologies that allows for interactive communications between people, companies, and organizations. There are many social media tools available, but we recommend you establish a presence on the four most popular networks:
An active social media presence allows you to get immediate feedback from customers, can provide you with new product ideas, and builds a sense of community and loyalty for your customers.
Before you begin a social media program, you should:
To have an effective social media presence, always keep two golden rules in mind:
Commit to posting as much as possible. The best way to build and retain a following is to consistently post useful, interesting information. However, be mindful to not overdo it. Too many tweets or status updates can cause a follower to hide or drop you altogether.
Engage with your followers. It’s not enough to just push out social media content and move on. You’re trying to build a community with your followers, so ask them questions and reply to their comments. The purpose is to build a relationship, not simply pummel them with promotional talk.
Twitter is a popular social media tool notable for its short messaging. Your tweets are limited to only 140 characters and no more. You follow other users and they can follow you. All the tweets of those you follow show up in an interactive, chronological timeline or stream. Twitter is free to set up and use. Visit the business site for information on how to pay to have your tweets and account promoted and targeted to a certain audience. Campaign budgets can range from $5,000 to $100,000 a month.
Twitter is one of the more effective social media outlets for B2B and B2C interaction. Since tweets are so short, it is easy to communicate quickly and frequently and the brevity forces you to be concise with your messaging. Searching the site is dynamic and easy to do. You can also monitor mentions of your Twitter handle, your company, or your products and respond accordingly. Twitter's local trending topics are a bonus to the small business since it allows you to target messaging to the specific geographic areas in which you operate.
On the downside, for some, the 140 character limit might be perceived as a negative. Adapting your messaging to the shortened format takes some getting used to. The variety of feeds in your Twitter stream, including tweets you’re monitoring, messages between users, tweets mentioning you, etc., can be difficult to navigate for the novice. And while it is easy to report Twitter users who have either spammed or otherwise posted abusive content about you or your business, there’s little you can do to proactively prevent such activities.
- You should set up your primary Twitter account as a company-branded page, but if you plan to have individual employees set up their own business-related accounts, make sure they all use a consistent handle structure. For instance, at ChooseWhat.com, all our handles start with “@CW_” followed by our first names and last initials. When individuals post, retweet them on your company stream.
- Take advantage of hashtags as a way to broaden the audience of your tweets. Hashtags are keywords preceded by a “#” symbol (#entrepreneurs, for instance). All tweets across the Twittershpere containing a certain hashtag will show up on a single page. This allows users interested in a specific topic to find your tweet.
Facebook is the social media network built on “Friend” lists. You request permission from another user to be added as a Friend and then you can see all of their personal information, share stories and status updates with each other, etc. For businesses, instead of a profile you create a Facebook Page. It works much like a profile, only you try and get users to “Like” your Page and then all information you post about your product or business shows up in their news feeds.
Facebook pages are free to set up and use. For the small business, you can buy advertisements to promote your company’s Facebook Page, your website, or both. Costs vary depending on the campaign, but a simple ad is easy to create and won’t break your bank.
A Facebook Page has a weightier presence with a lot more options. Unlike Twitter with its basic stream of updates, Facebook Pages are more organized and allow you to post pictures, have online chats and discussions, and invite followers to any events you might be hosting. You can make anyone who likes your Facebook page an administrator of the Page. This allows you to give more than one person in your company the ability to control the Page. If an employee leaves you can easily remove their administration rights.
Facebook Pages come with a very sophisticated analytics tool so you can track and create reports on your users’ demographics and interactions with your Page. Facebook offers many privacy options and provides you with significant control over your Page.
- Facebook is a great outlet to offer discounts and giveaways. When posting updates you can ask your followers to share their experiences on certain topics and give an award to the most interesting story.
- Make your page personal. Interview your employees and share their bios and pictures to highlight the human touch behind your business.
With Google+, the online search giant has finally created a social network to rival Facebook and Twitter. For startups, the service was largely a social media afterthought until the launch of Google+ Pages, which allows businesses to set up a profile. As a result, Google+ is now a highly recommended addition to your social media efforts. It has more in common with Facebook than Twitter in terms of functionality. Interaction with other users is dependent on who follows you, or is in a "Circle."
Google+ is free to set up and use. The primary benefit of the social network is that activity on your Page is directly tied into Google's search algorithm. The more interactions a Page has, the better for your company's overall search results placement. Google+ allows you to assign followers to specific Circles and target your messages to only the people in those Circles. You can create any type of Circle: Team Members, Customers, Sales Leads, etc., creating a powerful targeted marketing component that is lacking on other social media sites.
So far Google+ isn't widely adopted. Given its recent launch and social media "fatigue," it doesn't quite have the user base or level of engagement that you will find on other social networks. Searching the network can also be difficult, as finding the right pages or people to follow isn't always intuitive. In addition, bells and whistles of the service lag behind its rivals and new tools are slowly being rolled out.
- Once you start a Google+ account, your search results for certain topics will be influenced by what people in your Circles have discussed.
LinkedIn is a networking site that mainly caters to the individual user seeking to connect with colleagues, meet other professionals in their industry, or find a job. As a small business owner, you can create a Company Page with details of your business. LinkedIn is free to use at a basic level. Additional features and functionality are available to individuals for monthly or annual fees ranging from $20 to $100.
LinkedIn now allows administrators of Company Pages to post Status Updates at an organizational level, rather than just an individual employee level. Since LinkedIn is primarily driven by and geared towards the networking individual, social sharing at a company level for promotional purposes is fairly limited.
- Make sure you set up a corporate email account before you attempt to create a LinkedIn Company Page. The service will not allow you to add or edit a Company Page if you are using domains like hotmail.com or yahoo.com.
- While you can easily manage your Facebook status updates, tweets, and other social media outlets on each individual site, there are several social media management tools that make it easy to do everything from a single interface. We recommend TweetDeck or HootSuite, which are free (for individual accounts) downloadable tools that organize all of your various social media accounts onto dashboards in easy to read side-by-side columns. You can write new Tweets, Retweet, reply to Tweets, and post Facebook status updates all from one place. These tools also allow you to create updates to post at a future date, so that you can still send out content on the weekends when your office is closed.
- In the increasingly mobile world it is important to download the apps of your social media tools onto a smartphone or tablet computer. It makes networking on the go extremely easy and allows you to stay connected to your customers or contacts and provide updates if you’re on a business trip or attending a convention.
- Incorporate social media into your company website. Make it easy for customers visiting your website to share your information with their social networks by embedding downloadable widgets like Tweet and Facebook Like buttons.
- Start a company blog. This not only helps you build a sense of community on your website, but a blog also provides you with a consistent source of fresh and relevant content to share on your social media accounts.
- Link to other people’s content. You don’t have to stick to sharing only your own company content with your social media followers. If you see a news story or blog from an outside source that would be of interest to your followers, post it and start a conversation.