Use Social Networks the Right Way—and Drive Your Business!

The University of Maryland’s Smith School of Business reported earlier this month that the number of small businesses adopting social media doubled last year from 12% to 24%, and nearly one out of five small business owners are actively using social media for their business. Also, 61% of the respondents said that they use social media to attract new customers to their businesses. So how can you use social media networking, like Twitter and Facebook, to drive your business?

Tailor Your Message

Decide what the voice and style of your social media networking should be. If you have a public representative who handles press and speeches, it may be beneficial to have him/her handle your social networking sites as he/she will already knowhow to tailor the company message or mission to appeal to different audiences.

Types of Social Media Accounts:

  • Totally corporate account: These have no specific employee or public persona tied to the account in any way. The focus is just on promoting business news or deals.
  • Corporate-led persona account: This account allows your business to tweet as a company but also to include a bit of personality and an actual person behind the account. These are corporate accounts, but they have a branded persona helping to build a community.
  • Strictly personal account: These have no obvious tie to a business. This is your personal Twitter account.
  • The business/personal hybrid account: This account mixes both the personal and professional. You can tweet about what’s going on in your field mixed with what movie you’re going to see. Both worlds are mixed, and this is a relationship-driven approach.
  • Character account: This is an account from the perspective of a character or mascot of a company, such as @MrsButterWorths.

Jazz Up Your Profile

Your account is an online representation of your business, so be careful of how you act on social networking sites. Here are a few tips to follow:

  • Get personal. Include hobbies on your Facebook account or discuss events you’re attending. It will make you (and your business) seem friendlier.
  • But don’t get too personal. That is what purely personal accounts are for. There is such a thing as TMI.
  • Share photos and videos. Multimedia gives your account what Office Space deemed as flair.
  • But no booze shots. You’re still a professional, after all.
  • Don’t be a blank slate. Keep your social networking accounts lively and updated.

Avoid These Social Networking Faux Pas

  1. Don’t become a broken record. It’s fine to sync a couple of your social networks but avoid redundancies that make you look like a neophyte.
  2. Don’t over-promote yourself. People will only follow you on Twitter if you have interesting things to say consistently. No one wants to become bombarded by advertisements all the time. Change things up a bit by posting links or retweeting interesting things others in your industry are saying.
  3. Don’t be boring. Show some personality!

Turn Followers into Gold

The companies who are most successful at converting friends/followers into actual dollars are those who interact with users and frequently post brand-related content to their sites. Creating a Fan Page on Facebook is a great example of marketing through social networking sites. If someone becomes a “fan” of your page, it will show up in their newsfeed for all of their friends to see.

Utilize these Fan Pages by:

  • Commenting on other users’ content
  • Asking questions on your wall
  • Posting links
  • Posting events

Promote Without Being Pushy

It’s a social network, not an advertising network. Don’t scare off friends and followers by only pushing promotions.

  • Create benefits. Make customers feel the need to participate.
  • Talk about new features.
  • Include discounts.
  • Don’t always have sales-related messaging. Friends will ignore you if you’re pushy.

Learn more about how businesses use Twitter by following some of ChooseWhat’s vendors. Email marketing service MailChimp and online tax software provider TurboTax both use Twitter as a secondary form of customer service by answering customers’ questions via the social networking site. Both also use their accounts to announce new products, services and blogs.  Although both companies are fairly large, you can still take their lead in how to utilize social networking sites to expand your small business.

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