Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Social Media Overload: What it is and how to use it

Online social media applications for mainstream consumer use are becoming more and more popular. Entrepreneurs and small businesses have started to accept and utilize social media to their advantage. But what can social media do for you? What should it be used for? What shouldn’t you do with it?

The ambiguous term “online social media” is an online platform by which individuals communicate. Website tools that fall under the umbrella of this definition are Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, and blogs. All these online resources require a large and consistent investment of time, and an increasing number of companies are investing in job positions intended to only manage all of their accounts. But the most appealing attribute of online social media is its low cost, immediate response capabilities, and the equal opportunity of large and small businesses to compete.

The basic concept of social media is that it, like your business, is all about relationships and accessibility. You want to generate and retain relationships online just as you in-person. When it comes to your online profiles, however, it is important to note that these are NOT venues to market your business by publishing content-related information. Content, sales, and promotions should all be reserved for your advertising and website. No one likes a salesman when one is browsing these social sites on their personal time. Think of it this way: if you had a Twitter account, would you follow someone who is constantly promoting themselves, or someone with a sense of humor with their status updates?

The purpose of profiles like Twitter and your blog are to give a face to your company. Social media implies an “interaction” with your customer, or informational “sharing”, not a one-way channel for just slamming them with content. With applications like Facebook, you can go to where your customers already are, and catch their interest with your personality and dedication. People also find value in articles or blog postings that are relevant to your shop or industry, but have a more universal appeal for browsers that may turn into customers. For example, if you have a chain of bakeries, you could post an informative article to your blog “10 Easy and Unique Cookie Recipes”.

As a business owner, you can also gain a more thorough insight into your customers. You can learn from their questions or concerns and what is really important to your customer. The most successful companies are usually identified as those who respond quickest to market changes. Through appropriate use of social media you can always have a finger on the pulse of your customer base.

To conclude, social media shows your customers how much you care. The passion that you have for your company and doing what you love will shine through. This will make you stand out among your competitors.

Some take-away tips:

  • Make sure to stay committed to your blog and update it at least 2-3 times a week.

  • Twitter at different times of the day to catch different customers in multiple locations.

  • With the rich mix of users now on Facebook, it’s a great time to create a fan page for customers to search, read, and follow you.

And lastly, if you haven’t already, be sure to create a profile on LinkedIn, which is an excellent networking resource for small business owners.

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