Social media has become more than just a catchphrase or a passing phenomenon. Interacting over the internet using a number of platforms, like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn has become an accepted part of the business marketing mix, if not an expected way to interact with suppliers and customers.
That’s why it’s important for your business to have a social media presence. A key factor to remember is that social media should be used to add value, not to sell. Social media’s a way to build relationships with your customers so you can get to know each other. People are far more likely to buy from a business they have a personal relationship with, which is what social media’s all about.
Social media comes in many shapes and forms, and there are a variety of platforms to use.
Blogs have become increasingly mainstream and a growing number of businesses have several blogs for business or corporate purposes, to communicate marketing, branding or public relations messages. They're also used to add value to the customer service experience by providing useful information and links to help customers make the most of products and services.
Blogs are easy to set up and maintain and lets your personality shine through. They should be informative, easy to read, and entertaining. It’s a reflection of you, your website and your business.
Facebook & LinkedIn
These platforms allow people and businesses to share information about themselves while connecting with their customers on a personal level. The most common are Facebook and LinkedIn. Although LinkedIn is the more business-focussed platform, it’s mostly about networking within industry groups.
Of the many social media options available, Facebook is the go-to platform and should be where all business owners start when creating their social media presence.
Video and photo sharing
Video sharing through sites like YouTube is another form of social networking. They’re a great way to offer your customers useful information, such as how-to videos. Videos are often shared by providing links via other social networks.
Photo sharing sites like Pinterest, Flickr, Instagram, and Picasa are also popular. These can be used by businesses to share images of products, happy customers, or photos of events they organize.
Using social media for business
Social media works best when used to send out useful messages that will encourage customers to interact with you or investigate your website, blog, videos or other information. It's about generating and encouraging word-of-mouth advertising, which has the potential to go viral.
Some important factors to keep in mind are:
- The costs of using social media as part of your marketing mix are small. Unlike traditional advertising, you'll be able to reach a large audience for a limited outlay in time and bandwidth. However, if you want to concentrate your social media efforts, you can pay for advertising on social media. Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Google all offer paid advertising options which can increase your profile.
- Spending too much time on social media or spreading your business over several platforms are common pitfalls. Limit the amount of time you spend engaging on social media each day and restrict yourself to a couple of options at the most.
Monitor the various social media platforms
Once you’ve established your social media presence, keep an eye on the platforms you've selected to see if there are conversations you want to join. You might, for example, come across someone with a customer service issue that you’re able to help with, or find people asking questions about the products you sell. Most social networks have search functions or the ability to create lists of people to follow to help you monitor online conversations.
Integrate social media into your marketing strategy
Most businesses start out by experimenting until they find the right way to use social media to engage with people and promote awareness. While experimenting, it's important to ensure that you always keep your overall marketing strategy and company goals in mind. In the medium to long-term, you'll want to integrate social media into your marketing strategy and devise a specialized social media strategy.