Practical Uses Of Social Media In Business

4/23/2008

- Danielle Leitch, EVP Client Strategy

Everywhere you go online there is mention of Social Media. It’s in all the major newspapers and online marketing publications. Even the presidential candidates and their delegates are using this marketing vehicle to their advantage, particularly to reach out to a different generation than in years past. So, what does this all mean for your business?

It can mean a lot if you work this channel effectively and respect it for what it is and what it is not.

SOCIAL MEDIA IS:

  • An opportunity for your business to reach out and introduce itself to a unique audience more engaged in technology and communication than any other generation.
  • A way to gain an advantage if your competitors are not utilizing it first.
  • Relatively inexpensive, often times free, easy to participate and use.
  • A place to be creative and engage with your customers or prospective ones.

SOCIAL MEDIA IS NOT:

  • Meant to serve as a direct sales channel or advertising spot, although both of these things may happen as a result of your participation in the social community.
  • A place to bash your competitors or try to engage in negative PR attacks on others.
  • A quick fix advertising or marketing solution. Direct ROI improvement is not the goal here.

TOP 5 IDEAS FOR USING SOCIAL MEDIA IN YOUR BUSINESS


 


 

 

 

  1. Create a personal Linked In Profile – encourage others in the company to do the same. This is a great chance to network with those you know of already and those you have lost touch with. Great opportunity to uncover people to do business with or for, particularly those you have a prior or mutual connection with.

    Your business can also create a Linked In corporate profile, for the primary use of recruiting candidates.
  2. FaceBook or MySpace profiles on behalf of your company or corporate mascot/image. Not every company would benefit from this, but for those in the B-to-C space, particularly with a fun or hip product/service, it’s a great tactic to informally communicate with your company’s fans or customers. Keep in mind, not everybody may be a fan, so monitoring these for negative PR (and responding appropriately) is important.
  3. Uploading company videos on YouTube or other online video sharing websites.
    Online videos have become so popular and people seem compelled to want to share their own or watch the recordings of others. This provides your company with an opportunity to engage with users in a visual way, although more light-hearted would fair better in this arena than a straight training or sales video being uploaded. If your business and clientele supports it, offer a contest and encourage customers to submit your company video of them using your products. Perhaps, best use of the product or funniest use of the product could be a theme. These videos would then get uploaded to your YouTube profile page. You could have people vote on them through your website, thereby bringing them back into your navigation and world.

    Be creative and remember you are trying to engage a community and then get others. an engaged to want to watch and participate – so it must be compelling and offer a reason them to come check out your profile or videos. This is where viral marketing can hit a home run, as far as talking about the contest/promotion or forwarding it on to others.
  4. Blogs – developing one within your website navigation or linking to one that is hosted on a third party site (blogger.com).
    This is probably one of the most common business uses of social media and well known. There is likely not much of a competitive advantage here in many verticals, since so many companies have a blog, but I think it is still a very important channel for your marketing efforts. Not only is it quick, easy and informal to communicate with your users or customers, it also allows for an open forum to discuss new ideas or offerings and encourages participation by all. Of course, there are also some SEO benefits with this, which makes it even more attractive to implement for your business.

    Keep in mind, a blog is an interactive and dynamic vehicle which must be attended to regularly. Whether you are a small operation or a large corporation, someone needs to be tasked with maintaining this piece of the (or separate) website. Updated blog posts, reader posting and comments are all what make for an informative/exciting blog. This should not be used just to promote your company or products; it should be informative and educational and have value to the readers….not just to your Sales or Marketing Dept.Look at your blog as if you were a reader. Does it seem exciting and engaging? Does it offer value? Would you want to come back again and again to learn or read more?
  5. Participate in, or encourage HAPPY customers to engage in, Consumer Review Websites – TripAdvisor, Yelp, Yahoo Travel/Answers, etc.
    Although your business should not directly participate in this channel (i.e., creating fictitious positive reviews on behalf of yourself is not suggested), it should be encouraged for those who speak highly of your business or service. These sites have become extremely reliant upon by consumers in the Food, Travel, Auto and Ecommerce/Shopping verticals, but are increasingly making an impact even on small shops and providers in your local neighborhood (see www.yelp.com). Although you could create your own profile on Yelp as a small business owner and identify yourself as such, including details on your company and the website, that’s not the main goal. The goal is to share your direct feedback and experiences (these are opinions, so they can be good or bad and possibly very different than how you see things). Therefore, when you get positive client feedback and testimonials, you should encourage those people to share it online. The power of a consumer’s voice is very strong, as they are considered a highly trusted source. Again, these sites allow for personal opinions, so your company should monitor them and be prepared to reply in a professional manner, should there be a negative review. Actually, this can be a great opportunity to reverse a bad customer experience and salvage the business – by reaching out to someone expressing their disappointment or frustration with your business.

    Your participation in forums is from a personal perspective, but keep in mind your profile and signature line (which could represent your company name/site) are seen by many. If you are an active and informative forum participant, who helps other users and offers good advice and ideas …. it could result in some PR for your business and possibly sales.

    Determining true ROI from this channel is very difficult. The good news is that there are not many (if any) hard costs or fees involved in Social Media on the surface. Of course, the time necessary to invest as well as any of the other ancillary marketing expenses associated with promoting contests or producing videos, would all have to be factored in.

    There have been some very successful campaigns, primarily branding and product introduction that have occurred already and I am hopeful there are more to come. Keep an open mind and think outside the traditional marketing platform to create some unique ideas for your business. I’d be interested to hear about your social marketing experiments and success.

    If you would like interested to lean more about the array of Social Media channels available and how they work, MoreVisiblity offers a Webinar Series that dives into this area further.
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