We live at a time where we can share anything with anyone in an instant. We can chat, exchange views, comment on different subjects and above all, socialize together. All this was not possible just a decade back as social platforms were neither present in that big number of were still in nascent stage. It’s safe to say that social media has changed the way we live – they have added a new dimension to life and they have brought us a medium of connecting with people as and when we like. Using social platforms, we can also establish a real-time conversation with brands of our choice.Social media is a platform where people from all walks of life converge and engage in sharing ideas. Be it buyers, sellers or users or experts, everyone is using one social platform or another to fulfil purposes as varied as meeting new people to boosting the relationships with the existing ones. Social media not only helps individuals alone as brands or businesses also understand its vast potential and try to leverage it to the fullest. For them, it’s a great opportunity of reaching to a wider and bigger marketplace and in some cases, reaching to the target audience based on demographic traits.Businesses find social media a helpful way to grow and expand their base as it takes them to more people in the quickest time. They can use one platform or another and benefit from unique userbase of each to gain benefits in the desired manner. It means, a business will need to have an entirely different kind of marketing strategy for Facebook than it has for Twitter and so on. For them, the target that works for YouTube may not fetch the similar results from Instagram and so on. They have to come up with platform-specific marketing strategy to get the best results from social media.More so, a business must understand the dynamics of each social platform, gauge the uniqueness of its target audience, evaluate its core strength before coming up with a strategy. At the same time, a business has to decide whether it wants to benefit from paid advertising that is now becoming a latest trend with social media. In addition, the strategy employed by a start-up business may not, or will not, suit those who have an established brand and vice versa. In a way, there are a variety of factors to consider for a business before planning a strategy and implementing it across social networks.In essence, a business needs to show some caution with social media and it should invest only after a complete understanding of the network. It’s therefore important to hire experts and seek their consultation to understand these platforms or networks and based on that, devise a marketing strategy. A business will benefit a lot when avails social media consulting services to get a complete awareness of each and every social platform available to be tapped into. Hiring experts pay a lot and one should not hesitate in doing the same.
I use social media- a lot. Not only do I use it for myself to maintain personal connections with friends, family, clients, colleagues and old acquaintances, I also use it to promote my business and my clients. The benefits of social media for both my personal life and business are obvious to me. But I’m finding out as I talk with some in the small business community that they are not aware of social media’s many benefits or sold on its effectiveness. So I’ve decided to do a little research and write some articles presenting the benefits of social media. Here is a recent article from my December 2009 newsletter listing what I believe are the top 10 benefits of social media.AwarenessThe first major benefit of social media is that it brings awareness. It is a low-cost way to get your name or the name of your organization on the web and into the minds of customers, patrons, and prospects. Anyone can set up an account on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Merchant Circle, Plaxo and dozens of other sites free of charge. The only cost involved is the cost of your time.Identify Customer and Prospect Wants and NeedsOnce you have established a presence in social media your business can connect with and stay in touch with customers to identify wants, needs, and problems- and communicate your solutions. Ask questions to find out what customers are looking for. Create forums on your Facebook fan page for fans to speak their minds about likes and dislikes. Since space is limited on social media sites (especially Twitter) when you need more detailed information, create surveys and questionnaires with a free tool such as Zoomerang or Survey Monkey and simply post the link on social media sites asking people to take the survey. Used with survey tools, social media is a great place to watch trends and get feedback from customers and potential customers. Bonus tip- if you want to get a bigger picture of the marketplace by knowing what your competitions’ customers want, check your competitor’s sites. Follow them on Twitter and join their Fan pages. Sign up for their emails. This is a good way to pick up on trends and get ideas for new product or service offerings. It’s also a great way to discover how you compare to your competition so you can know how to further differentiate yourself from them.Listen InThe third major benefit is that you can monitor what your customers and others are saying about your brand. Sites like Yelp let customers post reviews of businesses. You can use Yelp and similar sites to find out what is being said about your company or brand and respond through social media. In fact, some companies are using Twitter as a customer support platform because of its ease of use and real-time updates. Likewise, you can monitor what your customers and others are saying about your competition’s brand. These types of conversations used to go on out of listening range of business owners and managers. Rarely did they know what a customer said about them- good or bad. However now, with so many taking their thoughts, complaints and comments online, we have the privilege of being able to “listen” in on these conversations and respond accordingly.Increase Online ExposureA fourth major benefit of social media is increasing your online exposure. The Google and Bing search engines pick up Facebook and Twitter posts and updates and include them in search results. If your website in referenced in your Facebook or Twitter profile (and it should) people who visit your profiles can see and click your website link and be taken directly to your business’ website, increasing your traffic directly. Indirectly, these searches put extra eyes on your business name, your name, and/or your brand name thereby increasing your exposure. Additionally links from social media sites back to your organization’s website often increase your website’s page ranking by being associated with a well-known and trusted website such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Merchant Circle. Kind of like the instant boost in credibility or coolness nerdy high school kids get when a member of the cool crowd accepts him into his group.Generate Targeted TrafficA related benefit is that businesses and other organizations can generate traffic to their website, blog, or events- by posting relevant information and links to your website, blog, etc. right in their social media posts. Twitter is a terrific tool for this and I use this when appropriate. Not every post can contain a link to your stuff or a plug for it or you won’t have fans and followers for very long. But after you have earned the right to promote yourself this is an excellent way to let people know about your business or cause.Generate and Nurture Qualified LeadsThrough search features and third-party sites like Twellohood, Localtweeps, iPhone apps, and even TweetGrader, you can generate and nurture leads. Just use the tools to find people by place, title or interest to follow them and connect with them on Twitter. Check their Twitter profiles to see what other social media sites they belong to and look for ways to connect with them there as well. Here is a link to a great article on Mashable about finding local fellow tweeters http://mashable.com/2009/06/08/twitter-local-2/.Make Announcements Social media networks are a good place to toot (or tweet) your own horn. You can announce new products, services, enhancements, awards/recognition, etc. on social sites to spread the word more quickly. Just be sure to mix in helpful advice and conversation and not to toot your own horn too frequently.Partner UpFind new business partners, vendors, suppliers and business opportunities and stay in touch with current business partners, vendors, and suppliers. I’ve met a few business associates through both LinkedIn and Twitter and did so within only a few months of using each service. I was not looking for this, it just happened naturally. If that is your goal, however, there are strategies to follow to make your search more productive and efficient. Check out Jennifer Davies’ article on joint ventures and partnerships later in this newsletter.Educate YourselfLearn- people post all sorts of information on social networks that are helpful to small businesses such as marketing advice, management advice, customer service advice, and personnel advice. You just have to know how to find it. One excellent way is to use Twitter’s search feature and search for words or phrases using the # (hashtag) symbol. Use hashtag directories to understand what abbreviations mean and find useful hashtags. Twitter recently unveiled a service that lets you organize and follow lists tweets that are relevant or interesting to you. You can create the list using your own criteria. The great thing about these lists is that you don’t have to follow people to follow the topic. All the tweets are grouped together and you can keep these private- meaning no one can see the list you have created- if you like.Build Trust and CredibilityAnd the one that I think is most crucial to small businesses- especially if you sell a product with a long sales cycle that takes multiple touches with your customers, is that social media helps you build trust and credibility. Customers want to buy from people they know, like, and trust. Social media is a wonderful tool to get to know customers as people, become personable to them and get them to like you. Using social media is a convenient, and even fun, way to develop and cultivate relationships with your customers and prove your credibility and trustworthiness.Used the right way social media holds many benefits that will help your business find customers new and old, better understand their needs/wants and purchase drivers, and develop long-lasting relationships that result in satisfied and loyal customers- and a healthy bottom line for you.Copyright 1st Position Marketing 2009
Wondering why social media for business is hot news in the media right now? Here’s a balanced view of social networking and social media marketing.Fortunately, whether social networking will work for your business starts with a decision that many small businesses have made in the past few years. There’s lots of information to help you decide how social media marketing could work for your business and whether it’s worth it.Who Is Using Social Media? Have You Already Launched?Are you using social media marketing strategies and tools to build your local business, to market your products, programs and services, to serve your customers? Your competitors are.They are making sure their customers (and potential customers) are served 24/7 with:
Location details, maps, links to web sites and service or product details at Google.
Customer reviews and recommendations at Yelp.
Event announcements, contests and coupons at Facebook.
Valuable information and education at their web site.
Tough Economic Times for Small and Local BusinessesThese are tough economic times for small local businesses. If you are a small business owner, you may be wondering what to do to find new customers, keep customers coming back and still have profit left over for the wallet in YOUR pocket. Are you spending money on yellow pages ads, newspaper ads and doing more Discounts or Sales Events than ever?More than half of the US economy is fueled by small and local businesses. Your business is one of many that spend money on advertising – or you are simply surviving with word of mouth marketing, some foot traffic and the occasional customer who comes your way because they saw your ad in “old school” advertising?”Old School Marketing” VS. New Media StrategiesBut while you are waiting for your “old school” advertising to attract more customers, hundreds of thousands of potential customers have switched to searching for most of their information online. Their fingers aren’t doing the walking in the yellow pages anymore.More and more, your potential customers buy products and services only after they have been reassured by the recommendations of others, something that social networking online and recommendations presented online offer the discerning shopper.Small Local Businesses Adopt Social Media Marketing StrategiesAccording to a report released this week from the Small Business Success Index (SBSI), small businesses are increasing their use of social media. Over the last year, the adoption rate has gone from 12 to 24 percent, which doubles the usage.The report was sponsored by Network Solutions and the Center for Excellence in Service at the University of Maryland’s Smith School of Business. It found that small businesses have turned to social media as a result of the economic downturn and are using social to identify and attract new customers, build brand awareness, and stay engaged with customers.So, now that we’ve gotten this far, what’s next? As Abby Johnson explains, up to this point social media has been more about fun than business. Now that the newness has somewhat settled, Chris Brogan, the President of New Marketing Labs, believes it is time that social media is taken more seriously.Why Participate in Social Media? What Are The Benefits?There are many ways your small business can benefit from participating on one or more social networking sites. As a business owner you can:
Build community and brand loyalty
Learn more about your customers
What Are The Drawbacks?No matter how it’s hyped right now, social networking is not a perfect marketing or business building vehicle. There are some significant drawbacks, including:It can be incredibly time consuming.It can take quite a lot of time each day to participate on social networking sites. The key to success is often the amount of interaction you have with other members of the network. Small business owners generally don’t have hours every day to participate on social networking sites. To post and comment on other people’s posts can suck valuable time out of a business day.It can be slow to generate results.Depending on your goals, the social networking route may take a lot of time, effort and patience. It takes time to build a network online. And, if you’re short on time, the small amount of time you have may mean taking the tortoise approach to building a following and boosting your business.It’s just another marketing tactic to learn and master.Each marketing tactic you add to your marketing plan is another method you have to learn and practice. This learning takes time, energy and sometimes some money. The learning process can feel overwhelming, especially if you are short on time, energy and money.There are so many options.With literally hundreds of social networking sites attracting all different kinds of participants, you’ll want to focus on the networks where your efforts will pay off with contact with your target audience for your products or services.There’s good news.With the right plan and approach many of these drawbacks can be overcome or eliminated.Out with the Old – In with the NewYou have focused your time, money on being a business owner, or a specialist in your field of practice. Small business failure statistics illustrate that you may not have a handle on your marketing. Even in this economy, 60% of small businesses are spending the same amount on advertising, primarily “old school” marketing (like print media, business brochures and cards) and 26% want to spend more. Sixty-nine percent of businesses want to spend their money on online marketing.