I know, you can’t get away from it, we hear about it all the time, it is like homework. It gnaws away at your psyche, it whispers in your ear, you know you have to do it, but not now, you’re busy.
The main platforms in use by businesses are Linked In, Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus. Many are also blogging.
The use of these tools is attractive, because on the face of it, it is free advertising. However it is certainly not free in terms of the time needed to implement it.
The reason businesses can’t afford to ignore social media is because It is extremely powerful. Facebook has half the population of the UK as account holders. Not only that, the accounts contain lots of valuable personal information that make it advertising gold, hence why Facebook is such a force to be reckoned with in the online world. It is the second largest search engine next to Google.
This is why Google launched Google Plus, as it realised that Facebook was snapping at their heels and was in danger of taking their crown.
Linked In is not as talked about, but is still very successful. What it has managed to do is revolutionise the recruitment industry. Most jobs are filled through Linked In either by headhunters or candidates searching for employment. On the back of this, Linked In offers a premium service aimed especially at recruitment companies
A lesser known fact is that as well as individual profiles, businesses can have company pages on Linked In. The search facility on Linked In is much simpler than that of Facebook and it is easier to find contacts you are looking for. Linked In won’t allow you to connect with someone unless you have their email address or you are connected in some other way, either via a group or another contact. You can pay for an upgraded account which provides Inmail, then this allows you to target prospects you may not have any links with.
Twitter is the micro social site that only allows users to ‘tweet’ up to 140 characters at a time. It can take a while to understand this method of communication, but once you do, it is a very neat little portal that is perfect for the small business. It is fantastic for link building, becoming an expert in your industry, brand awareness and getting to know other local businesses.
Blogging comes under the social media banner, its main forte is that it allows you to put the meat on the bones of your business. Every opportunity you have to promote products and services has a restriction. Networking gives you 60 seconds or a ten minute slot every few months. Advertising tells you not to use too much text, websites need to be lean to keep costs down and not bore your prospects. So blogging is the perfect tool to educate the world on exactly what it is that you do, or what is dear to your heart or to just chat about what your customers would find interesting.
Blogging is also perfect for optimising your site, it is fresh content being updated regularly, which is what Google spiders love, so it is imperative that your blog is on your actual site. If this is not possible the second best option is it should be a sub domain of your site. Or your site may be based around the Blog.
This Blog has been my main online focus for a few months, along with my other social media accounts. I am very active networking locally, so people tend to get to know me first and then read my blogs or tweets. However when my site goes live in a couple of weeks the Blog will transfer onto my site, which will then hopefully make me more visible online and thus reaching a wider audience.
Google Plus is like Facebook in many ways, but Google have the edge because of their sheer power. Quite soon, as Jan from My Local Business Online informs me, your website will plummet through the rankings if you don’t have a Google Plus account, such is their power. Hopefully she can do a blog on this (hint hint) to explain the technicalities behind this (not my area of expertise)
So what should you do if you are still yet to get socially active? My guess is if you’re reading this, you have managed to open a couple of accounts and had a quick play and then forgotten about it.
My words of advice are, if this is you, then do what I did, take it one step at a time.
If you are a business to consumer model (B2C) then set up a Facebook account. You will need a personal account first as Facebook are not about businesses primarily. From the personal account, at the bottom of the Home page you can ‘create a page’ using step by step instructions that are quite simple to follow. That is the easy part. The difficult part is getting to grips with the platform and developing a strategy. Blogs to follow on this. But being B2C, Facebook is your new best friend, it is where your new customers are hanging out and with the new Facebook Offers feature (that even I am excited about), you have the wonderful luxury of target marketing at your fingertips.
If you are Business to Business (B2B) then you will need a Linked In profile, it allows you to complete it via upload of a CV which takes a lot of work out of the process. The first thing we tend to do after networking events is look for people on Linked In and connect with them. From there you can also find their websites, blogs and twitter accounts. I have met a few people through Linked In and it has won me business.
Before anyone starts ranting at me about this, I am not saying that B2C can’t use Linked In and B2B can’t use Facebook. This is just a guide for those who are starting out, so that they don’t feel overwhelmed. It is not necessary to have an account with them all just for the sake of it. It makes sense to spend time to get intimate with one method before moving on to the next.
I actually started with Twitter, then Linked In and then Facebook. I still haven’t used Google Plus.
With Twitter, this is relatively easy to set up and is the most fun in my opinion. It is easy to follow people if you know their Twitter username, but it is so easy to find local goings on and keep abreast of things that are of interest to you. I have had many a banter online with people I have never met and it complements my offline networking. There is a lot more to Twitter than first meets the eye, again Blog to follow. But, this may not make much sense to you at the moment, trending, watching what is trending is quite an interesting amusement to pass a cold rainy bank holiday!
So if you are feeling a bit bored (even if you won’t admit it) pick one of the main three and start to get to know it. You learn by doing most of the time. It goes without saying, be careful what you say and don’t do it if you have had a few!
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