By Kylie Jane Wakefield
In part 2 of our series on DIY social media, we looked at using Tumbler for your small business and now we move on to the, sometimes intimidating, realm of social networks. One of several necessary small business tools, social networks can sustain and improve the customer-company relationships, and in today’s business climate, customer relationship management is critical.
Small businesses can use social networking sites to engage in dialogue with consumers, learn more about them, generate leads and encourage customers to become brand loyalists.
As Brandignity points out, “Social media has become a part of everyone’s life and it is something that influences their daily life. [It] has played a big role with how people interact with each other and it is something that is not slowing down anytime soon.”
Let’s take a look at top social networking sites Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, and see how your small business can start using them.
Facebook is the kingpin of all the social networks, and with good reason: By the end of June 2012, it boasted 955 million monthly active users around the world, making it the most popular social networking site on the web.
A small business can benefit by starting a Facebook page to garner interest and communicate with fans. Luckily, doing so is simple thanks to the network’s easy-to-understand instructions.
The first step, says Lauren Drell of Mashable, is to go to Facebook.com/pages and click “Create Page.” Choose the relevant category for your business, upload a high-res photo into the profile, and fill out all the relevant information (address, hours, etc.).
Building the brand’s following and getting likes on the page can be accomplished in a variety of ways. If your small business sends out an e-newsletter, add the “like” link to the bottom of every such email. The link should be embedded on company blogs and its website. If your business can afford it, experiment with buying targeted ads and promoted posts.
Once you have a following, start posting quality content frequently, along with discounts, contests, photos and videos. Visuals are key, and Facebook, which recently made photos larger, is perfect for this.
To get started with Twitter, visit the site, choose an easy-to-remember Twitter handle, fill out the profile information and upload a picture.
Michelle V. Rafter of the SecondAct blog says, “Your tweet stream is only as good as the people you follow.” For small business owners, this means following people in your industry. Twitter is all about creating a dialogue in 140 characters or less, and you should have that dialogue with users of similar backgrounds.
Following the right people and getting them to follow you back is just one way to build your business brand on Twitter. Small business owners should also be searching for keywords relevant to their companies and striking up conversations with people tweeting about those topics. For example, if a coffee shop in Brooklyn were to start a Twitter account, it would search for the words “coffee” and “Brooklyn,” then see what users are talking about and jump in. Feeling overwhelmed with your stream? A Twitter list, according to Rafter, can help.
When it comes to content, companies on Twitter should be authentic, aim for credibility amongst followers, and post a mix of conversational and company-related information, writes Michael Brito of Mashable. ”Having a Twitter profile doesn’t mean you’re a social media master, but it is a great tool for conversations, building community and finding the latest industry news,” he says. “That’s why Hollywood is on Twitter, athletes are on Twitter, your competitors are on Twitter, and hopefully you are on Twitter too.”
Clocking in at 175 million users around the globe, the third largest social network is LinkedIn. According to HubSpot and Social Media Today’s Mike Lewis, marketers say that the site is “277% more effective than other platforms” when it comes to generating leads.
Adam Ostrow of Mashable provides a comprehensive guide on how companies can utilize LinkedIn. The first steps include hitting the “Add Company” button under the “Companies” portion of the site, submitting basic information about your company, and entering in your location(s), logo and blog feed.
Neal Schaffer of WindMill Networking says to keep search engine word optimization in mind: “Just as you would embed keywords in your LinkedIn profile so it appears prominently in LinkedIn people searches, you want to do the same with your company’s description and specialties. Choose keywords that your potential customers might look for … so that your company appears in relevant LinkedIn searches.”
Just like Twitter, LinkedIn is a place where a small business can establish itself as a thought leader within an industry. — in this case with the status updates tool. “Be cognizant of the professional demographic that is LinkedIn, and only share ‘shareable’ information that appeals to them – and hopefully has them engaging with to spread the word about your company through the networks of your followers,” says Schaffer.
How has your company’s social media strategy changed over time?
In part 4 of our 5-part series on DIY social media, we will discuss media sharing.