Trying to understand how your small business can become online friendly? This is the second article in our series “Creating a Brand Online”, where we provide straightforward advice for your small business as you create your online brand.
Websites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn have helped make the Internet a social place where people can connect, comment, and share. These “social networks” are the hubs where “social media” live, and they’re structured differently than old media like newspapers, TV and radio.
Where traditional media messaging is from one to many, you can think of social media as a conversation. The audience now has the power to respond to messages publicly, share messages they like (or hate!) to friends, and create their own messages.
Chances are that people are talking about your small business on social media. By having a social media presence on one or more network, you’re able to create and participate in the conversations that are valuable to your business.
This blog post will introduce you to some of the social networks out there, and how your small business can benefit from using them.
Decide Which Social Media to Use
Facebook started out as a college dorm project, and has since grown to have more than a billion active users. Chances are that your current and prospective customers are on Facebook, sharing and “Liking” what’s important to them for friends to see.
As a Facebook user, you can create a Facebook Page for you organization, giving you and your team a place to post company updates, share videos, images and links that show the corporate culture, and engage in conversations with customers and other stakeholders. Y our supporters who Like your Facebook page will get updates in the ir Facebook Timeline on your Facebook activity, so be ready to employ some clever techniques for accumulating fans.
Facebook posts aren’t merely an opportunity to send out your tired old marketing pitch. Your focus should be on building rapport, being an active community participant, sharing information relative to your niche and marketplace, and adding value to what you share through thoughtful comments.
Twitter lets you send short, quick updates and links. Great posts are often succinct and clever. But in order to remain relevant in Twitter, it’s necessary to post regular updates and interact with other users. You can, for instance, use an @rely or @mention (ie. @kobayashionline) in a Tweet to encourage others to join you in a Twitter conversation or notify them that your post relates to them. And can also share other people’s Tweets by Retweeting them.
A good place to start with Twitter is to showcase your busi ness through the design and wording of your profile.
You can then use your Tweets to tell your company’s story as it happens using some creative ways small businesses can use Twitter:
- On Twitter, it doesn’t take long to realize that there’s a lot of complaining going on. You can search Twitter for people who have the very problem that your company solves. Tweet to them (starting the message with an @mention) either the solution to their issue or a link to a more in-depth solution.
- Do some simple market research by asking your Twitter following what they want and what you can do better. And as you incorporate this great feedback into your business, be sure to post about your process on Twitter.
- Show your corporate culture by tweeting entertaining (or goofy) pictures from around your workplace. This is a great way to show your friendly and approachable side.
And, of course, people are coming up with new and creative ways to use Twitter, so feel free to come up with your own ways to use short, compelling messages to show your brand.
LinkedIn is the network for professionals, businesses, and those looking for business opportunities. The tone, accordingly, is more formal than Twitter and Facebook, but there are some great features distinguishing themselves among competitors.
After creating a personal LinkedIn account, you can create a LinkedIn Company Page to act as your small business’ LinkedIn hub, aggregating employee information, showcasing products and services, and displaying endorsements and reviews.
Here are some other ways to publicize and improve your business using LinkedIn:
- If you write original blog posts or shoot videos, post updates that link to them on your Company Page. LinkedIn members will see your company status updates when they visit your company, and LinkedIn on ‘s HOME tab, and followers of your Company Page will also get the updates on their homepage when they sign into LinkedIn.
- Join a LinkedIn Group to find and interact with other people in your industry, location, or have something else in common. Think of this as the online equivalent of networking: find busines s opportunities, introduce people to each other, or discover businesses with whom to work with or share referrals.
- Answer questions in LinkedIn Groups. Not only will this help the individual seeking an answer, but other people in the group will see you as being helpful and knowledgeable in your field.
- On your Company Page you can list as many as 25 products and services, each with up to 8 key features. People can also recommend your products and services. Rather than wait for people to r atings, you can invite people to recommend directly: On your Company Page’s Products & Services Tab, use the “Request Recommendations” button. For more info, see LinkedIn’s Products and Services guide (PDF).
- Find your competition on LinkedIn and monitor their key stats such as company profiles, updates, and recent hires to get insight on your industry and competition.
Other Social Networks
We often think of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn as the “Big Three” social networks but there are countless other social networks that can be useful for your business. Here are just some of the networks that might fit your business:
You can think of Google+ as Google’s competitor to Facebook. And as people leave Facebook because of its privacy blunders and increasingly
As the world’s most popular search engine provider, Google uses Google+ to compile social data on users. This means that brands using G+ well (posting consistently, having posts shared, interacting, and accumulating “+1’s” – Google+’s version of Facebook Likes) can boost your company’s search ranking.
You can also engage with people in “Hangouts” which are essentially video chats with up to ni ne people that can later be posted to YouTube. To liven up and add exposure to a webinar, you can make it a Hangout.
Pinterest encourages it’s users to pin images of things you love to your virtual wall. Users that like the things you pin can share them and organize them into groups that, as Pinterest Guide author Ande Truman describes, are “brainlessly browsable”.
As a small business, you can pin images of products you sell on Pinterest, then link to where they can buy it. But also be sure to add images that express your corporate culture and values, and that connect with your following.
Think of Tumblr as a hybrid blogging platform and social network. You can post images, audio and video clips, and writing. You can also share anything that others have posted on your wall. This makes it easier to update your Tumblr page than creating original blog posts, and encourages interaction with other Tumblr members.
The social media landscape is prone to change and new social networks pop up all the time. What doesn’t change is the value of posting relevant, helpful, consistent, timely, and on-brand content, as well as engaging with other s on the network.
Remember: Being social is at the core of all social media.
If you commit to a social network, do it right!
It’s important not to just create a social media profile only to forget about it. If you commit to a service like Twitter, you should make a concerted effort to post updates often and to engage with those on the network.
Over time, you will learn what works for your brand, and your social media voice will give people a fuller view of your brand.
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