Tuesday, 2 July 2013

How social does my business need to be?

Social media sites — there are so many options to consider. It can be challenging enough staying on top of the day-to-day running of a business without adding yet another job to put on your list. This is a problem faced by many small business owners these days, so why bother making more work for yourself? 

In today’s world, keeping in touch is about much more than just swapping business cards and mobile phone numbers. Social media allows you to connect with your customers and colleagues in a way that traditional mediums have not allowed in the past. For example, you can read a newspaper or listen to a report on the TV, but this is very much a one-way street. Social media, on the other hand, is a much more a form of two-way communication.  This inter-connectedness is one of the keys to social media and so your strategy should always be comprehensive rather than compartmentalised.

As Australians spend an increasing amount of time on social media, an active presence on Twitter, Facebook and other popular social platforms will get your brand in front of more of the right people. Properly-maintained social media profiles get returned in Google’s search results and allow you to join relevant conversations as well.

I’m going to start this brief overview of some of the most popular and effective social media sites available with Facebook. The reason for this is that for a lot of people this is a natural first step because many of us already have a personal Facebook account, therefore developing your business Facebook presence won’t be too daunting if you’re already familiar it. Facebook Pages are separate to personal pages, although you will need a personal account first in order to create your business Page. Facebook allows you to upload photos, videos, messages, create events and more. You can engage and grow your audience by posting regularly and people who Like your Page, and their friends, will get updates in their news feeds, so every post you make is reaching a potentially larger audience than just those people you’re connected to.

I often describe a blog as a personal diary. It’s a place where you can share your own private thoughts to the world. Your blog can be whatever you want it to be. There are millions of them, on almost every subject you can imagine. In simple terms, a blog is a website where you write on an ongoing basis; these are called posts. New posts are presented at the top of the blog so that visitors can easily find what’s new. You can also link your blog posts to your other social media accounts, so again a single post can be shared beyond the immediate readership of your blog. Blogger and Wordpress are two of the most user-friendly and popular blogsites available, but there are many more.

LinkedIn is a business-minded social networking site. LinkedIn has both personal and company pages.  LinkedIn allows registered businesses to list their range of products and services on their profile page, and allows members to recommend and submit reviews of these products. LinkedIn is a great place to share new developments in your business and to connect with like-minded professionals in associated industries.

Twitter is a real-time network that connects you to the latest stories, ideas, opinions and news. Simply find the accounts that interest you and follow their conversations. Twitter is made up of small bursts of information which are called Tweets. Each Tweet is140 characters long, but don’t let the small size fool you —you can discover a lot in a little space, and you can also include photos, videos and links to your website or other social media sites. Twitter is immediate, and through the use of hashtags (a way of highlighting the subject of your tweet) can help you to target your tweets, so that you can reach the audience that you want.  For instance, if you are an Adelaide business, including #Adelaide in your tweet will mean that it can be found by anyone who is interested in conversations connected with Adelaide.

Google+ is operated by Google and I think this makes it a very worthwhile site in which to invest your time. After all, Google is the major search engine, so if they are providing a social platform it makes sense to use it. Google+ shares information within social groups called Circles. These circles can be divided into groups such as friends, family, classmates and colleagues. As with other platforms, you can have both personal and business Google+ pages, and you can share all types of media and links.  

Pintrest is a pin board-style photo and image sharing website that allows users to create and manage theme-based collections. Users can browse other pin boards for inspiration, re-pin images to their own pin boards, or like photos. Pinterest also allows businesses to create pages aimed at promoting their businesses online and such pages can serve as a virtual storefront. Pinterest is extremely popular and effective because its focus is visual, making it ideal for businesses and enterprises that have great-looking products that they want to showcase.

YouTube is a video sharing website. YouTube displays a wide variety of user-generated video content, including movie clips, TV clips, and music videos, as well as amateur content such as video blogging, short original videos, and educational videos. Producing videos to post on YouTube is remarkably simple, and is a very effective way of communicating what your business has to offer.  A YouTube video can also be posted on your website, your other social media sites, and can be emailed to clients, meaning that it is extremely versatile and immediate.

This is just a small selection of the social media sites available, so how do you choose which one is the right one for your business? A good place to start is to ask yourself what you hope to achieve with your online presence. Who would you like to reach? What sort of information are you trying to communicate to existing and potential customers? Are you trying to sell products or services, or are you seeking to establish yourself as a leader or expert in your field by sharing information? Are you looking to raise your business profile and increase public awareness of who you are and what you do? An effective social media strategy needs you to have at least considered these questions, so that you can direct your time, energy and resources appropriately.  Like any form of marketing or promotion, you need to understand who you are trying to reach, and what it is that you would like them to think about you and your business.

The great news is that these platforms are free, so give it a go. You won’t know which of these is the right fit for you if you don’t try. If this all sounds too daunting, just pick one to start with. Each site will give you a brief overview when you join, but the best way to learn is simply to have a go. Don’t be afraid to experiment. If you’re adding original images and informative content about your business, you can’t go too far wrong. And don’t worry, you can always delete something if it’s not quite right! Once you feel confident that you have mastered one of these platforms,  try another; you need to be persistent and keep going until you find the one that’s right for you and your business.

As with most things, you get out what you put in. Make your content fresh, relevant and engaging. Also don’t be selfish — don’t just look for people to like or follow you, make sure you do the same to others. After all, that’s why it’s called social media.

Written by +Denise Angus

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