Although part of the online marketing mix, social networks are now an element of everyday lives in today’s society. They therefore deserve special consideration. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, Reddit, Digg – they are everywhere. You hear about someone tweeting an outrageous picture of themselves, liking a funny video about a cat on Facebook, or ending a sentence with a hashtag. The fact is, social network sites like Facebook and Twitter have shaped the way customers interact with each other and businesses. They play an important role in your communication channels. That is why businesses need to utilise social networks as well as their traditional ones. But where do you start?
With any social media outlet, it’s all about the conversations, communication and engagement you create with others. The channels to use will depend on what products and services you want to sell, if these products and services are consumer or business focused, as well as the age of your audience and their location.
Here are some pointers on using the three big players in social networking.
If you create a Facebook page (different from a Facebook profile) for your company, you can monitor “fans” by the number of likes you get. From this you create a community of fans where you can create interaction and see posts that get shared via your Facebook fans. Think of this as a virtual word of mouth channel of communication, a very powerful method in marketing your business.
It’s safe to say, that in the UK at least, Facebook is thought of as more for personal and consumer use than for B2B conversations – so, for example, heavy handed pitching of B2B products via Facebook might at best be a waste of effort and at worst alienate potential purchasers by encroaching on their personal time. In some other countries Facebook is more widely used for business interactions. Once again, it’s all about knowing your target audience and choosing the right tools accordingly.
Known as a ‘micro-blogging’ site where users post messages in 140 characters or less, great for short announcements and opinions. Some companies use it to engage in conversation with their followers as tweets are updated in real time and people see them happening in real time too. With the option to “follow” users and by keeping your profile open, you get a list of followers and at the same time create a “network” of people.
For your company Twitter profile, make sure you follow the right people such as industry influencers and customers. Align your following list to build your brand. Also make sure you use relevant ‘hash tagged’ key words – starting # - in your tweets, as Twitter users search for these looking for others interested in the same things as they are.
An increasing number of users are now using Twitter to reach out to companies over problems they encounter, which makes the company’s response and the issues very visible. Excellent customer service and quick response time is key to success. Any shareholders you have may also be talking about you via Twitter; Make sure you monitor your company name regularly and respond quickly to any mentions if need be.
LinkedIn is your online professional network. Connect with people who you do business with or connect with others you think will help with your professional image. As with other social networks you can also get your own company profile, so keep this up to date and sounding great and encourage your professional networks to follow you there as well, to build a stronger business community.
Join discussion forums and participate in the debate on relevant business topics – just make sure you listen as well as post your own comments. Social media is all about a conversation – not a one-way broadcast.
You can also advertise on Linkedin and send targeted ‘Inmails’. If you are after a business audience Linkedin allows very specific targeting and can often be very cost effective.
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