Social Media for Business
From being a recreational tool for keeping in touch with friends and family, social networks have evolved to become an important pillar in developing an online presence and brand for businesses. It provides an extremely useful forum to interact with both colleagues and potential customers. But how can you make sure that you’re getting the most from your connections? Keeping a few simple things in mind will help.
Manage your time effectively
There are a number of different platforms available, from major sites such as Facebook and Twitter, via Google+ and LinkedIn to Digg, StumbleUpon and more. Be realistic about what you can commit to. Social media takes time to use effectively and, if you try to use too many platforms, you may end up spreading yourself too thin. It’s better to focus on a couple of platforms that you can commit to updating regularly than have intermittent presences on everything. If you really need to be on multiple platforms, consider downloading an application such as Tweetdeck, which lets you manage a number of social media profiles from the one programme. Different platforms do different things, but Facebook and Twitter are the most widely used.
Also make sure to actually schedule in some time in the week to work with your social media platforms rather than leaving it for ‘when you get a minute’ – that free time will be elusive and , before you know it, you’ll have left your profile fallow for months.
Understand the medium
Every social medium operates differently. Facebook, for example, operates on the idea of mutuality: users need to accept a friend request from someone to share private information, and to ‘like’ a page interact with you. The mechanism for Twitter is different, anyone can choose to ‘follow’ you and, whether or not you choose to follow them back, your information will be added to their timeline. Also, you can follow individuals but, unless they follow you back, they won’t see your posts. Google + acts on the same principle. There are pluses and minuses to both approaches, but it means each medium needs to be handled differently. Take a bit of time to familiarise yourself with your chosen platforms, and take a close note of what your peers are doing on a day-to-day basis.
Follow and friend effectively
The mechanism for linking with people may vary from site to site, but make sure to ‘follow’ people who give you value. Following indiscriminately may garner you more followers, but will clog up your homepage or timeline with unnecessary information – this means that you could miss out on an enquiry or customer comment that’s actually worth responding to. Following a select number of people ensures that you receive messages that are relevant to your line of business: connecting with industry leaders in particular, and commenting intelligently on their posts or tweets, will encourage their audience to pay attention to you, expanding your network among the people that you want to reach.
Be a community player
You need to add value. Your main goal with social media may be to promote your business, but nobody likes a hard sell. Your profile should link to your website or blog, providing an easy way for your followers or friends to get in contact with you easily if they feel so inclined. If you have some news about your business, by all means post or tweet about it, but don’t bombard people: there’s nothing wrong with self promotion, but be careful not to overdo it. Other than that, your tweets or posts should inform people about the industry you’re in, and should be interesting. Keep it informative, businesslike, non-pushy and laid back.
This, ultimately, is the key ingredient for successfully winning an audience for your business through social media. Your business needs to have the kind of twitter profile or facebook page that people want to follow – not because you nag them or spam them, but because it’s a useful or interesting source of information. If you can be that type of ‘community player’ on a social media platform consistently, you’ll see a dividend in time.