Whether your poison is Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Google Plus, social media is ingrained in our personal lives, including the workplace. Most companies have a policy about employees' use of social media at work, but they aren't taking advantage of the social media marketing phenomenon.
Facebook is still the most-visited social media network in the world, with Twitter and Pinterest coming in second and third. Facebook had a record 7 billion visits in March. There's no doubt that Facebook and other social media sites have a pervasive hold on our society, and the larger question for business owners is how they can benefit from that pervasiveness.
I've met a number of business owners who've decided not to jump on the social media bandwagon and stick to traditional marketing. I believe this is a mistake for any business.
Customers are talking about your business right now on social media. Just because you don't see it and don't know about doesn't mean it isn't happening.
What if you were able to see what customers were saying about your business, but you had a chance to respond and open a dialogue with them? This is what social media means to business. Social media marketing is a great opportunity for businesses to open a two-way conversation with customers to determine their likes, dislikes, wants and needs. If you wanted this information in the past, you would have had to pay a marketing firm a pretty penny to research that information.
When businesses use social media properly, it opens up huge possibilities to address concerns, satisfy existing customers and attract new business.
If you decide to jump into the social media world, make sure first to develop a strategy.
1. MATCH YOUR PRODUCT
Which social media platforms are best? Keep in mind the demographic of your customer, the reach of the network, and your product type. I wouldn't suggest that an auto shop start a Pinterest account but I would recommend a Pinterest account to a dress shop.
2. MARKETING PLAN
How do you want to market your business on social media? There are several ways to approach social media marketing, including building your brand, direct marketing of products, or creating a community of customers. It is important to understand your strategy before jumping in.
3. BUILD AN AUDIENCE
How do you build your social media page? After you determine your social media focus, this will be fairly easy to do. When picking photos, remember to only use images you have legal rights to use. It's best to use photos you've taken yourself.
Last but not least, who will manage your social media accounts on a daily basis? The popular choice is to hand this responsibility off to a younger staff member who uses Facebook regularly, but that's not always a good idea. Just because someone spends a lot of time on social media doesn't mean they will use it properly. I'd suggest picking someone who understands social media but also has excellent customer service and marketing skills. You may want to consider paying an outside firm if you don't feel you have those skills available to you on your staff.
When you get your account started, it's time to market it. On Facebook, ask your friends, employees, and loyal customers to "like" your page. On Twitter, find an account that is influential in your community and start following it and other "centers of influence." Proper Twitter etiquette will kick in and those you follow will follow you back. Treat Pinterest the same way you treat Twitter. Start following the "pins" of those in your community and your followers will start to grow.
Now it's time to start using your social media account. Craft your messages carefully. In order to keep your customers and followers happy, your message needs to provide value and not just push products. Contests to gain followers and "likes" are fun at first but be careful that you don't gain followers who just want to win a prize and not true customers who will gain value from your posts.
If at first you don't get a bunch of followers, don't fret. It will take some time and some work on your part but the rewards will pay off with repeat customers, new customers, and a new look at your business from the eyes of your customers.
--Joel Kight is the social media director and online news editor for OnlineAthens.com.
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