You can’t click on a site these days or see an advert without seeing a Social Media symbol, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Stumbleupon, Pinterest and more are getting everywhere. They have become one of the biggest and most effective marketing tools for many businesses and that includes the very small to the multi nationals. You are constantly being encouraged to follow these businesses on-line.
SO WHY IS USING SOCIAL MEDIA SO IMPORTANT TO BUSINESS?
Social media allows businesses to interact directly with their customers/followers on a daily basis on a more personal level. It enables a business to engage with their customers, to promote, to ask for feedback, reply to problems and challenge them. You will notice the one thing I didn’t say was to sell to them! To be successful at social networking, businesses have to remember they cannot and must not try to sell directly to their followers or spam them using social media, as their followers will very quickly un-follow them.
The reason is people hate being sold to, but they love to buy from someone they trust, a friend and that’s how businesses that use social media are becoming more successful, they work hard at becoming your ‘friend’, someone you can trust. Social media allows large businesses to present a human face, rather than a faceless Giant who is only interested in profit. They have stopped pushing you and have started pulling you through the use of social networking!
However on the flip side, businesses small and large must remember there is a very fine line between being successful and unsuccessful using this form of marketing, social media can very quickly also have a negative effect on a business, if you don’t do it right.
Lesson 1: Make friends with your followers.
Lesson 2: You need to gain their trust and interest before they will buy from you.
Lesson 3: Don’t try to sell directly to your followers.
Being successful at on-line social marketing will not happen over night, it is not something that happens immediately, you have to build up your following, be consistent, encourage people to interact with you, trust you and hopefully in time the sales will start to flow. But I have heard many of you say, including myself, “I don’t have enough time for the demands of Blogging, Facebook, Twitter etc!”
Do you know you could spend as little as 20 minutes each day, just updating your Blog and that will be enough to start with, providing you have set it up so it automatically updates Facebook and Twitter. This then allows you to go and do other things, that are important to you. The only thing you must remember to do, is allow a little time to check back later to see if anyone has commented on your posts, even if they just clicked like, it’s good to write a comment to thank them (but don’t become obsessive at checking as this is where the time can disappear, I know from experience!). This is how you build up the interaction and ‘friendship’ with your followers. Even if you don’t have a Blog and you just use Facebook and Twitter, there are benefits to having them linked if you are short on time.
Lesson 4: Only spend the time on Social Media you feel you can spare, ie. 20 mins a day is all it takes! Set yourself a time limit if you need to.
Lesson 5: Always respond to comments, even if it is just to say thank you.
Lesson 6: Make sure you have the links working between the sites.
DO YOU NEED TO BE USING SOCIAL MEDIA TO PROMOTE YOUR BUSINESS?
In my opinion, the answer to that is yes, yes and yes if you want your business to succeed and why not, it’s free marketing!
Why do you think lots of businesses are doing it? It’s a great way to promote your business to a wider ‘worldwide’ market, to share your offers and latest products without the expense of printing leaflets and paying for advertising etc. You will never succeed in business if you don’t promote your products and tell people about them and you can’t always rely on close friends and family buying from you.
What better way to get people to visit your website, blog or other on-line presence, than by directing them to it by using social media sites, you can’t just rely on people finding you through search engines these days. Think of using social media as the equivalent of standing on a chair in the middle of a shopping centre with a megaphone telling everyone what you do, every day, but less embarrassing. Use Facebook and Twitter to build up your following spending as much or as little time as you feel is necessary to increase the interest in your products, as I said earlier, all it takes is 20 minutes a day if you have little time to spare!
If you are still not sure, just take a look at some well-known businesses, for instance M&S, Walkers, Starbucks and ask yourself why are they on Facebook and Twitter? See how they interact with their followers, ask for opinions, promote special offers and how they respond to people who comment on their posts. You can actually learn quite a lot about a business just by watching and reading their posts or tweets or more to the point you think you learn more, that’s how clever it is! It becomes a great advertising tool for them. I’ve certainly walked past a M&S and thought, “Ooooh I must go and have a look at …. which I saw discussed on Facebook .” This works better on me than any TV advert!
Many small businesses are getting very good at doing this too, I personally follow many Facebook business pages and some are very good at getting you to interact with them and then I find myself browsing through their photos, thinking what could I buy!
Lastly, ask yourself why do large businesses now employ people to manage their on-line presence to update their websites regularly, to manage their Facebook page and Twitter feeds and post Youtube videos? Their on-line image has become important to them and they are taking advantage of the free marketing possibilities, so why shouldn’t you take advantage of it too?
Lesson 7: Do some research, look how other businesses interact with their followers on Facebook, Twitter etc and learn from them.
WILL I NEED A STRATEGY FOR MANAGING MY ON-LINE PRESENCE?
You probably won’t want to hear this now, bearing in mind how little time you might have to concentrate on your on-line presence. But yes, it is important to understand how each of the social media sites work and have a strategy on how you will manage them. (Below you will find details about some of the sites to give you some help). They all work differently, so do your homework first before jumping in. You may need to think of a different strategy for how you communicate on each of the social media sites you use, especially if you want to use them all. However, some people choose the one they prefer and just concentrate on that one, which is OK, it’s better to manage one very well than try to manage them all in the same way or badly.
Your strategy could be something as simple as deciding how often you do a Blog Post, what day and what time you do your post on. Do you do a daily Tweet session, or just Tweet at weekends? It’s all about being consistent, so your followers begin to learn what to expect from you and it could also lead to helping you manage your time better.
The other thing to remember is to make sure you keep your ‘brand/image’ consistent across the sites you use, so you are instantly recognisable. Keep colours similar, use the same logo on each site and if you change your logo, make sure you change it everywhere. Keep things current and up to date, check your pricing and offers etc., there is nothing worse than visiting a site that is out of date and neglected. Bear in mind some aspects of each site may/will need some customisation.
Lesson 8: Decide on an ‘image’ and your strategy for managing each site?
Lesson 9: Keep all the information current and the same, no out of date items for sale, prices, offers, messages etc.
SO LET’S HAVE A LOOK AT WHAT I’VE BEEN TALKING ABOUT, BY GIVING YOU A BRIEF OVERVIEW OF SOME OF THE MOST POPULAR SOCIAL MEDIA SITES YOU COULD USE:
Twitter is a community of people who communicate with each other by Tweeting. The idea is to follow people or businesses that are of interest to you, but one of the main mistakes people make is they follow and are followed by similar businesses, which in reality is of no use if you are trying to encourage interest in your own products. So if you choose Twitter as your marketing tool it’s important to find followers who are interested in your products and services.
Twitter allows a maximum of 140 characters per post, so you have to keep your posts (Tweets) brief. Ideal if you have little time to spare, if you are out and about a lot, or prefer communicating in very simple terms! You have to keep your tweets short and it is also advisable to shorten urls if you are attaching them, as this will enable other people to re-tweet you easier. With Twitter it’s also important to join in on a regular basis, ask for opinions, start discussions, comment and reply to other tweets and re-tweet other tweets that you think your followers might be interested in. Don’t just spam twitter with sales pitches. Twitter is very mobile friendly, you can keep up with the latest tweets from people you follow and you can also tweet wherever you are. You can also link it to Facebook and a Blog.
Using a hashtag (#) before a key word in a tweet is a good way of reaching a wider audience other than just your followers. It makes your tweet appear when someone is searching for that tagged key word, it becomes more searchable and linkable on Twitter. ie. #handmadecrafts. People also use this to interact with their followers on a discussion topic, so they can all join in.
Keys things to remember if using Twitter:
- Decide who your target audience is?
- Decide what you want to achieve by being on Twitter?
- Decide on your strategy, will you Tweet daily etc?
- Only Follow people you are interested in
- Keep tweets short and to the point
- Shorten url links
- Don’t spam it with Sales patter.
- Use the # on keywords in your tweets
- Ensure it is connected to other social media sites
I think most people know Facebook is a social networking site, which allows you to connect and share with your friends and family around the world, but some people are still unaware that it can be used in Business as well to promote and sell your products. (I hope most people reading this know that?).
My aim here is not to teach you how to use Facebook, there is enough help already on Facebook and on the net and using Facebook is actually quite intuitive.
A Facebook business page is also known as a Fan Page. ‘Fans/followers’ like your page by clicking the LIKE button so they receive updates in their news feed, every time you post a message, photo or link from your page. There are 2 ways of setting up a Fan/Business Page, one way is to do it without a personal profile, this way you will need to ‘Create a Page for a Celebrity, band or business’, this will give you a fan page to administer, but will only give you limited access to your fans profiles and other features on Facebook. The other way is to register with a personal profile first if you have not already got one, then it is very easy to set up your business page, you can then move easily from your personal page to your business page or pages as you can have more than one.
So why is Facebook useful to business?
I will first start with a word of warning, keeping your Facebook Fan Page up to date can be very time-consuming if you want to do it properly, Facebook is probably the most time-consuming social media site to use. You can’t just set up a Fan page to be ‘just on it’, it takes time to gain fans and keep them. You must do regular updates and engage with your followers, encourage discussions, ask opinions and monitor your page to make a success of it. Going quiet and just doing the occasional post does not work (I know this from experience).
My second point is, having lots of fans on your page does not = customer. Many people like your page because they may like what you say, it does not mean they may buy anything from you. So having lots of fans, does not necessarily mean lots of sales.
That’s 2 negatives I hear you say, so why bother? Because it gives you an opportunity to talk to and reach more ‘potential’ customers, than just having a web site. If you manage Facebook well, get the right balance of communication on your page it can and will lead to sales. It can also be used as a tool to direct people to your website, Blog or Shop (on-line and on the High Street). You can post photos and links, run competitions if you use the applications, there’s no restriction like Twitter on how much you write in a comment box and it is much easier to have a discussion with your fans. Many people run successful businesses just from their Facebook page.
Keys things to remember if using Facebook:
- Allow lots of time.
- Update it regularly with new images and links.
- Be consistent with your communication and engage with your fans.
- Monitor your page and respond quickly to comments.
- Don’t sell directly to your fans, be more discreet ask for opinions, provide offers.
- Use the Applications to help you.
- Encourage sharing of posts and share posts on your own page
- Network and take every opportunity to promote your page (I would say that wouldn’t I!)
So what is Pinterest, well it’s a virtual pin board, which you join by invite (if you request an invite, you will receive an email the next day). Imagine your notice board at home on the wall with postcards attached, photographs, things to buy etc. Well Pinterest is that but on-line. It allows you to pin items you have discovered on the web to your boards, yes you can have more than one board. So for instance if you are planning a wedding, then as you search the internet for dresses, flowers, cakes etc, you can pin the images you like (including the url link) to a Wedding Board to save for inspiration or to buy later. You can also search other people’s boards for inspiration and then re-pin to yours. It is very easy to use and quickly becomes very addictive.
So why is this useful to business?
It’s a way of communicating with just pictures and only brief explanations, quotes and url links. It’s a great site for those who make crafts, offer how to’s, interior design etc. as there is nothing stopping you from pinning photographs/links of your own items to a Board, or if you are worried about copyright ask someone else to pin them on their board for you. Like Facebook and Twitter it works best if you follow other people and people follow you, that way there is the possibility of your items being pinned to other people’s boards and hopefully leads to an increase of views to your products and then sales. Name your Boards well, ie. Made in UK, or Handmade Ceramics, to attract more interest and also connect to Facebook and Twitter to gain a following. You can also be really savvy with your pins by pinning items that may complement your own items, don’t just self promote. For instance if you make jewellery, then pin the perfect dress your jewellery could match. Someone may see or have the dress and then decide to buy your jewellery.
Key things about Pinterest:
- Follow other people and their boards
- If you are going to pin your own photos ensure they are good quality, clear images
- Be savvy with you’re pinning
- Don’t only self promote
- Name your Boards well to increase interest
Stumbleupon is another social bookmarking site, but differs from Pinterest which is about pinning pictures, Stumbleupon is about stumbling webpages and web articles. It allows you to save links that you can visit later or share with other people. You can stumble your own Blog Posts to encourage people to read them and if you are lucky enough the flow of traffic to your Blog could increase tenfold. However, it can be very hit and miss, one Blog post may attract a lot of attention and go viral but another may attract none. There is no explanation why this happens.
Stumbleupon may not necessarily increase sales for you, but it’s very quick and easy to use. Also don’t just focus on yourself, stumble other sites and what interests you as well. Followers can very quickly get fed up of seeing links about you and stop following.
Key things about Stumbleupon:
- Save and promote web pages and articles
- Promote your own Blog posts but not too often
- Don’t expect every ‘stumble’ to go viral, it’s very hit and miss
- Stumble other web pages and articles, don’t only self promote.
- Don’t expect Sales from Stumbling.
I think most people have visited or heard of Youtube, but have not considered using it to help their business. Youtube is a place where you can share and view originally created videos, interact, comment, rate, favourite and share other videos on your own social media sites. You don’t have to make your own videos if you don’t want to as just by commenting etc on other videos can attract traffic to your own site.
But if you are interested in sharing your own videos, tutorials and presentation slides and want to market your products in a unique way, share your expertise or knowledge, then this is the place to do it, with over 100 million views a day, Youtube is one of the most visited social media sites. You will need to set up a Channel, which is very easy, this will then enable you to upload videos, see traffic analysis, see who subscribes to your video channel etc.
Key things about Youtube:
- View and share videos and tutorials
- Engage with the Youtube community and comment on other videos
- Set up an Account/Channel
- Upload your own videos, sharing your knowledge with tutorials
- Be aware of copyright issues if you use music etc.
- Earn money from your videos, based on number of views
BLOGGING (WordPress, Blogger, etc)
What is Blogging? Well I think of it as a bit like writing a Diary or Journal, keeping a daily or weekly record of your activities with regards your business. A Blog short for Web Log is an internet service that allows people to share information with their followers and anyone else who may find you on the internet, posts are published in chronological order, the most recent at the top.
A Blog is easy to set up, usually using available templates which you can customise, no technical knowledge is required unless you want to increase your blogs capability then some scripting knowledge may be required. Once you get going it is a great way to share information about you and your business with your followers, to give people an insight into how some of your ideas and products are developed, share your knowledge and expertise etc. You can include photos, tutorials, links to other social media and internet sites. I have also seen that some people use their Blog to sell their products and if your Blog becomes very popular and has a large following there is potential to earn money from it, through advertising etc.
When writing your Blog, try to encourage people to interact with you (hint hint!!) and follow your Blog so when you publish new posts they will be sent an email. Always reply to people who write comments, even if to just say thank you. Also remember to link your Blog to Facebook and Twitter, so when new posts are published a notification will be sent to these sites too.
Key things about Blogging:
- It’s easy to set up, customise and update
- Think of it as keeping an open diary, but it’s available on the web for everyone to see.
- It’s not a website.
- Use it to share information about you, your business and your expertise
- Encourage interaction on your Blog, ask questions, share knowledge and opinions etc.
- If your Blog becomes very popular, there is potential to earn money from it through advertising.
- Site statistics are available to view your on-line traffic.
- Link your Blog to Facebook and Twitter.
- Photos etc published on your Blog can be found in google images.
I think one of the clear messages I have picked up from writing and researching this subject is that social networking should not be used to just sell your products and if that is all you want to do, then it is quite likely you will not be very successful. You have to work hard at social networking, build up a following, gain trust, engage with your followers and be consistent with your messages, then hopefully you will reap the rewards.
In a previous discussion post I did on the Blog, I asked how you found the time to manage your on-line presence, was there a secret to being successful using social media, well nobody came forward with that magic wand and most seemed to be as confused as I was. But the conclusion I have come up with since then, is there is no magic formula, you do what is best for you, what you have time to do on a regular basis and what you enjoy, but most importantly if you don’t use social media to market and promote your business, then you are seriously missing out. Because what is important here is getting your business noticed by telling people about it and your products. There is no point making lots of lovely items if you don’t tell or show anybody.
I have spent weeks researching and writing this article and I have to be really honest and say I have learnt a lot from it. But I will be the first to admit, how I manage things will not change over night, I’m certainly no expert and I don’t reply to every message, I’m inconsistent with my posts and I still neglect Twitter, but I think I now understand better what I need to do and I know what I enjoy doing. So when I do have some time I will write my marketing plan and put it into action and hopefully in time you will start to see improvements, but I’m making no promises ;).
Good luck everyone, I hope you found this useful?