Success in today’s business world depends as much on communication as it does your actual product. The Internet has drastically changed the way consumers interact with companies and visa versa. The days of face-to-face contact are slowly drawing to an end. Many people now do business without ever hearing or seeing the client or representative involved.
Embracing the technological revolution and learning how to use it to your advantage is a paramount component of successfully starting a business. Part of that revolution involves the explosion of social media sites. As developers clamor to create the next Facebook, social media has become even more popular among the everyday customer. Companies that effectively use the marketing power of social media are the ones that stay one step ahead of the competition.
There are many social media sites that provide marketing opportunities, however it is not always necessary to create profiles on all of them. In fact, it is not even recommended. Instead, pick two or three of them and put your time and energy into engaging people and creating contacts there. Choosing the sites that are best for you and your business can appear confusing, but it doesn’t have to be. A little research can break down each site and allow you to make a thoughtful and purposeful decision.
- Facebook has over 750 million users. Facebook provides businesses with an unprecedented opportunity to connect with customers. Creating a business fan page for your company can link you with a plethora of potential customers. The key to maximum utilization is to keep your page’s content fresh and new. Nothing turns people off more than pages that haven’t been updated in months. You do not want to give the world the impression that you are yesterday’s news and slowly diminishing.
- Twitter is a perfect venue for those who want to stay connected to their customers on a daily basis. Because messages are limited to 140 characters, keeping your Twitter feed up to date does not require a large time commitment. The site is a great way to keep your followers informed on business updates, specials, and/or news. Like any network, it is important to monitor your feed for questions and comments from customers. Consider your social network site as a way to instigate dialogue. Your goal is to start conversations, not just establish one-way communication.
- Instagram can be considered a type of pictorial Twitter. The site allows businesses to connect with their customers on an individual level and instigate two-way communication. Many companies use the site to post images of new products, highlight promotions, and advertise for special events. Once again, using the site to establish two-way communication is the ultimate goal. A popular way to promote your Instagram account is by advertising your unique business hashtag keywords or username, like #Brandroot and @Brandroot.
- LinkedIn is more professional than other sites. A key component of the site is the “recommendation” feature. Asking current customers/clients for a recommendation will help you build a credible business persona that will ultimately attract future business. LinkedIn is a great way to connect to like-minded professionals and build a mutually beneficial network.
- YouTube is a platform that is not always associated with business marketing. Some people incorrectly think of YouTube as an entertainment site only. Businesses who understand the value of the site have found ways to utilize it as much more. YouTube can be used to create promotional videos, provide customers with product demonstrations, and connect with consumers on a more personal level.
- Pinterest is the latest social media platform to explode in popularity. The image-centered site is a perfect way to showcase products and develop a brand’s personality. Much like YouTube, Pinterest can be used to connect to customers on a deeper level, rather than simply through written word.
- Google+ was designed to be the new Facebook. Although it has not reached that goal, it still has features that can be beneficial to businesses. Google+ Circles, for instance, allow users to create specific groups that can be utilized for particular purposes. The site’s hangout feature allows businesses to connect to their customers on a more personal level, inviting a deeper level of communication and engagement. Businesses can use hangouts to sponsor video conferences, product demonstrations, or initiate focus groups.
- Professional Blogs are another way to connect with customers and provide them with valuable information. Blogs can also be used to make the kind of business connections within the industry that will allow you to build a solid reputation. As with any site, the key to successfully using blogs is to provide regular content and participate in comments and conversations.
Using Social Media to Build Relationships
Getting a start-up business off the ground can be difficult. Even the greatest of products will fail if customers don’t know it exists. Utilizing social media platforms can be a great way to market your business to a large audience. The first step in any social media endeavor is to make a plan. As mentioned, it is not necessary nor recommended to try to utilize every site at once. Devoting your time and energy to a few social networking sites will allow you to maximize their potential.
Marketing is all about building relationships. Social media can help you do that. The key is to treat your sites with the importance you would do any other type of advertising. Monitor them frequently. Update them with new content on a regular basis. Engage in conversations that help establish dialogue and make connections. Social media does not work by itself. The companies that are able to take advantage of this marketing tool are the ones that give it the time and energy it needs.
A final piece of advice is to create a brand personality that infuses itself in whichever sites you choose to utilize. Have fun with your customer interactions; allow yourself to be a bit quirky and personable at times. Building a credible business reputation does not have to be a bland process. Letting yourself break away from rigid rules and expectations will help customers appreciate your personality. The result will be the kind of brand awareness you are looking for.