Tuesday, 14 December 2010

24 tips for using social media in your business - Business Matters



24 tips for using social media in your business

Wading into the fast-moving flow of social media can be daunting to a small business owner with very little time on his hands. Here's Business Matters comprehensive social media cheat sheet for the time-strapped entrepreneur.
1. Offer a peek behind the scenes. Offering a sneak preview of new products, services, or features online can help build demand and provide critical feedback to help smooth the launch. For instance posts photos of new products on Flickr and invites comments from customers.
2. Harness your expertise. It is unlikely that your company's white paper won't go viral. But sharing knowledge you've gathered through your trade can go a long way toward boosting your brand.
3. Demonstrate what your company does. Because multimedia is so integral to social media, getting connected allows you to express your company's value proposition beyond words. Create a series of videos showing your product in action.

4. Put your website's content to work. Want to draw more traffic to your website? Help spread the word by encouraging visitors to share content they enjoy. Add pieces to Digg allowing others to share video links on the site. Another way is to promote the sharing of your site's content is to install a widget, such as AddThis, that makes visitors able to share your site with their contacts at the click of their mouse.  

5. Be candid. In unsure economic times, transparency goes a long way toward retaining and attracting customers. Giving readers the scoop on your company blog is an easy way to keep the lines of communication open.

6. But be careful what you say about others.  Describing a supplier or rival business a "scam," might result in your receiving solicitors letters. While recounting negative experiences with others won't necessarily lead to a court battle, it's best to steer clear of name-calling.
7. Interact with visitors—really. Just putting up a blog,  a Facebook fan page or open a Twitter account just fed by and RSS feed won't do much good if visitors sense the flow of conversation only goes one way.
8. Don't try to create a stand-in for yourself. With all the other tasks required within your company, it's tempting to outsource managing your social media or even to try automating the process. That can easily backfire, Sending automated welcome messages to new followers on Twitter will quickly be found out and could be perceived to be spam.
9. Don't pretend to be someone else. Thanks to IP address tracking, observers can also quickly tell when company figureheads adopt fake identities for the sake of fluffing up their reputation. Not only can the practice hurt your company's reputation, it could also land you in legal trouble.
11. Reward customer loyalty. Through social media, companies can not only run promotions more frequently than coupons in the mail will permit but also devise a more engaging campaign. Sprinkles Cupcakes, an American based bakery chain uses Twitter to send out daily promotional offers. The tweets, which ask customers to whisper a "password" to receive a free treat, have helped the company draw more than 17,000 followers.
12. See what people are saying about you. A quick search for mentions of your company on Facebook, Twitter, and Yelp can yield a goldmine of information concerning your reputation.  Applications such as monitter and Trackur can help you keep track of the conversation across the Web.
13. Don't go on the defensive. A harsh rebuke of your business on sites like Yelp can not only bruise your ego but also hurt your livelihood. But resist the temptation to lash out in public. Respond to less-than-flattering comments and encourages them to discuss them in person. And keep in mind that you can't please everyone.
14. Keep customers in the loop. Frequently on the go? Twitter can help your customers keep track of your latest destination. Keep followers constantly informed of your location with real-time updates to manage customers expectations.
15. Find potential customers. A quick keyword search can help you find prospective customers who may not be aware of your company but could nonetheless benefit from your product or service. Whilst we aren’t sure of any UK based estate agents doing this yet, the New York real-estate management company Rose Associates, generates 100 leads per month on Twitter for his company simply by replying to users whose tweets include phrases such as "moving to New York City".
16. Target your online advertising. Both Facebook and MySpace allow businesses to run ads that attract specific groups of users based on what information they include in their profiles.
17. See where your customers are. A growing number of social networks are designed specifically for users on the go, and some, such as the mobile application Foursquare, offer tools specifically for businesses. Starbucks for instance uses Foursquare to gather data on how many people visit its locations and sends promotional offers to frequent customers.
18. Let customers help each other out. Including a customer forum on your website or social network profile can help enhance your customer service while building a sense of community. Get Satisfaction is a great site that offers dedicated spaces for customer service forums.
19. Help others promote you. Social media can help you find passionate customers who are more than willing to spread the word about your company.
20. Cultivate relationships that lead to sales. Get to know customers so well that they not only initiate conversations through Twitter, but if you are a restaurant or café periodically field menu requests through Twitter to engage with your customers.
21. But don't promote too aggressively. While social network users have proven to be open to marketing—especially if it involves a discount—they're not flocking to Facebook or MySpace to hear sales pitches. If your profile or blog reads like an ad, it will turn visitors away.
22. Find influential people in your industry. In addition to maintaining your blog, make sure to keep your eyes open to what others in the industry are buzzing about online. Reading independent blogs and joining industry groups on Facebook and LinkedIn is a good way to join the larger conversation.
23. Boost your credibility by helping others. For service providers, establishing yourself as an expert in the field can bring in a steady stream of business. LinkedIn's Answers feature enables business owners to do just that.
24. Look for talent off the beaten path. While LinkedIn is specifically geared toward professional use, some companies have found other social networks to be effective recruiting tools as well. Look at status updates on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Plaxo, which aggregates contact information from social networks.

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