Wikipedia defines Social media as:
“Social media is information content created by people using highly accessible and scalable publishing technologies. At its most basic sense, social media is a shift in how people discover, read and share news, information and content. It’s a fusion of sociology and technology, transforming monologue (one to many) into dialog (many to many) and is the democratization of information, transforming people from content readers into publishers. Social media has become extremely popular because it allows people to connect in the online world to form relationships for personal and business. Businesses also refer to social media as user-generated content (UGC) or consumer-generated media (CGM).”
From a business owner’s point of view the most important things to focus on while using social media are…
- Quality content – publishing useful information lends credibility to your business in the eyes of readers
- Giving valuable information freely – by giving away information worth selling customers feel the need to reciprocate and a certain percentage then buy something from you
- Creates two-way communication with prospects and customers – You can actually engage in two way conversations with customers personalizing your relationship with them
Quality – Among other things, your online presence needs to look professional and well-designed. Ugly templated sites won’t do anymore. Keep in mind, well-designed does not mean you need to go spend thousands of dollars on a flash-enabled site. Although I used to love watching flash intros, I recommend staying away from flash now. I focus on building sites that look good without having to install extra plugins. Just make sure your site looks like you spent a reasonable amount of time on it and that it represents your company in a positive manner appropriate for your type of business.
And stay away from plain white backgrounds. They typically appear too bright making it difficult to read.
Check out this article at http://www.smashingmagazine.com which compares an up-to-date well-designed website vs. one that looks like it was designed 10 years ago.
Give Valuable information…and keep the information coming. If you keep your site static and don’t add updated information regularly, what reason do your visitors have to keep coming back? Even if it’s just a matter of keeping a photo gallery updated. You can accomplish this by displaying a flickr photo stream on your website. Set up a blog and keep new information flowing about products or services you offer. This keeps users visiting your site. Once they read something about a service you offer or a product you sell, they’ll be more willing to purchase it from the person they learned about it from. That can be you, or it can be your competition.
Create two-way conversations with potential customers and current customers too. Keep your potential customers informed about the services you offer and products you sell. If you post a few times a day on Twitter, Facebook, or MySpace, people that otherwise might never hear about you and your business get exposed to your message. Or you may see someone asking questions about a need one of the products would be perfect for. This opens the opportunity for you to give them as much information as you can.
Most importantly, this is often two-way communication so you not only get to talk, you get to listen to your potential customers as well.
What should you be listening for? Here are a few possibilities…
- What do your customers think?
- What are customers in your niche saying?
- What are your customers actually doing?
- What are they spending their money on?
- How do you compare with others in your industry?
Where you should you start?
Sign up for and account at http://twitter.com/ and do some searches at http://search.twitter.com for users interested in the products or services you offer. Start following people that you find interesting and ones that seem involved you activities related to what you offer. Don’t spam them with direct messages. Twitter is more about offering interesting comments and adding value to the conversation. You can post links to interesting articles you’ve added to your blog or website.
Add your profile to Linkedin if you offer professional services of any kind. It’s a great place to connect to people that need what you have to offer.
Next set up a flickr account and start uploading pictures, making sure to let everyone know via twitter when you upload new images. Next start expanding your company’s website to embrace social network technology.
I’ll delve deeper into Social Media in future posts.
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