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There’s no denying the ongoing obsession with social media. Love it or hate it, the social media movement has changed the way we shop, communicate and do business. It’s also expanded our online ‘reach’ — the number of people we connect with on a personal level (not to mention the speed at which a story can go viral on the web once it enters Twitter land). Some prononents even liken it to ‘the new TV’. But what about business? Is social media a viable business tool?
In one camp, there’s a resounding “yes!” You have to take control of your brand, supporters say, or someone else will do it for you. And that may not be in your best interests. The worst thing you want is for someone to be searching for a product or service that you provide, only to come across negative comments about you. So proponents of social media for business suggest using networks such as Facebook and Twitter to protect and boost your brand … and, at the same time, your search-engine rankings.
Other entrepreneurs and SMEs (small-to-medium enterprises) take a more cautious view. Some are watching from the shoreline to see how the social-media wave develops. Others lose no time in saying it’s a waste of time.
But what about you? Would YOUR non-profit or commercial business benefit from the use of social media?
It depends on your goals. If you want to increase your reach to prospects — either locally or internationally — give social media a try. However, if you are solely interested in blasting out sales messages and ‘selling’ to prospects, then social media is the wrong venue. Social networks aren’t about advertising … they’re about creating and nurturing relationships.
Assuming you understand the importance of customer engagement, how can you make social media work for you?
The entrepreneurs and SMEs who achieve the most success with social media are those who develop a marketing plan and implement it in line with a relevant and well thought-out strategy. Here are seven tips to help make your efforts worthwhile:
1. Begin by clarifying your purpose. What do you want to get out of being involved in social-media networks? Will you use social media to find and connect with prospects only, for instance, or do you also plan to share useful information with a wider audience? While it’s true that by its very nature you should be looking to use social media to LISTEN, engage, exchange and interact, it’s worthwhile digging out the REAL reason you want to use social media.
2. Make sure, too, that your goal corresponds with your overall business goals.
3. Think of social media as you would any other marketing tool. Ask yourself: is your target audience using it, and what value can you bring to them via this tool?
4. Research how your competitors are using social media. Closely monitor the ones that appear to be successful with it.
5. Assuming you have limited time and resources, is any one social-media method really the best place to reach your target audience? There’s no denying the fact that you will need to commit a fair amount of time in order to learn how to develop a successful social-media initiative. My advice to clients when they are just starting out is to select one media outlet and, if successful, slowly expand to a maximum of three networks that best fit your target market and overall business objectives. Don’t try to be all to everyone and do all with everything.
6. Keep your brand consistent across ALL networks you decide to join.
7. Regularly analyse your results, and if necessary, tweak your strategy for a better return on your investment of time.
What it boils down to is this: social media WILL WORK for the right people in the right circumstances. And IF you’re going to make inroads, you’d better put in the effort. Not just in terms of learning as much as you can about your prospects, but taking the time to give them what they want and how best to deliver it via social networking. It’s a lot of work, but it can also be rewarding…
Last words: In all likelihood, your prospects are already visiting social-media giants such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Flickr. And if they’re not yet, the odds are that they soon will be. If your business does not have a presence on these platforms, you are missing some very valuable opportunities to connect, engage and build rewarding relationships with your target audience — let alone new markets. So it’s worth spending some time on social media, no matter how limited that may be. Finally, don’t forget to also consider other available marketing channels, including email marketing offline tools such as direct mail — these can work very well alongside social media … IF done correctly.
By Tracey Dooley, Creative Consultant | PR Guru | Marketing & Alliance Strategist
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Tracey Dooley is a freelance copywriter, editor and marketer. She has spent 18 years crafting compelling concepts and copy that successfully sell, inform, educate or entertains. Her expertise runs across many different sectors and her client list includes marketing agencies, a leading supplier of personal computers, semi-conductors and telecommunications equipment and the UKs largest TV and interactive production company. =====> www.mediaminister.co.uk.
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