You’re on Facebook. You’re on Twitter. You tried out Google+, but then you realized that none of your friends were using it so you sort of abandoned your account.
You’re signed up and know how to use these networks, but how can they result in something more useful to you than just disseminating funny cat pictures?
Businesses and brands have been aware of the potential power of social media since the late 1990s explosion in internet usage led to a communication revolution. Today, the social media method of interaction has all but replaced most others, and businesses that understand how to effectively harness this usage stand to profit greatly. But it’s more complicated than just setting up a Facebook page for your company and expecting it to result in more website traffic and eventually profit.
The first step in utilizing social media as a business tool is identifying which network(s) will most effectively communicate your message. Twitter updates are fast, conversational, and widely followed, but leave little room for actual content. Google+ allows users to send updates to specific circles of people rather than the entire list of contacts, but has always been overshadowed by Big Brother Facebook. Facebook is by far the most widespread of the networks, and can provide a lot of exposure. LinkedIn is a more professional option, but is more useful in giving general information about a company than real-time updates on news and deals.
Whichever platforms you choose, it is important that your presence be firm and well-maintained. Nothing hurts online image more than a half-finished page that hasn’t posted anything for months. Profiles should provide complete information, and regularly post up-to-date items of interest. Be careful that announcements are not repetitive or all about making money, all the time. People don’t want to be spammed by product information without any breaks. Instead, provide industry facts, news articles, and company updates. These should be relevant and provide a well-rounded public face of the business, rather than a broken record of endless sales.
As an executive or company founder, your personal postings on pages can add an extra element of interest, as demonstrated by high-profile execs like Sir Richard Branson. You can also draw people in through special offers or competitions. These networks also provide a great space for polling and other forms of feedback. Encourage robust discussion and polite debate on public pages, which draws people in more than static announcements, and can result in helpful information about the demographics that your company serves.
Of course, you need to brief any employee that is responsible for your social media presence on expected conduct. As these pages are official representations of your company, they should be appropriate and professional, a fact that may be lost on younger interns raised on the culture of internet humor. Comments and questions posted to social media profiles should be addressed quickly and with the same care as other client inquiries on the phone or in person.
When used properly, social media has the potential to spread the good name of your company, alert customers to new products and good deals, and crowdsource good ideas for improving your business. Effectively using these services is a great addition to your online presence.