Effectively Incorporating Social Media Applications into Your Business
If you have yet to play in the world of social media, then prepare to be overwhelmed at first. The number of websites, options and users in the field is astronomical and the figures continue to grow exponentially. Though overwhelming, the rapid growth of social media demonstrates its popularity in the modern world, as well as its importance for businesses and consumers.
Businesses, brands and personalities that have grasped the concept of social media are experiencing wild success. They receive real-time feedback from their customers and fans about their products and services, while providing their customers with an experiential marketing experience, rather than simply providing a basic service or product. When used correctly, social media can enhance the relationship between businesses and their consumer and enforce brand loyalty.
Which Social Media Application is Right for Your Business?
Once you decide to enter the world of social media, your next decision is to determine your placement. Just the fact that a dozen different applications are available doesn’t necessarily mean you should be involved with all of them. Here are brief descriptions of the most popular social media techniques:
Think of a blog as an online diary. Users create written entries filled with their thoughts, comments, expertise and opinions on particular issues and situations. A typical blog combines text, images, and links to other research or other blogs. Most blogs also allow readers to leave feedback and/or comments, becoming involved in the topic on a personal level. Some popular blogging sites include LiveJournal, Open Diary and WordPress.
Perhaps the most popular and widely used form of social media, social networking sites allow users to form, build and develop social relationships online. Within a social networking site, a user generally has a profile that can be shared and viewed by other viewers. Individuals gather and communicate with one another based on their common interests and shared networks. Some of the more popular social networking sites include Facebook, LinkedIn, and MySpace.
Micro-blogging is similar to a regular blog (described above), but the content, size, and scope of a micro-blog is generally much smaller and less detailed. Microblogs may consist of simply a sentence or a few words. Twitter is currently the most popular and highly used micro-blogging site.
Multimedia comprises a number of social media applications, including photograph sharing, video sharing, livecasting, and music- and audio-sharing. Within the sphere of social media, multimedia applications allows users to share personal media files with friends and/or complete strangers. Popular multimedia sites include YouTube, Flicker and Skype.
Different social media applications will be appropriate for some businesses, yet irrelevant for others. Most businesses do not need to be involved in all applications, but rather should identify which applications will help them achieve their goals, based on the customer base that uses each specific application. As a general rule of thumb, a business should begin using a new social media application only if it has valuable, entertaining, timely, or informative details to share with a particular market. Simply filling up online space and sharing “fluff” will not increase the credibility or likeability of a company using social media.
What are the goals of your business’s marketing department? Do you seek to share detailed information with prospects and customers? Do you have outstanding knowledge of a particular subject or topic? If so, then developing a blog will be an effective way to share this information. Users seeking information on a particular topic will be led to your site through search engines and, over time, will begin to trust and rely on you as a valuable resource. Be sure that blog entries always include a link to your website, and publish your blogs on your site.
If your business or brand has frequent updates to share, then participating on Twitter, or “Twittering” may be a good solution. As stated previously, Twitter is a micro-blog. The service allows users to send brief updates and messages out to those users who have subscribed to follow them; they receive these updates either on their computers or phones. Twitter postings can also include links to other websites, which can drive website traffic further. Twitter presents an excellent platform for a political candidate, celebrity or any fast-paced business trying to develop and promote a distinct brand.
On social networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn, a user creates a free profile which provides a platform for sharing information and/or identifying your business or brand. This profile can be viewed by others, who can become fans or friends of your business. Within your profile, you can provide information, photos, updates and feedback that can be viewed easily by other users. Some businesses use these applications to drive traffic to their site and increase sales, perhaps by posting a sale or giveaway on their social networking site. Other businesses work to build dialogue among their online friends about a new product or service being offered and thereby develop public relations buzz. Social networking sites tend to be a good match for consumer-based products, new product introductions and event-based applications.
Multimedia sites, and particularly YouTube, are fantastic ways for companies to share commercials and videos that viewers may find informative or entertaining. Numerous individuals have begun a successful business simply by posting “how-to” videos that focus on their area of expertise. Their viewer base grew and eventually allowed the individuals to turn their once free videos into a successful income-generating enterprise.
Beginning to use any form of social media requires an initial investment of time, although the requisite length of time will vary based on the particular application. It takes only minutes to open a free account on YouTube and begin uploading videos. However, building a Facebook account requires more time, depending on how much information you plan to share. The critical factor, however, is the amount of time that you’ll commit to the social media applications after you’ve established your initial presence. All social media applications should be used consistently. If you choose to participate in Twitter, share approximately the same number of messages each day; avoid being silent for a week and then bombarding users with hourly messages. If you choose to blog and want to be regarded as an expert in your field, then research and compose a new blog on a weekly or bi-weekly basis so that your readers can rely on finding new material at predictable intervals.
It is also absolutely necessary to inform your customers and clients about your new social media applications and then drive users to them. Be sure to post notifications and links on your site to inform website visitors that you now have a Facebook or LinkedIn page. Vice versa, drive traffic to your website through the use of social media. When entering this arena, take advantage of the free website analysis offered by Design Industries for an evaluation of your complete online marketing strategy and an assessment of how social media application can complement your other marketing efforts.
Social media has proved very effective for companies ranging from sole-proprietorships to giant corporations. It allows businesses to stay current, reach new markets, and develop loyalty among existing customers. With the correct placement and dedication, social media can be an effective piece of your marketing strategy and build on the success of your business or organisation.