Why it is Important to Your Business
Social media is a long term internet marketing strategy where you drive customers to your website. It is not going away and can be very effective over time to increase your sales by increasing the number of people that know about you. There are some basic principles that will help you understand the strategy behind social media and why it makes sense to set up accounts now.
Reserve Your Name
Take time to set up accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Youtube in order to reserve your business name. Just like you reserved your website name, it is important to save your name on these channels before it is taken by someone else.
Once you have the name, just like in all your other marketing efforts, you want to brand it with a consistent look of the same logo, colors and feel so that customers know when they have reached your site. The more branded outposts you have, the easier it is for new customers to stumble upon you.
Find People Where They Visit Most
It is important for you to connect with people where they are most comfortable and where they spend most of their time. Adding social media outposts and connecting them with your website or blog is a way to draw people from the different “outposts” to your website or blog. For example, in the online world, people break into groups that use certain services based on their personality type. For instance, people who like to “join” groups tend to become part of Facebook. People who like to be “critics” and leave reviews of businesses usually will connect with other people on Yelp, Travelocity, Foursquare or other services where they can leave their opinions. People who are professional photographers tend to be part of Flickr and like to share their best photos with each other. Some people spend hours looking through the videos on YouTube and then share links to the great videos they find with their friends via email. For maximum exposure of your business or blog, it is smart to create content and place it on all those outposts and use a link or widget to embed that content into your website or blog. Then, instead of just having photos and videos on your website, you will have photos and videos in two places - the social media outpost and your website - increasing the amount of people that will stumble upon you.
Home Base and Outpost image courtesy of Darren Rouse
Make It Easy For Customers To Share Information
We love being able to share great information, ideas, deals and websites with our friends. It makes us valuable to them and increases our social worth. If we share enough good information, we become an influencer among our peer group and are looked to as the expert on that topic. This is the mindset that underlies why it is important to include social media buttons or widgets on your website. Most blogging platforms now have automatic “share” buttons that you can enable in the control panel. These buttons will appear on the bottom of each blog post, allowing the user to share that particular content with their friends. Here is a sample blog post from a Wordpress craft beer blog showing the share buttons at the bottom:
Many of those buttons are powered by AddThis and ShareThis, two popular sharing services that are free.
You also should include social media icon buttons somewhere on your blog or website. Here is a nice example from the SignOnSanDiego.com website explaining what the icons mean to the readers. Most social media users would understand the icons and how to follow the information you display on them without the additional explanation, but it is a nice feature.
Set Up A Facebook Fan Page
There are many ways to use social media, but most organizations or businesses will want to start by creating a Facebook Fan Page to share information and connect to their blog or website. There are two options for promoting your business: Facebook Fan Page or a Facebook Group. Most businesses should choose the Fan Page option because you can have unlimited followers; with a Group, you are only allowed 5,000 followers. A Fan Page is easier to use (people just have to “Like” it) and there are many widgets out there that will let you create a little box on your website or blog that allows visitors to “Like” your Facebook Fan Page directly from your blog. It is the easiest way to share information.
However, there are some advantages to creating a Group. Groups are better for viral marketing of events and making direct contact with people. People have to actively choose to be a part of a group, so they are more connected and loyal than they would be to a Fan Page simply by signing up for your group.
Having an event? You can send out bulk event invites to all the group members and any group member can send out their own bulk event invites to their friends. You cannot send out bulk email invites with a Fan Page, your information is written as a post and simply shows up under your fan’s Updates on their Wall and may be noticed and shared with their friends, or not.
Still undecided about what is best for you? Start off with a Fan Page. If you find that you have a lot of events that you want to promote, or certain topics that you want discussed in depth, then you can add a Facebook Group later on as an addition to your mix of social media offerings.
Tie Your Social Media Outlets Together To Make It Easier For You
Graphic courtesy of Paritosh Sharma
There are many different ways to tie together your social networks and make it easier on you to share and reuse the content. Networkedblog is a perfect application you can integrate with your Facebook Fan Page to publish and promote blog feeds. Now, it also allows you to take it a step further and “syndicate” or publish to your Facebook Group and Twitter account. You can set it up easily by going to NetworkedBlogs.com and then following the directions.
There are also many different widgets that can send your blog post or Facebook updates to your Twitter account. Twitter is one area where you probably want to manually add in a link to your blog post. The reason for this is you want to add in certain keywords into your tweet so that people can find the subject matter. These are called “hashtags” and consist of a number sign and a word. So if you are sending out a tweet that links to your blog post on office chairs, you would want to include hashtags in your tweet for #officechair and another one for #officefurniture. If you link this tweet to Facebook, those hashtags will show up and make it confusing for your Facebook fans who are not on Twitter.
Tweetdeck is a separate program from Twitter that has many advantages. You can follow all your accounts in one place (Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare). The program has an automatic device that shortens long web addresses (URL’s) so that you have more room for your message. Tweetdeck also has a schedule function so that you can write recurring tweets at the beginning of the week and forget about them.
Social media is here to stay. Being proactive now will help you embrace what social media can do to help you succeed.