The Social Side of Business

Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn, oh MY! Don’t mind the Wizard of Oz allusion–diving into the social media world is not nearly as frightening as lions and tigers and bears (oh my). 

While I was in college (a mere 2 years ago), Facebook exploded onto the social scene, shrouding earlier social networking sites and creating a fresh avenue for communicating with (and stalking) friends and acquaintances. Now that social media like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and blogs are captivating people and entities outisde of college dorms, I am interested, as a burgeoning businesswoman, in learning how to maximize these resources as a tool for business development.

Used to the traditional face-to-face networking and referrals of yore, many older businessowners are ambivalent toward social networking sits, but hey! It’s 2009!  The amount of people that are connected via social media is phenomenal and is growing at an even more phenomenal rate. In business, we must take advantage of this trend to reach customers on the go, market to prospects and stay connected in an increasingly wired world.

I recently participated in a webinar called “The Social Side of Business: Using Social Media to Create Real Business Relationships,” hosted by Anita Campbell of SmallBizTrends.com with guests Shashi Bellamkonda of Network Solutions, Pamela O’Hara of BatchBlue.com and Partha Dutta of MobileTribe.net. Here is some useful information I gleaned from the webinar:

Shashi says: Create Social Media Plan

  • Set up alerts (i.e. Google Alerts) for yourself and business; keywords people may use to find you/your products
  • Spend 15-20 mins each day looking at the alerts–you could find a customer praising you on a forum or someone giving you a great (or not-so-great) review on Yelp.com
  • Join and setup profiles on 3 social networking sites
  • Choose 3 blogs in your field to read and comment on. Get connected with your peers and experts in your industry; join the conversation!
  • Answer questions yourself and become an expert in your niche on sites like LinkedIn
  • Measure your efforts–i.e. How much revenue? How many leads? How many people read your posts? Are customers evangelizing?
  • Encourage your customers to submit reviews about you (Google, Yelp, etc.)
  • Attend one local event each month to help with networking efforts

 

Pamela says: Build a community

  • She created SBbuzz.biz and invited small business owners to talk about their processes
  • The goal: help small businesses understand technology, social media, twitter; meet and learn from other owners what their needs were and what was working for them
  • She now has 12K+ followers and hundreds of members
  • She built a community, which drove more traffic to her site and attracted new customers

Partha says: Connect, Converse and Share!

  • You can use the web to manage customer interaction, reach a wider audience, retain customers and get feedback
  • People are on-the-go! You can give them relevant and timely responses
  • Talk maximally with minimal cost!
  • Build relationships on the go; invite new friends, send updates to fans (Facebook) and/or followers (Twitter)
  • Make it real work: start small with social networking sites and incorporate it into your daily work–you will build up relationships and a following
  • Create a community around your company

Summary: Milk Social Media for All it’s Worth (which is a lot)!

If you are still weary, intimidated or unsure of what to share, realize:

  • There are people out there interested in what you’re doing! Be a useful, helpful and entertaining resource.
  • Every business has something valuable to offer their community–Simply having something valuable to say and offering advice will encourage people to come to you for information!
  • Engage, educate and entertain your current customers and prospects–they will look forward to seeing what you have to say.
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