Social media is big in business circles and every business is scrambling to implement social media strategies to take advantage of this new opportunity. If your business is not already on the social media bandwagon, you still have time to create a social media strategy and start getting social.
Here is a list of the top 30 ways your business should leverage social media this year. The list is by no means exhaustive and any other ideas you may have are welcome.
This year, go out of the norm by heading to professional social networking site LinkedIn and look around for potential board members. It is always difficult to find a cocktail of talents in a real world scenario so LinkedIn becomes a great repository where you can mine for and find board members. Whether you are looking for executive board members or a board of advisors, LinkedIn has a huge pool of highly skilled and experienced people who can add value to your business.
In the socially connected world of the Internet today, everything your business puts online should be sharable. That means your website, marketing emails, and blog must all have sharing tools for web users to share the material. One big mistake businesses make is to add sharing tools to what they think is sharable. Allow users to print or email your website’s pages. The notion that content is copyright and should not be shared works counter-intuitively to the need to socialize content.
Twitter has launched a nifty new feature that allows webmasters to embed tweets in their web pages. The new feature makes it easy to cross-pollinate your web content using social media. The incentive to create tweets that are highly reusable also presents itself, and the perceptive business owner will know that an embedded tweet is great exposure and offers more reach. Using Facebook social plug-ins will also allow you to add your social stream to your website, so visitors can get exposure to your social deployment within your website.
Storify is a social media aggregation service that allows you to compile and curate content from across Twitter and then use those tweets to tell a story. For example, if there is an event in your neighborhood that you would like to leverage, then Storify allows you to search for all tweets related to that event and then publish stories that use the Tweets as a basis of knowledge. Storify is also great for compiling product launch follow-up stories, company event tweet streams, and so on. Explore the platform to discover even more uses in a business scenario.
We live in an always-on world where company listeners are peppered all across the globe meaning there is always someone awake somewhere when you are asleep. Previously, this meant that businesses had to endure blackouts when their part of the world went to sleep. Not anymore because today you can use tools such as Hootsuite and Buffer to schedule social media updates for the times when you are unavailable. For smaller businesses without an international audience, this provides a great way to spread your efforts by letting the software manage your social media updates while you take care of other business.
Pinterest is social media’s new kid on the block, and it is off to a cracking start. The platform has barely been officially launched and it is already rivalling Facebook in driving traffic to businesses’ websites. If your business is not already on Pinterest, then you are missing a huge social media opportunity. For those who may not know what Pinterest is, it allows users to “Pin” their favorite images from across the web onto their Pinterest profile board. Other Pinterest users can then browse these images by category or by profile and discover new things along the way.
Many businesses leave this avenue fallow when they could be driving engagement through their brand evangelist networks. Do not sit back and let this resource go untapped; reach out and get them involved. Ask for re-tweets or ping backs to your content. Also, get them involved in social media conversations by addressing them directly through tweets, Direct Messages or @mentions. This will draw upon the networks that these brand evangelists have access to as well as create serious goodwill and build your business’s trust bank with your core network.
Social media offers a great opportunity to nurture leads. For many businesses, social media is a place where social things happen, not business-related things, and they end up missing a great opportunity to build their leads. In many cases, leads will engage with the business in a casual way, but it is upon the business to identify these leads and act upon them. Engage the leads and extract as much value from them as you can. Of course, many conservative social media experts will tell you never to “sell” on social media but if done right, lead generation on social media can return some great results.
Hash tag marketing, as it is now commonly known, has grown to become the Twitter equivalent of viral videos on YouTube. With correct positioning and a well thought-out tag, hash tags can create awareness and boost engagement in unprecedented ways. The negative aspect to it is that hash tags are often hijacked and used to tweet content that you may not want associated with your business. This is why hash tag marketing has to be done very carefully and monitored continuously to keep things under control. In the event that a hash tag does go ugly, carefully extract yourself from it and let it run its course. Hash tags with a certain level of neutrality are the best in this case.
Lead generation is one thing, but sales-prospecting using social media is one of those oil-and-water things that just do not mix with social media. After all, social media is a place to engage people and not to harass them with sales calls and all such tomfoolery, right? However, that is the problem right there. Why invest in social media and yet you “cannot” make any sales using the channel? As you build your social media presence, glean intelligence from the conversations you are having and apply them to your sales prospecting strategy. Further to this, soft sell your network using cleverly crafted messages that do not intrude on the users’ social experience.
One thing that lets businesses down is their social media profile presence. They do not take time to create a well-defined and representative profile, and the mess that ensues is that customers are unable to identify with the social presence as a link to the offline presence. If you are tempted to put up your Facebook page or Twitter handle as-is, do not do it. Pay someone to create a great representation of your company or at the very least, use your company logo as your profile picture and not an egg (Twitter) or your glorified self in beach shorts and a straw hat (Facebook). Separate your business from yourself and keep that space well defined and properly branded.
You have created your business social media page and everything looks great. On your way home, you feel the urge to tweet about the lousy traffic and because you had signed in with your company handle, you go ahead and tweet using it. #FAIL Keep your personal life off your company’s Twitter handle and only use it when tweeting very well thought-out messages that have relevance to your business and your social media strategy. If you do indeed opt to tweet personal matters, make sure those matters pertain to the business and not unrelated personal goings-on.
On the other hand, it is very easy to make the company social media image so boring and archaic that driving engagement and interest becomes almost impossible. Socialize your business as much as possible without losing your main goals. This means you have to give your business a human face and a fun and interesting one at that. Try as much as possible to post interesting information and titbits that will get people talking, re-tweeting and possibly replying. Some excellent examples include posting interesting facts related to your industry or posting how-to resources, two things that have been shown to be very sharable across social media networks.
Your business may have a very meaningful and complicated name but that should not be what goes up on your social media page. Avoid using business name extensions such as “Limited”, “Incorporated” and so on, as it only goes to make the page stuffy and stiff. Use your first business name and then follow that up with a proper information page that gives a brief but informative bio of your business. Consider it socializing your business much in the same way humans call each other with their first names. Using a simple and memorable name will also make it easy for users to guess what your handle is in the event that they do not know it beforehand.
Technology has made it easy for businesses to meet up with their customers and followers remotely. If you want to drive engagement, hold Tweet-ups (Twitter meet-ups) and host Google Hangouts on your company’s Google Plus page. This will add extra social media points to your business as it will give your followers some human faces to associate with the business. Google Hangout has especially come to help businesses connect with their followers in a one-on-one manner, something all the other social media platforms do not currently offer.
This probably sounds like the days of pop-ups with no “Close” button but it is not, much as the argument is the same. Incentivize your followers to engage with your brand on social media. This can be by using promo codes that are only served on social media or holding competitions that need users to engage on social media to take part. In principle, this will give your followers little choice but to follow your lead, but the incentive bit will tend to soften this principle. Once your followers are in your social space, do not just sit back and count those re-tweets with relish, get in there and engage as much as you can. The point is, after all, to start a wave, which you should now ride.
Using technology to manage your social media presence is great but a likely trap you should avoid is using too many tools at the same time. If you decide to use Hootsuite, stick to it, and if you opt to use TweetDeck, stick to it is as well. Using a multiplicity of tools will muddle up your analytics, and you will not be able to create a consistent content narrative for your social media deployment. Another advantage of using one tool is that it is obviously cheaper when you consider that most tools have premium packages. The basic incentive is, however, to keep all your data in one envelope, as it were, and have a seamless experience as you interact with your followers.
There have been multiple studies done that say one social media platform is better than the other is for different purposes. It is not yet clear which platform is the best, but one thing is clear, Twitter seems to do better for businesses than Facebook. The reasons are a bit ambiguous but the results do speak for themselves, a reason brands are shifting their efforts to Twitter and leaving their Facebook pages open for cosmetic purposes. Nevertheless, for your business, the reasons go beyond ROI. It also works toward unifying your online voice and addressing one audience as opposed to having dual conversations.
Do not be shy to respond to clients or followers, despite the nature of their communication. As long as the content is business related and is not offensive, engage your customers in the conversations they begin. It makes more sense to have such a conversation with the follower than to leave the opportunity to fall to redundancy. Many businesses have realized that social media is actually a brilliant channel for customer care with entire departments being created to handle the steady stream of customer care queries emanating from social media. Take the plunge and include social media in some of your more traditional departments to streamline with new paradigms.
Social media is all about influence, so if you have no influence, no one is listening to you. Design your social media strategy carefully and let the end game be to gain influence within the networks you infiltrate. Brands that come to be known as influencers enjoy the benefits of the network effect where their profiles and messages enjoy large numbers of shares across multiple networks. You can do this by positioning your brand to be an authority in your field of business. However, a more subtle way is to position your business as a truly social brand, something that carries great rewards in the social space.
If you want to socialize your business truly, drop the shyness and business face and dive in feet first. Social is all about putting your business out there and being vulnerable. Ask your followers to re-tweet or share content. Email your customers and ask them to follow you on Twitter or like you on Facebook. Go out there and make things happen. In addition, do not be shy to jump into conversations. Let your followers see a social face to your business and this will drive engagement and grow your business community.
Sharing is the buzzword today in social media; however, what do you put out there for sharing? For starters, no company website is complete without a blog. Creating a company blog will offer your followers somewhere to find out more about your business when they first land on your site from Google or from social media. The blog will also keep your regular customers interested when they visit the site. Create unique and compelling content for your blog to keep it fresh and do not forget to share the content widely across social media. Company blogs area a great way to tell the world your business is indeed alive and in business.
Now that you have a company blog, you now need to socialize your content and you do this by making it easy for people to subscribe to it. Use syndication services such as Feedburner, Feedblitz or Aweber to create a community of listeners who you can communicate to easily using email or any other CRM channels.
Both Twitter and Facebook have launched revamped ads for their networks, and this is one area businesses need to explore diligently. Twitter has launched self-service ads, which makes it easy for businesses to create and serve ads without having to go through a sales representative. Facebook has also launched Facebook Wall Ads that display ads within users’ walls rather than in the side panels. These two will be a great opportunity for businesses to benefit from social media especially as Facebook approaches a billion users and twitter approaches 200 million active users.
Use Foursquare, Gowalla or Facebook Places to promote your business on a local level. These apps allow businesses to not only map their premises but also attach offers and promotions using the apps. Facebook Events and LinkedIn Events are also a great way to get the word out on product launches and other events, whether on-location or online. Location-based services are only but taking off and the possibilities will continue to emerge with time.
Twitter offers a search feature that makes it possible to curate tweets from a particular locality. This can prove useful for a business that is targeting a local market and wants to find out what people in that locality are talking about and what the trending topics are. Google has also incorporated a people search for influential people on Google Plus in a particular search result. This means you can easily find the social influencers in a particular area by using local search and then reaching out to them.
Avatars and memes are big on the Internet today and if your business can create an angle and get into the craze, the possibility that a shared item will go viral is very high. Create fun and exciting memes and avatars, which people can share with their friends and that do not smack of sales talk. Great memes and avatars that have the company website and details make a great addition to the social engagement effort.
Known as fringe social media tools, applications such as Eventbrite, wikis, and SlideShare offer a business a great platform to create engaging content, which can then be shared across other networks. It can be said that these do not strictly fall under social media, but they do have social-media-like features such as sharing and following tools, and these can be of great value to a business. They are also more of niche tools and may most benefit businesses that can use them effectively in their business processes.
Many excellent opportunities are lost in social media because businesses neglect to mention important issues going on. For example, a new hire can be tweeted and the newbie introduced to the community. This will also give that employee incentive to bring in their network of friends to the company’s community. Mimicking the human interaction with social media where almost everything is posted to social media, businesses must learn to create conversations out of their day-to-day happenings.
Social media has come to join other forms of communication channels that already exist such as email and texts. This must be appreciated so that social media is not given undue pre-eminence over other forms of communication. Take the necessary steps to engage on social media but as with everything, remember that overkill does more harm than good. Balance your social media and traditional channels to derive the best value from both realities.