Connecting through the social media gives powerful tools to smaller, independent businesses. Companies can reach established customers and attract new clients, find out what trends are hot, and promote engagement with their websites. I have discovered that websites like Facebook and Twitter open up tremendous possibilities for referrals without spending a fortune on general advertising that targets people I have no need to reach. Advertising in the metropolitan New York area carries a hefty price tag.
I only need to reach people that own NYC real estate, which is where I operate my contracting business. I have no reason to pay for traditional advertising like radio, television, or newspaper outlets that blanket the state. In fact, traditional advertising works poorly on the Island, where business has long been handled by word-of-mouth referrals, especially for services that people prefer to keep private and confidential.
Social media makes the perfect forum because everything takes the place of traditional neighborhoods and villages. People join online communities (i.e. FB company pages, awareness groups, etc…) that share similar interests, values, gripes, or problems.
Facebook community pages are where you’d find folks with similar interests, or perhaps people that are in similar markets. Individual pages are quite handy as well, and work the same way.
But one of the biggest advantages of engaging on FB and Twitter is it’s ability to foster customer service Q & A. Considering you haven’t activated some of the most stringent security settings, you can easily address questions, comments and concerns that consumers, industry professionals and others have about your products, services, events or discussions. Accordingly, other people with similar concerns can have their questions answered in a more timely fashion as everything is in real-time and public, granted a private message hasn’t been sent. This is more evident on twitter, where mentions are public. And even if your company or individual settings restrict your tweets from going public, other consumers can still see the questions coming in – They’re fully aware that others are addressing similar issues, regardless of whether or not the company has responded.
Supplemental to every social media campaign should be a blog. I write a blog that’s generally informational with regards to issues that face NYC property owners. And I do it in a way that doesn’t compromise my customers’ privacy, which they seem to appreciate. Blogs include information about the risks of older infrastructure, exciting new products technology has created, or issues of home safety. Articles and blogs about updating homes to make them more energy-efficient and eco-friendly seem to reach the largest audience. People who follow my blog can send links to their friends, family, or business associates. I get a ton of free advertising that targets the audience I want to reach.
You know how when the NY Times releases an article about The Jersey Shore and it gets shared 500,000 times in a week? And at the same time, MTV released the same article, yet they’ve only hit the 100,000 share mark? Well, that’s because The NY Times is a greater authority. The question is, how did they become such an authority? The trick to becoming the “source” for information is to release real, substantial content in real-time. So, if you’re a networker or professional blogger and your sitting on a story that could be noted as “buzzworthy,” you may want to publish before anyone else.
This doesn’t mean hop on your CPU and type up a 100-page summary on what happened down on Wall Street earlier in the day. These should still be carefully thought out and argumentative pieces designed at grabbing people’s attention and encouraging them to engage.
What I see as one of the most important features of social includes that of location based services. Platforms like Foursquare have made “checking in” more popular than ever, particularly with the discounts they offer for folks checking into the same place multiple times.
One of the biggest advantages of checking in is that clients, customers and consumers are able to track and gauge activity. Facebook does an excellent job of this with their maps feature, and as long as your privacy settings aren’t too strict, people can see where you’ve been and what you’ve done. This gives insight into human behavior and trends, which can further lead to better marketing strategies.
For real estate agents, well, this is a gold mine! All agents should be taking full advantages of services like Foursquare, Google Places and Facebook Places to yield maximum return. This gives potential buyers the ability to find open houses and keep an eye on housing activity. As long as the agent is connected and engaged on a high enough level, the chances of selling a home have just increased immensely.
And most importantly, subscribers, followers and fans want to see the real you, including where you shop, what you like to eat and what movies you like. One of the coolest things fans of let’s say rap artists or country singers like to see are those stars acting like normal human beings. Tell me it’s not fascinating to know that Shania Twain likes the same restaurants you like?
In other words, location services only add weight to the fact that you’re a real human being, company or organization that does real things.
Almost every blogging platform has a mechanism that can automatically publish posts to social media profiles, particularly with Facebook and Twitter. From a business perspective, this could be both beneficial and detrimental. Again, having everything automated doesn’t necessarily make you look human, and it most certainly will not filter out fluff and noise. 9 times out of 10, business professionals and individuals with blogs will choose to manually publish what they deem as relevant and significant posts to targeted audiences.
On the flip side, social automation can be beneficial if you’re simply spewing out PR pieces via your blog. It can be difficult and timely to go through and manually publish things to each and every social community you’re a part of. But if you’re a true media marketer or business professional of the digital world, chances are you’re going to choose to do this manually.
Information that posts to blogs, websites or homepages also posts to the various subscription services; so general browsers can discover my blog when people check related titles, questions, or keywords. For a practical example, posts on Facebook receive an automatic link on the company’s news feed and subscription service. Twitter posts transform into searchable Tweets on the company’s homepage that members can access when they sign into the service.
Comment form encourages visitor to engage in discussions.
Blog software allows anyone to become involved in discussions and offer contributions. The posts, responses, links, and group discussions make a significant impact on search engines, adding legitimacy to the topics and increasing favorable search engine exposure for companies that relate to these topics on their websites. In practical terms, this means that generic web searches on a topic are more likely to list your business near the top of suggested sites. This free advertising has allowed me to triple the volume of my business in five years. Blog software includes WordPress and Blogger, which allows people to write, publish and monitor their own private bully pulpits. Writers can blog about any topic that concerns them: technology, environmental issues, politics, investing, how-to articles, or old-fashioned rants and raves. With Google’s latest authorship markup, it would be unwise for any business not to entertain a targeted blogosphere.
You can follow several different paths to set up a successful blog. Blogger by Google offers great versatility and connections, natural consequences since Google operates the largest search engine for online searches. Writers could post their blogs on their own websites or share them on hosted blogspot.com subdomains. WordPress offers exciting and current topics and some great plug-ins that add pizzazz to posts. Free posts can be added to WordPress subdomains, but dedicated writers could install WordPress on their own websites for an increased number of options.
Blog posts integrate into subscription services through interfaces in the blogging software they choose, or writers can join free email services such as Feedburner or paid services such as AWeber. The blogs integrate with the social media sites through the APIs. If a blog posts to Facebook, then writers can add a “like” button beside the post. Creating a Facebook page will connect with the blog. The process sounds confusing, but even I figured out how to make use of these connections, so you should have no problem. I had never touched a computer until eight years ago, but I was able to learn the techniques.
Patience and persistence will pay off if you keep writing and posting. The goal is to find an audience, or more accurately, enable the audience to find you. Most Internet technology, applications, and searches reduce to this rather basic principle. Search engine optimization is about relating blogs, websites, links and videos to the specific keywords that people use to conduct online searches for articles, businesses, and information. The goal is to increase your visibility, so people find you when they look for expert assistance.
At the same time, becoming a regular writer on certain topics enhances your voice and authority in that particular market or subject. For instance, if you’re claiming to be an expert in home redesign or remodeling, and you’ve only written one or two blog posts covering your work, chances are your followers will become disinterested and look else ware for information. When it comes down to it, there’s quite a bit of maintenance involved in owning a blog or social media campaign. Nevertheless, the more substantial pieces you write, the better.
And this doesn’t mean you should post, share and tweet for the sake of having a voice – Remember to be wary of the fact that sending out “fluff” will discourage readers and eventually lead to lost followers/subscribers/etc..
Remember, social communities extend beyond the realm of FB, Twitter, WordPress and Blogger. You can in fact capture a very professional and targeted audience on LinkedIn, and with its latest addition of groups, you can:
Live e-mail updates keep you in the loop and actively engaging with folks that are directly in or related to your market or industry.
And let’s not forget, LinkedIn is one of the most effective ways to capture the attention of employers. Their jobs section alone caters to almost any industry, even some of the most entrepreneurial and upcoming ones (i.e. – SEO).
Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ do a fantastic job at supporting interest graphs. They all give their users a way to “like” or proclaim likeness of a certain topic, image, company, program, group and more. This is greatly beneficial because it’s a clear indicator of consumer wants and needs, and for individuals, it’s a great to create new relationships based on shared interests – remember your first year of college when you were given a roommate pairing sheet? Something like this could be easily graphed, analyzed and predicted based on something like Facebook’s interest graph.
One of the biggest interest graph trends to this date happens to be imagery. We can certainly tell a lot about a person by what he or she takes pictures of. For instance, I’ve taken multiple pictures of my pool within the past month or so, which can lead my followers to believe that a) I’m a homeowner and I do a ton of pool work and b) I enjoy swimming.
Of course, there are many platforms other than pinterest that permit image sharing, including Flickr, Imgur, Instagram and Photostream. Likewise, almost every one of these sites connects directly to the 900+ million user social monster, Facebook. This in turn allows you to publish your activity to not only Instagram or Pinterest, but to your FB community as well.
In any case, taking ownership within the social and blogging web can certainly be worth the effort. Most businesses report at least 25 percent increases in business by using the social media. Specialty businesses like mine often do much better. The key to success is to keep posting. The classic adage maintains that if you throw enough pasta against the wall, some will stick. You might want to check out my post on how to give kitchen walls a new look with tile. You can clean dried pasta off tile much easier than drywall.