Using Social Media to Grow Your Business

I am very busy just like most of my clients, family and friends. I didn't think I had the time to blog or use social networking sites. But here I am! And so as I do with most things... if I am going to do it, I learn how to do it as well as I can.

My business is based almost solely on referrals and business partners. I network like crazy every week - choosing which events to attend carefully and trying not to waste my precious time. So that is how I am approaching social networking and how I approach it with my clients. With so many choices out there, do you just sign up for all of them? Which ones fit best with your business' goals and clientele?

Which social media sites are worth your time, and more importantly... how do you use them to your advantage?

The answer isn't as simple as the question; it varies with every business. Ask yourself this: where do your key customers hang out online? Is your company B2B or B2C? What demographic do your clients usually fit into? It's pretty obvious, but if your customers don't bother with a social networking site, you probably shouldn't either.

I am constantly learning more...but here are a few things I have learned on the social media journey so far:

  • Don't think old school marketing will work in social media - Don't push your products or services out of the gate. You need to entice, educate and entertain the person into coming to you and asking for your service.
  • It takes time and energy to be a valued participant in an online community. You don't need to do everything yourself. Below is a list of popular social media sites, some creative ways companies have used them, and whether or not they may be right for your business:

    1. Blogging: This is great for just about any business. I blog weekly for two reasons: first, to prepare content for networking commercials I do every week, and secondly, to share my knowledge of online marketing to clients and potential clients. My blog also appears on Facebook automatically, making it easier for me to update Facebook on a regular basis. With my blog appearing on Avallo's website, it keeps our website updated and always has something new for visitors. One fopaux that many new bloggers make (and I'm even guilty of this at the beginning), is to start strong with updates and eventually fall off the wagon. Eventually, your most recent blog post is months... or years old! Stick to it!

      If you're having trouble thinking of what to blog about, sit down one day and write up a whole bunch of potential blogging topics. Or, think about questions you are frequently asked that you could answer in a blog. You could even answer e-mails on your blog if you think it would pertain to a large number of your client base. There is always something to blog about - don't give up!
    2. Facebook: Avallo has a business site for fans. Here, fans can post on our "Wall", share links or testimonials and view our photo galleries. I have been doing a lot of Facebook research and it can be a huge marketing opportunity for businesses. For example, it is now possible to have full screen color graphics on a business Facebook site. The ideas are limitless with this including video, polls, contests, coupons, and links going to your site. Facebook is perfect for retailers, restaurants, hotels, and companies selling consumer driven products. It's all about fun and buzz!!

      IKEA recently used Facebook in a creative way: they posted pictures of some of their newest merchandise on their Facebook, and the first fans to "tag" the item with their name got the furniture for free. By doing this, IKEA received thousands of fans, and every time someone got "tagged", it alerted their friends, which encouraged friends of friends of friends to become a fan of IKEA. A brilliant marketing idea.
    3. Twitter: More and more, tweeting is becoming a great way to communicate with customers. Share useful information and links, special offers, updates on what you're doing, and answer questions. Because Twitter is so instant, it's often a good platform to offer quick deals or information that might be useful to your customers.

      For instance, a massage therapist has been using her Twitter to fill up empty appointments: she simply tweets the time and date she has an opening, and the first person to respond gets 1/2 off the appointment.
    4. LinkedIn: This is a great tool for business people to connect with people who can refer you, advise you and create awareness for your business.

      A few things to remember:

      • Fill out the profile completely
      • Join industry and alumni groups related to your business
      • Link your status updates with your other social media accounts
      • Use LinkedIn to research your prospects before meeting or contacting them - so make sure your profile says what you want
      • Make recommendations for valuable vendors and clients (they will appreciate the attention)
      • Set up to receive your LinkedIn messages via your email so you can respond fast
      • Post job listings to find the talent you are looking for
      • Post info on new products, new contracts and anything else new you want to share

Remember, the most important thing with social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn is that it's a two way communication. If you want your clients to talk to you... talk to them! Make your updates informational and something that will be useful to a broad range of clients. And don't waste your time with social media sites that don't mesh with your business goals.