Social Media and Social Networking (Social Media for Business)

 Social media and social networking should be a critical element in a small business trying to increase draw to the store or site, trying to increase exposure and traffic, trying to expand their customer base and growing the business.  The business can successfully use social media for business as part of their promotional tactics.   It must be integrated into the overall marketing plan, set up and executed accordingly.

Social media and social networking will not replace tried, true and tested ways of traditional marketing and sales, but can enhance those efforts by engaging customers and prospects and leading them to taking the action that the business owner wants them to take.  In addition to the traditional methods including advertising, calling family, friends and acquaintances (warm prospects), cold calling, meet-up groups, networking groups and other social networks, social media forums expand the reach of the business owner far beyond those other prospects.

Learning to use social media and social networking includes developing a strategy for it consistent with the goals of the overall marketing campaign.   For example, if the business is a service business trying to expand the use of their services among current users of their type of business, the focus of the social media efforts should be on customers not satisfied with their current vendor, looking to replace a vendor who went out of business or newly entering their own business.  With that in mind, the business owner and employees can search social forums that service those types of customers or address the concerns and needs they have.

The owner should prepare specific guidelines covering his direction for using social media for business for everyone associated with promoting the business and with customers of it.  This will assure that all postings concerning the business that any employee posts will be consistent with the goals and directions set by the owner.  These guidelines should cover the following, but may be more or less inclusive depending on the business, the message and the overall strategy:

Of utmost importance is that employees understand they are responsible for everything they post in social media and social networking.  Posts must not contain offensive language, unsubstantiated claims, unproven results or negative material about the industry or competition.  Non-business subjects are to be avoided, such as politics, religion, sex, and highly controversial topics unless they pertain specifically to the business.

First, the posts must establish and build a relationship with the prospective customer.  The poster is the representative and point of contact with the prospect and should use that position to develop the confidence of the reader.  They are the first point of contact to establish the reputation of the business and as such must be an ambassador of good will and trust.

Secondly, social media and social networking posts should be open and verifiable.  By the poster disclosing their names, relationship with the business, their background and credentials they are not only generating positives, but are integral parts to the trust and relationship building needed for growing the business using these methods.

Thirdly, all posters are representatives of the company and their posts may have legal ramifications if they contain anything that violates local, state, or federal guidelines or laws.  The company, its owners and managers as well as the poster are responsible for obeying the laws and held accountable if they are not followed.

Fourth, all businesses market themselves by promoting information and that is what is going to be in the social media for business.  But there is also information that is confidential and should not be disclosed.  It is incumbent on the business owners and management to inform anyone posting about the company, those things that should not be posted due to confidential reasons.

And lastly, some housekeeping items.  Posts should be content rich but as brief as possible.  Wordy and excessively lengthy posts do not get read.   Readers of social media and social networking sites are accustomed to brevity and getting the point across in a few words (look at Twitter’s 120 character limit).  Use a spell checker on all posts.  Nothing is less professional than misspellings, grammar mistakes and punctuation errors in a promotional message. 

Small businesses are perfectly positioned to use these methods to increase draw to the store or site, to increase exposure and traffic, to expand their customer base and grow their business.  The small business owner must “lead the charge” in utilizing this additional facet of promoting the business (social media for business )and give good direction to his colleagues to let them know the direction he wants them to follow in using social media and social networking to drive his business.  Business owners who want to get more training on using social media, click here.

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