Many businesses with an online presence are starting to include one or more social media platforms as part of that presence.
Businesses are increasingly using platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Linked-in to communicate with potential clients and attract visitors to their website. They’re also finding that a good blog can also be a great way of raising their profile.
But how should you approach each of these platforms, and can you get away with adding the same update to each of them every time you’ve got something to say?
Not all social media platforms are created equal
The short answer to the last question is no. The different platforms have very different users and audiences, and you should think carefully about who you’re talking to and what you need to say to them. Like any business writing, you have to consider your audience first – even if you’re just posting a 140 word tweet.
An overview of how the platforms work
The most popular platforms used by businesses online are Facebook, Twitter, Linked-in and the blog. It’s been estimated that there are about three million Facebook pages, a large proportion of which will be used by businesses. Socialtimes.com reports that there are 200 million twitter users while other sources estimate less than 20% of these are active, which still means that approximately 40 million people are engaging with Twitter. Linked-in has at least 70 million users and over a million company profiles.
These are numbers no business can afford to ignore. Ann Marie Hanlon of Evonomie has suggested that half an hour spent on Linked-in can reap greater rewards than three hours spent at a breakfast networking event. And we’ve all seen the major multinationals starting to use Facebook as their main channel to promote new products.
But as a small business owner or the representative of a charity or community organisation, what do you need to do?
1. If you’re selling to other businesses
Your focus needs to be on Linked-in. This is the primary networking platform for professionals and has been cited by many as the way to get a job these days. If you want to get noticed by other businesses, create a really good Linked-in profile, make sure your company is on there as well as all of its staff, and make regular updates. Don’t expect people to stumble upon you though – join groups, make connections, make direct contact with people. Use Linked-in to make sure people don’t forget about you and what you can offer.
A blog on your company website is also important. Here you can offer other businesses advice and information about the kinds of topics they could be interested in, in the hope that they’ll see you as a trusted source and someone with expert knowledge – and they’ll come to you when they need to buy. The easiest way to set up a blog is by using one of the blogging platforms such as blogger or WordPress. This can be a great place to start, but it’s nowhere near as good for getting attention as a good blog on your company website. A blog on your site means new, fresh content on a regular basis, great for your Google rankings, and will bring people to your site, where they can then look around to find out more about what you do. Talk to your web designer and ask them to build you a content management system which lets you add new blog posts whenever you want to, without having to write any code.
Twitter will be less important but you shouldn’t ignore it. It’s a great place to connect with your peers and pick up news, advice, and links. You might then use those links as a basis for a blog post (but don’t just copy content). It’s also crucial for monitoring what tweeple (people who use twitter) are saying about your product or service – it’s important to respond to any tweets about you quickly.
Finally, a Facebook page does no harm but is unlikely to bring you much return – unless you happen to get a great contract via a friend who likes your Facebook page!
2. If you’re selling to consumers
Facebook is where consumers are and it’s where you should be too. Make sure you’ve got a great page for your business, and that it’s separate from your personal profile – no photos of the dog, please! Again, talk to your web designer about building a landing page which is consistent with your website and enhances your Facebook brand – much better than the standard list of posts. Update your page regularly, encourage your customers to become a fan (maybe with promotional offers?) and refresh the landing page when you have major campaigns running.
Twitter is also crucial, especially for customer service. Your customers should have a twitter account they can contact if they have a problem or want some information – and you must monitor this as part of your customer service strategy. Set up a hashtag for your company and monitor it, as well as doing a regular search on twitter for mentions of your company. Tweet about promotions, new products, and fun, interesting things your customers will like – try to put your company’s personality across on Twitter – without being too flippant, of course.
3. If you’re a charity or community organisation
Facebook is a great place to run campaigns. If you’re running things on a shoestring, a Facebook page can take the place of a website, and is much quicker to set up. You probably don’t need to worry about landing pages, especially if you want to look like you’re running things on a tight budget. Then get the word out – encourage people to like your page, refer to it in all your campaigning and publicity materials, and spread the word at every opportunity. Add status updates on a regular basis so your fans know how your group, charity, or campaign is getting on – you might want to think about focusing on a specific goal and updating on your progress towards this. Some organisations may want more than one page for multiple campaigns.
Twitter will attract a different audience, including the public and other professionals, and can be a source of information about issues relevant to you. It’s also the place to post breaking news – if your campaign has suddenly achieved a major breakthrough, try and tweet it before the press get hold of it, to create a buzz that’s all your own.
A blog could also replace a ‘proper’ website, and gives you somewhere to provide people with more information about what you’re doing. You can post press releases to your blog, as well as giving people more in-depth information about the issue you work with – someone who knows about what your goals are will be more likely to support you. Make sure your blog is linked to your Facebook page and your Twitter account, so people who’ve read it can become fans and followers.
So that’s a round-up of how you can use social media to attract attention and raise your profile on the web, whatever kind of organisation you represent. All of this takes work – if you’re going to succeed with any of these platforms, you need to work on it regularly. So find someone in your organisation who’s familiar with social media and with what you do, and get them involved. Good luck!