Category Archives: Social Media

Five Rules of Social Networking

The past few years have witnessed an explosion in social networking. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, and others offer venues for personal and professional communication. Here are just a few mind boggling statistics:

  • social networkFacebook topped 1 billion users in October 2012; half of them check in daily to share or read content (web links, news stories, blog posts, notes, photo albums, etc.).
  • Twitter handles 400+ million tweets per day.
  • LinkedIn reported nearly 2 billion people searches in 2010. The current member list tips 100 million.
  • 175+ million professionals share connections, ideas, and opportunities on LinkedIn.

Social networking is a phenomenon that’s too big to ignore and too important to engage haphazardly.

There are plenty of folks who salivate at the prospect of using these venues to stand on their corporate “soap boxes” and sell their wares. But social networking doesn’t look kindly upon those whose only interest is self-promotion. People want trusted friends and colleagues, not “circus barkers.”

As you craft your social networking strategy, here are a few guidelines to inform your thinking:

  1. Social media is all about the users – their interests, their voice, their desire to connect. They want information, interaction, and entertainment on their terms before they’ll be open to a corporate pitch.
  2. The community wants to contribute. They’re ready, willing and able to “crowd source” answers or provide constructive feedback and advice.
  3. Participants expect a personal connection. They want to interact with “Bob,” not a nameless, faceless corporation.
  4. Users expect transparency. When they ask questions, they expect straight answers. If there’s bad news, better to break it yourself – with an appropriate action plan – than wait to be found out and suffer the wrath of the public forum.
  5. Users expect immediate responses. If you’re going to be a player, you need to keep an ear to the ground and be prepared to enter the conversation with enthusiasm, useful commentary, and a bit of good humor.

You don’t have to be everywhere, and you certainly don’t need a presence in channels for which there is no inherent customer need or interest. But you will need to be fully present in the channels that you choose to support. Quality trumps quantity if you’re trying to build a successful community.

Is Social Media Good for Small Business?

social mediaAs a member of the professional development committee for my local Chamber of Commerce, I make a point of asking folks what topics they’d like covered in our educational workshops. What’s on the top of everyone’s mind? Social media!

There’s a lot of “hype” out there. The growth rates of Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter are mind-boggling. Social media pundits tell you that if you’re not active in social media, you’re missing a huge opportunity to build awareness for your organization, trump your competitors, and boost your bottom line. But are small business owners listening?

A lot folks have Facebook pages for their businesses as well as LinkedIn profiles and Twitter accounts. But few are active users. Why? It takes time to build relationships by listening to what the target audience wants and needs, developing content and resources that will help (and entertain) them, and creating offers that prove magnetic. Social media becomes one of those items on the “to do” list that we all think we’ll get to “tomorrow.”

Here’s why social media ought to get some attention today:

  • Your prospects and customers may be using social media to express their wants/needs/preferences, ask questions, research options, solicit advice, and post reviews. Those “conversations” provide useful market intelligence and create opportunities for you to demonstrate your expertise.
  • Most consumers investigate prospective suppliers on-line. A social media presence can drive traffic to your web site.
  • Search engines factor social media content and popularity into their search engine result page placements. If you aspire to land among the top organic search results, you’ll need the boost from social media.
  • Many people use social media as their preferred means of communication. If you want to get on their radar, you’ll need to connect with them in their media of choice.
  • Social media can generate higher quality leads at lower cost than traditional marketing channels (e.g., direct mail, trade shows, telemarketing).

You may not have the bandwidth to dive head first into the deep end of this pool. I’d still suggest that you have a chat with a social media guru to understand how others in your business have leveraged these tools, what results you might expect, and how much time you’ll need to invest. Build a strategy with activities that fit into your schedule now and consider expansion as your expertise and experience grow.