To some their life would be empty without it, while for others it is something to avoid like the plague.For those who are already au fait with the likes of Facebook ,Twitter and My Space , you will know how easy it can be to spend hours on end joining obscure groups or seeing what that shy, yet strangely attractive, old school friend is up to nowadays.
But for every drunken photo or tedious application, there is an advantage to the whole social media phenomenon. I’m often asked what, if any, are the benefits of social media to a business? So I thought I’d delve a bit deeper into this vast world and highlight some of the ways it can be used to boost your business.
For those that don’t know a poke from a tweet, the world of social networking can be a rather daunting place to be. After all, the obvious question to ask is how on earth will my business benefit if Mr Smith in Canada can see how I’m spending my afternoon?
Yet this misses the whole point of social media. It should not be viewed as a strategy to instantly increase revenue, but to increase contacts and enhance your business’ reputation – to raise the ‘chatter’ levels around your brand, business and website.
So it’s important that you don’t use your social media activities to overtly pitch your products – people will quickly see through this – but to subtly show people what you can offer.
Indeed, marketing expert, Perry Belcher , suggests you should view social media as if you were at a party. In the same way you would not walk up to someone at a party and say ‘hello I’m John, buy this from me’ (I think it’s fair to say you’ll be leaving alone if that is the case!), you should not do the same to your online friends.
Instead, be sociable, share advice, give assistance and eventually, once you have gained the trust of these people, you can offer your products and services. So just as someone you meet at a party may eventually become a good friend or even a partner, someone who has been entertained by your Twitter account may eventually become a customer.
Granted it is not a quick process, and it can be quite a challenge thinking up new content, but what it does do is generate a new form of communication to potential customers and this can only be good for your business.
A prime example of this is LinkedIn - a business-orientated social network which not only allows you to engage with millions of other professional contacts, but also provides the facility to answer questions on your specialist subject. Again, this is a fantastic way to boost your online profile and increase your business contacts.
Social Pay-Per-Click – hit or miss?
With all that in mind, it may come as a surprise to hear that I’m less of a fan of social pay-per-click (PPC). Although social PPC campaigns allow you to target specific demographics, the flippant nature of social networking makes this rather limited as a revenue source. Instead, the fundamental use of these networks should be to interact with this huge online community and increase your brand awareness.
For instance, the main advantage with Facebook, I have found, is that it allows you to create a Fan Page – as I have done for my company, Chapter Eight (I expect all you Facebookers out there to become a fan!).
Not only does this allow you to promote your business, but it also gives you another opportunity to link back to your website. Even with just a few fans to start, it’ll soon grow – this will become evident, and accessible, to all their Facebook friends. That’s hundreds of people who will become aware of your business in an instant.
With businesses frantically look for new ways to survive during the recession, we are already seeing an increasing number of these turn to the internet to make this happen. As such, social networking websites are an essential part of this strategy to help boost traffic and improve brand perception.
Of course, the world of social media moves so fast that by the time you have signed up to one site, there will be a new kid on the block that is seemingly bigger and better. Yet with the majority of these networks not costing a penny to sign up, it would be foolish not to utilise this as an eMarketing tool.
Thus, the more influential these social networking sites become, make sure your business in the position to capitalise on this. So I say poke, tweet and blog until your heart’s content….just keep those embarrassing photos to a minimum!