Looking for new ways to...
- Connect with your current customers?
- Reach out to potential customers?
- Establish your credibility?
- Manage your online reputation?
- Take care of customer complaints?
- Start a "buzz" about your business?
- Rank higher in the search engines?
Then it's time you spent a little more time socializing online!
Everyone's talking about the marketing opportunities social media sites create for businesses -- especially small businesses -- but there are so many social media sites that it's hard to know where to start.
Here's a plan for getting started that will locate the best places for you to be socializing without wasting your time.
The easiest way to learn about the various sites -- and to see whether or not your target market is using them -- is to start by checking out blogs where your prospective customers hang out. Many bloggers will have sidebar links to their accounts on social networking sites, so you can click through and check out what they're doing there.
To find blogs that are the favorites of your potential customers, do a search of your keywords on Google Blog Search, and start clicking through the results.
When you find an influential blogger, check what they're doing on the social networking sites, and see if you can get involved in a similar way. Also, make sure you check through their blogrolls and links to find where they are going to hang out -- and head there, too!
Once you've located the most popular sites, you can follow this simple four-step process to get your business started in social media:
- Set up user profiles for your business at all the major community social media sites. Start with the most popular sites first (the ones we've discussed), and then head to smaller niche sites you discover through your blog research. Include a link to your website and a short introduction to what your business does in your bio. Remember, don't make it hard sell or pushy in any way -- keep it informative and friendly.
- Once you've set up your profile on a site, do searches there to find users and groups that relate to your business. An easy way to do this is to enter keywords into the search bar and see what comes up!
- Add yourself to communities that share common interests with your business by joining groups, and "following" like-minded people or requesting them as "friends." Spend some time checking out what types of conversations and discussions are going on between your new friends, and in your new communities, then join in the discussion when you've had a chance to gauge the tone and activity there.
- When you're ready to join in the discussion or communicate with other members, keep your sales pitch to a minimum. In social networking, you're not out there selling -- you're getting your name out onto the Web and building relationships with potential customers and other business owners.
When you post on your blog or in social networking groups, your focus should always be on providing valuable information and expertise, as that's the kind of content that will get people interested in you and your business.
Whatever type of product or service you're selling, social networking strategies are one of the most effective free ways to get exposure for your business.
Plus, the inbound links you generate with social media can also boost your search engine ranking!
Don't expect to see huge visitor numbers overnight, though. With consistent effort, you'll see results, but it does take time.
The key to getting the most out of social media websites is to start small. Check out a few of the different sites, choose one or two you enjoy hanging out at, and spend some time getting a feel for the communities there.
By spending time at these sites, you'll discover what types of information is popular, get tons of ideas for new information you can offer, and find out exactly what's on the minds of regular visitors. You can then deepen your engagement, build trust with the community and enjoy the benefits that arise from being a recognized expert in your field.