Using Social Media to Drive Your Business

Here are a few interesting statistics for you, from a February 2011 press release issued by small-business social network MerchantCircle:

  • Facebook is becoming an increasingly popular way for merchants to market their business, with 70 percent using the social network for marketing, up from 50 percent one year ago.
  • Facebook has now surpassed Google (66 percent) as the most widely used marketing method amongst local merchants, and is almost tied with Google search (40 percent) as one of their top three most effective marketing methods, with 37 percent rating Facebook as one of their most effective tools.

Whether you’re one of the millions of today’s social media junkies, or you consider them to be the world’s biggest waste of time, social media are having a huge impact – on individuals, and of course, on organizations.

Regardless of your personal preferences, your business needs a proactive social media strategy.  Why?  Doing nothing is akin to management by abdication.  It’s a guaranteed recipe for gossip, disinformation, lack of innovation, loss of talent and even loss of competitive advantage.

If you’re still new to the world of social media, or struggle to use it effectively, here are some ways to use resources like LinkedIn and Facebook to keep your company strong and healthy:

Focus your efforts. Create a system to make sure your social media activities align with your business objectives (e.g., If you use LinkedIn for client prospecting, develop and formalize a company-wide strategy and list of accepted practices.)  Likewise, resist the urge to join every available network.  Do your homework up-front to determine which sites are likely to be the most beneficial for your business.  Otherwise, these sites can wind up being a tremendous waste of time and effort.

Position yourself (and your company) as an expert. Whatever your area of specialization, you can use online networking to showcase your talent and expertise:

  • Be a leader, not a follower. Develop thought leadership in your industry by posting articles that identify trends, cite the latest research and are generally ahead of the curve.  Timely, relevant information is extremely valuable to your clients, prospects and other contacts.
  • Attract top talent. True professionals stay on top of their fields by constantly seeking out new information.  Become a trusted source they turn to.  Write and post articles about the topics most important to these individuals, and you’ll attract the top performers you need.
  • Answer a question in your field to attain expert status within your network. If you’re selected as providing the best answer to a particular problem, it will show up on your LinkedIn profile.  Providing answers is also a great way to strike up an online conversation with a new contact and begin building a relationship.

Draw traffic to your website and blog. Link these to your LinkedIn and Facebook profiles and reference them in your tweets to get more people reading about you and your company.  If you adjust your LinkedIn settings, it will automatically send a notice reminding your contacts to come see what’s new.

Expand your networks. Networking is the number one way small businesses find employees, suppliers and strategic partners.  Make it easy for others to connect with you.  If you haven’t already, place links to all your social media accounts prominently on your website and blog to encourage more people to friend you, follow you or join your network.

Get active and stay active. You may get some minimal value from passive participation, but you have to be at least moderately involved on a site to derive any real business value.  So don’t be a social media couch potato.  Focus on growing your network.  Post.  Blog.  Refer.  Recommend.  Follow-up.  The more effort you put into your social media activities, the greater the results you’ll see.

UNITEMP uses a number of social media platforms, including LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, to strengthen our business relationships and recruit New Jersey’s top talent.  How are you using social media to drive your business?  We’d love to know.  Please leave your comments below.

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