It wasn’t so long ago that many business owners thought of social media as a waste of time, if they thought of it at all. With the possible exception of the professional networking site Linkedin, much of the business world, particularly small business owners, seemed to have little use for social media sites, considering them irrelevant to the task of building their brands and growing their companies. This has changed in the past few years as companies of all sizes have discovered that social media can be a powerful branding tool.
Social Media lets you engage with your customers, which in turn provides valuable feedback for improving your products and services. You can let your company’s “personality” come out on social media, allowing you to build brand awareness and loyalty in ways that traditional advertising and marketing cannot. Consider these seven tips to help your business build deeper relationships with customers by using social media to make deeper connections.
- Offer discounts and deals. Posting special promos and discounts exclusively for your social media followers will encourage more people to “like” you on Facebook, follow you on Twitter, and visit your other sites. This is great for building traffic and for getting and keeping customers.
- Post tips. Post short tips and quips on Twitter (remember, you have a 140-character limit), and longer ones on Facebook and other sites. As long as your content is fresh, relevant and engaging it will keep people coming back to your sites to see what you’re going to say next.
- Conduct polls and surveys. Even if you just ask informal questions about food and drink preferences or favorite sports teams, you are engaging your followers, readers, and customers. People love giving their feedback, and you will come across as a company that cares what your customers think.
- Make YouTube videos. While not every business lends itself to engaging video content, yours just might. Consider producing a short video with tips or information related to your company’s products. Or you can even encourage your customers to create videos of them using your products.
- Blog your way to brand awareness. Blogs predate contemporary social media sites such as Facebook, but they are a form of social media and can work in concert with your main web site and your other social media sites. They can be a great resource for your customers and can help establish you as an expert. A blog allows you to flesh out ideas and offer substantial information about your products and services, and about issues affecting your industry. But blogging does require more of a time investment than Tweeting, so if you are serious about the effort, either find the time to do it right or hire someone to blog for you.
- Participate in the larger community. Social media engagement is all about building relationships in a social context. It’s not just about promoting yourself and trying to dominate every conversation. To participate effectively; show support for others’ initiatives or projects by “liking” or sharing their content. For example, join and participate in Linkedin groups or other social media forums that are in sync with your values and vision. (Or start your own group(s).) You can use these forums to showcase your values and your expertise in a natural way. Supporting larger causes and participating in social media beyond your own brand keeps your name in the public eye and helps establish you as a credible resource.
- Remember that a picture is worth (at least) a thousand words. Many large companies have found branding success with sites such as Pinterest, Instagram, and Flickr. If you have engaging visuals to share, consider using some of these sites to spread brand awareness. Of course Facebook and Twitter are also good platforms to share photos, and so is your blog.
Social Media is all about promoting your company without putting-off other participants with blatant salesmanship. The key with all social media – including blogs – is to provide quality content on a regular basis. You have to give people a reason to return to your sites again and again. You also need to link all of your sites together to get the best results. For instance; when you publish a new blog post, share the link on Facebook and Twitter.
Regularly tending to social media campaigns and giving sites the attention they deserve requires time that you may not always have. To maintain a consistent social media presence, assign the responsibility to someone you trust. You’ll still need to monitor social media activities to make sure all status updates, tweets, photos and blog posts reflect your brand in a positive way. But don’t let your own busy schedule keep you from taking advantage of some of the most powerful branding tools available today.
For an interesting history of the development and growth of social media through 2013, see HERE.
This is a guest post by Sarah Brooks from free people search. She is a Houston based freelance writer and blogger. Questions and comments can be sent to brooks.sarah23 @ gmail.com.