Social Media MBA: 20 ways to use Social Media to improve your business
With the advent of Social Media, business owners are growing more aware of the potential of using inbound online marketing channels for gaining exposure, networking and creating quality leads. It is becoming clear that companies which do use social media to connect with their target audience fail to compete. Tracey Weber, the Managing Director of Internet and Mobile for North America Consumet Banking at Citi Bank said: ‘Today, the web is the first place consumers go for information on products and services. The perception is that these channels are expensive and time-consuming, but the reality is there are simple ways to reach current and prospective customers online.’
A recent report on the state of Inbound Marketing, released by HubSpot, an inbound marketing software company, revealed that, as the traditional outbound marketing techniques (e.g. direct mail, print advertising) are becoming less effective, businesses are transforming their marketing efforts to focus more on inbound programs that allow customers to find them. Therefore the ability to use social media effectively is becoming a pivotal part of any business strategy.
Below is the IntelligentHQ guide to 20 ways for businesses to best utilise social media.
- Create an online presence: locate the social media channels and networks that best suit your business needs and take the time to create pages and profiles for your business. Utilise such channels as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to create a line of communication with your potential customers and other business links. Let people know about your business and what your company is all about.
- Regularly update your pages with engaging content: Let people know whatyour business is doing. Announce changes, trade show appearances and release of new products. Creating regular content that is of interest to your target audience will create a demand for your products before they are even released and will make people keep coming back to your page in anticipation of new and interesting content.
- Use Social Media to get feedback: Create a two way line of communication with other users and listen to what they have to say about your products and services. There is a wealth of web-listening software (such as Uservoice, GetSatisfaction or OpenMind) on the market that helps you to tune in for more detailed feedback on the customer perception of your brand. Showing your customers that you value their feedback and taking the time to respond to their concerns build trust.
- Building Brand Credibility: Providing social media users with useful information, not just about your products but also about your industry helps to build your brand’s credibility. Sharing your knowledge and expertise on such peer-to-peer information sharing websites as Focus or Xing can build awareness of your company’s services and products and help create useful links with other professionals in the industry.
- Offer discounts and loyalty schemes: Offer discounts and loyalty schemes through your online profiles. Creating a happy customer on Twitter or Facebook can go a long way toward gaining exposure through social recommendations, as well as creating sales leads.
- Build brand loyalty: Providing customers with regular, useful information gives your brand credibility, and responding to individual queries, comments and concerns on a public forum creates customer loyalty. Providing information and a sense of community online helps to build trust and assure a loyal customer base.
- Answer questions: There are many websites where people go to ask questions that are both general and industry specific. Taking the time to go on such websites as Quora or Yahoo! Answers to answer questions that have to do with your own products and services as well as your industry helps to create good feeling towards your brand as well as gain exposure.
- Create or join an interest-based community: With the advent of interest- based social networks, there has never been a better time to create or join online groups where people from all over the world discuss and share their interests. Finding a network or a group that gathers people with a strong interest in your industry, can help you to find an audience who is already interested in the services and potentially the products that you offer. Take advantage of this networking and promotional opportunity. You can also create a community of fans of your brand on your blog, feedback site or Facebook group.
- Forge relationships: All customers want a personal touch. Make sure you create stronger links with your customers through personalised responses and information sharing.
- Empower your staff to help build your online branding: Many companies see the staff use of social media as a waste of time, occasionally banning access to Facebook, Twitter, etc on corporate computers. Instead, it might be a good idea to use your staff’s networking links and knowledge to build your business’s presence online.
- Trend Spotting: In the world of quickly changing socio-technological trends, companies cannot afford to be left behind. Checking for social media news and checking such media as Facebook and Twitter, you can quickly identify what is currently in vogue in terms of, for example, mobile technology, and respond to customer demand.
- Influential users: Such online analytics tools as Twopcharts can help to identify the most followed Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest users. Influential social media users can do a lot to help you gain exposure and build trust for your brand. Getting an influential blogger enthusiastic about your product or service ensures that he or she will share the word with all of their readers.
- Stay in touch: Try to keep track of bloggers and social network users who mentionand comment on your brand. Contact them, even if it’s simply to express your gratitude. Invite them to your next product presentation or send them your products for reviewing purposes.
- Encourage Discussion: Invite social networking communities to discuss your services and your products’ features. Such a discussion can help in product and service optimisation, as customers can offer valuable advice and ideas.
- Manage your Reputation Online: Your customers will use social media to both make positive comment and air their grievances. Monitor what people are saying about you and make sure that you address any concerns your customers might have in a helpful and informative way.
- Improve your CRM (Customer Relationship Management): There is a wealth of online CRM tools such as Salesforce, Bantam and Timetonote that provide platforms for businesses to keep track of who their customers are and how best to interact with them. These programs also provide insight into how well relationships are built and maintained along the way.
- Crowdfunding: If your business model depends on raising funds through crowdsourcing, social media provides a wealth of networking and profile raising opportunities. There are many websites such as Kapipaldo or P2P credit where you can seek funding for your project or organisation.
- Locate Markets: The services and products that you offer might not be in demand in your home market, but might just fill the niche elsewhere. Through social media you can connect with people from all over the world and find about global opportunities for your brand.
- Provide customer support: Sometimes a quick Tweet can help you to avoid a potential PR disaster. Make sure you reply quickly to any complaints and issues that your customers express on social networking websites. Find out what went wrong and offer a solution.
- Learn from your Competitors: Observe how your competitors navigate social media and learn from them. Look at what networks they belong to and how they create attractive online profiles. What incentives do they offer their customers? See what works and apply it to your own business.
Do you know of other methods for optimising brand presence on social media? Share your ideas with us, using the comments section below!