Putting Social Media to Work for Your Company
Social media is a new arrival to the world of marketing, but one that has grown so much that it cannot be ignored. How does social media fit with your company’s marketing strategy? Social media should complement your website, marketing materials, and overall brand. Which sites should your company be using in social media? As with all marketing, the answers will be different for each business.
According to a recent LinkedIn study, social media is an important tool for growth for small and medium businesses. More than 90 percent of small and medium businesses are either already using social media or plan to use it soon. Of the 1,000 companies surveyed, 64 percent said that attracting new customers is their top challenge and 61 percent find social media helpful in finding new clients. These numbers show that companies not planning on using social media are behind the curve.
Those that are already using social media, the vast majority use it for marketing purposes such as maintaining a company presence online, generating word-of-mouth and awareness, and gaining new business leads. Other ways to use social media include learning, sharing resources, and keeping up with business trends.
Now that we have established the ways social media can help your business, let’s examine how the main social media channels can work for you.
As of January 2014, 1.23 billion people use Facebook. Facebook has a high percentage of users who check Facebook daily to interact with friends, companies, and public figures. Posts that contain photos usually gain more attention than just content or links alone.
Facebook is a place for your company to create an online presence. Users can search by name to find your company, and the large audience on Facebook provides an opportunity to find new customers. Using other strategies, such as contests or advertising, are other ways to gain attention on Facebook for your company.
Google+, with 359 million active users a month, is similar to Facebook in posting content and photos, gaining followers, and creating brand awareness. However, Google+ is tied to Google search results so the more visibility your company gains on Google+, the more visibility your company will gain in Google search results.
LinkedIn is aimed more at the business community than other channels. LinkedIn individual profiles contain information about past jobs, business skills, and recommendations. LinkedIn groups provide forums for people and companies in similar industries, areas, or topics to exchange ideas and links. LinkedIn is a place to find prospective employees, gain industry knowledge through groups, and connect with professional contacts.
Twitter, with 243 million active monthly users, provides a stream of short updates centered around hashtags (keywords that begin with the number sign, such as #news). Each user has a unique name that begins with the @ symbol; IEC's handle is @IEC_National. Posts on Twitter must be 140 characters or fewer. Using hashtags within a post allows users to search on a hashtags and find all the posts containing that keyword. Twitter is a great channel for up-to-the-minute posts and short ideas.
There are many other social media channels that may be appropriate for your company. For example, YouTube, a site for posting videos, has over 1 billion unique visitors a month. This channel would be good for a company that could post training, how-to, or other videos for clients and customers.
Pinterest is a virtual bulletin board of images. Companies can create boards with photos of past work, standout projects, and other visual images. Instagram is also visually oriented with photos appearing in a stream with hashtags associated with each one. Instagram has been strongly correlated with buying as users are drawn to the purchase site through eye-catching photos.
If your company reaches a residential market, sites such as Angie's List, Yelp!, and the Better Business Bureau may be sites that can help boost your reputation. Good reviews can raise your visibility to customers searching for local businesses.
While there are many channels to use in social media, your company probably doesn’t need to use every one of them. First, define who you are trying to reach. Facebook, Google+, and Twitter might be better for reaching residential or commercial customers. LinkedIn might be better suited to reach decision-makers in other businesses or industry leaders.
Second, how will you execute social media internally? Social media content should be posted regularly with a consistent voice. Finding who will manage the social media accounts and post content is a key decision. Perhaps there is a technologically-savvy employee who would be delighted to handle this task. Put your social media names and links on your website, marketing materials, and business cards.
Third, monitoring social media metrics is important. Rising numbers of followers or connections can indicate that your content is engaging people. Flat numbers may mean new tactics or content could be needed to boost engagement.
Small and medium businesses account for a huge part of the economy, creating seven out of 10 new jobs. Put social media to work for your company to boost your marketing and bottom line.
Deborah Stadtler is Director of Communications for IEC National. She manages IEC National’s social media channels. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.