Often the first question posed by my clients is “Does my business really need to be using Social Networks?” I think they secretly know the answer before I say a word. Erik Qualman author of "Socialnomics" has recently rewritten his book to reflect 2013 statistics and facts and he claims it is no longer a case of if you use social media but how well you use it! For a synopsis of these jaw-dropping figures you can watch the video here.
Effectively running and maintaining a successful business takes a significant amount of time and a wide range of skills. It is essential for you to be able to communicate the value and benefits of your service or product. No doubt you are doing this everyday when you meet people; you are naturally explaining and discussing what you do. Social networking is effectively taking this every day activity into an online environment. We all know that people like to do business with those they know, trust and like. Someone told me just the other day that we used to be inclined to buy from a business after an average of 7-10 interactions, this has now been raised to 23 interactions. You can therefore begin to see how social media fits into this relationship building process that is a fundamental part of business.
Once you have made your mind up to be available on social networks you need to decide which network is going to be the most beneficial to you and your business. The key question is where are your clients and customers most likely to be? It is going to be much easier for you to go to them than to try and pull them into a network which is unfamiliar and not their natural habitat. It is tempting to set up a profile on every network in an attempt to be omnipresent and catch every potential customer wherever they may be. The obvious downside to this is that you end up spreading yourself far too thinly and inevitably your reputation could be effected as a result. Your client needs to know where you are most active so if they want to talk to you online they know where you are tuned in and listening.
To help you decide which network is the most useful here is a brief overview of the five major players of the moment.
Now boasting over 1 billion users, Facebook dominates all the social networks. It is also the network where users spend the most time – an average of 6.5 hours a month (according to latest figures). As a business you can set up a page that customers can like and follow, allowing them to keep up to date with all your latest news and offers. You cannot contact customers directly from your business presence so you need to rely on them interacting with your page. This is done through sharing timely, engaging news and content, essentially you are looking to entertain and enlighten your followers with fun, easily accessible and shareable updates. B2B organisations can find Facebook to be a very challenging environment as users are generally there for their own personal benefit and interest.
I am going to try and remain completely objective but I fear my love for Twitter may just bubble over! Twitter is the most open, random and supportive network but can equally be the hardest network to get to grips with. The big difference with Twitter is that connections don’t have to be two way. This means that you can follow anyone and anyone can follow you thus broadening your audience enormously, and you never truly know just who is listening. Twitter was the fastest growing network of 2012 and is going from strength to strength. There is an oft heard quote “If you want to find out about a subject search Google if you want to find the person who knows about that subject go to Twitter”. You can establish yourself as the go-to girl for your area of expertise by tweeting relevant credible information. Twitter works best when you just throw yourself into it and interact with other tweeters.
In my mind LinkedIn is a no-brainer! If you ever do a Google search for yourself (please do this regularly) you will see that LinkedIn is normally the top item in the results list. I will always look someone up on LinkedIn as a first point of information. It used to be seen as an online CV site for those wanting to change jobs but now it is being recognised as a very powerful networking environment because of the features and functions it offers. Two new members join LinkedIn every second. If you are operating in a B2B environment and you are not on LinkedIn then you could be missing a huge opportunity.
This is Google’s social network, and has become known as the social spine for all Google products. The Google search is world renowned and has become a regular everyday term “Google it!” Adding a social dimension to that search to provide more local relevant results for users is the next step in this process. Google+ has recently been revealed as the second largest social network, and activity on Google+ is beginning to feed through into searches. You have to first set up a personal profile then you can add a business page on Google+ much like Facebook, some people see it as a hybrid between Facebook and Twitter. It has been a bit slow getting started but I have a real sense that it is beginning to gain momentum and boasts many features that enormously benefit businesses.
This is a very visual network that allows you to pin (share) images to virtual boards, thus gathering together all sorts of fabulous pictures that represent your business, your service, your products and your personality. According to recent studies more traffic is being driven back to your website from Pinterest than other social networks. Back in November Pinterest launched business accounts and are developing greater functionality for companies wanting to establish a presence.
If you have any further questions about any of these social networks then please contact me. It is very important to know why you are using a network and what you hope to achieve from being there, from this you can draw up a clear strategy and get the most out of your presence.