9 December 2013

Guest Blog: Louise Baker discusses ten ways she has found useful to promote her business via social networks.

I was at one of those small business networking events recently & the conversation turned to how we were all using Social Networks to promote our various business, asking each other: “Do you use Twitter?”  or “Have you advertised on LinkedIn?”.  What I found was that if we don’t use these social networks in our personal lives, knowing how to use them to promote our businesses can seem daunting, if not impossible.

Creating an online presence on social networks like Twitter, FaceBook or LinkedIn has become a necessity for just about any business, whether operating out of a physical location or just online. Luckily it’s not quite as hard as you may think. To help get you started, I’ve listed my top 10 tips I’ve learned along the way:

1) Choose your Networks carefully

Tempting though it may be to promote yourself on every Social Network out there, it really is a case of quality -v- quantity. As a starting point, think carefully about which ones your clients use and why – if you’re not sure, ask them if necessary & then focus on these. 3 is quite enough to start with.

2) Spread the word with an incentive

An incredibly cost-effective promotional tool is to offer incentives to individuals who share your page or retweet your comments with others. Provided the incentive is relevant to your target market (for example, a give-away of one of your products) this can drive significant traffic to your website & help spread the word on a huge scale. Another idea could be a free prize draw – this has worked well for me in the past – again provided the prizes are relevant.

3) Less is more

Take time to think about how frequently you post or comment on your Social Networks, so you don’t annoy your audience. A general rule of thumb for Twitter is no more than 3 times a day & Facebook can be much less as this is still thought of as a personal networking space & constant bombardment from a company can rapidly lead to your being hidden! As a guide, look at how often your competitors are posting & how much their content is being shared, which should help you decide.

4) Interaction not just promotion

Possibly one of the most important points to remember. Social Networks are just that; a place to interact & build relationships. If you receive a direct comment, make sure you respond, no matter if it’s negative or positive. It’s a proven fact that a won-over disgruntled customer is 80% more likely to sing your praises than a satisfied one and many large organisations, such as Waitrose, see their Social Networks as a valuable customer service tool. One word of warning though, always stay out of personal conversations and stick to replying to comments about your brand or products.

5) Joined up thinking

If you are a regular blogger, make sure you post a link to each blog on the relevant Social Network. For example, LinkedIn is a great place to share business related material or if you’re more current affairs focussed, then Twitter is your feed point. Consider your customer age demographic too – Pinterest or Reddit are Social Networks with more of a niche. Just make sure there is no time lag between your blog post and garnering attention to it. This way your Social Network followers will feel they are first to see your fresh and relevant content. Likewise try to share different content on your different Social Networks & then invite your audience to view one from the other, to encourage cross pollination.

6) Keep an eye out for new kids on the block

The internet is an ever moving feast & just when you think you’ve got your Social Networks sorted, a new one pops up! Instagram & Snapchat are considered the current ‘Big Thing’ & the leading marketing players were quick to jump on it, but there are even newer networks, such as the 3 month old mithought.com where businesses can promote themselves & partner with budding entrepreneurs – filling the gap that LinkedIn, arguably has failed to capitalise on.

7) Work smarter not harder

One way to manage your social networking accounts is to visit each site on a daily or other regularly scheduled basis. An easier way is to use tools such as Hootsuite that let you see and manage multiple Social Network accounts all at once, without logging on each time. It’s a great time saver and lets you see all your updates “at a glance”. When you’re doing it all from one app, it’s much easier to remember to post to all of your social networks on schedule.

8) Remember you are human

When people are in ‘business mode’ there is a tendency to become very business-like online but this is a real no-no in the Social world. Be profession, for sure but with a chatty, friendly tone. You want your audience to feel there is a real person behind the messages that they can build a rapport with. Put a picture of the person posting or tweeting or at the very least, give them a name.

9) Be useful

The quickest way to turn your audience off is fill your Networks with a stream of pure self-promotion. Use your Social Networks as a way to highlight your own expertise and opinions that will (subtly) help promote yourself and your business. For example, if you find a great article about a topic in your field, instead of just tweeting the URL, post the URL in your blog along with a one- or two-paragraph summary of your thoughts about the article.

10) A picture really does speak a thousand words

Sometimes, words just aren’t enough and often they don’t stick in a person’s mind nearly as long, nor as positively, as visual images do. Today’s social networking services make it easy to dress up your posts with more than just text, and those features aren’t just for sharing pictures of your pets and your family holiday! Are you a consultant, posting about a recent high-profile project? Add a few photos taken onsite (with the permission of the client, of course, who’s likely to be happy to get the free advertising). If a picture is worth a thousand words, what’s a video worth? Want to promote your reputation as a freelance software developer? How about a video tutorial showing what your latest app can do?

Finally, and probably most importantly, don’t rush in but take time to think about your Social Network strategy. Do start smaller & build it up. Remember, once you’ve started, you can’t stop as the worst thing is for people to see the activity drop off – it gives a real feeling of disinterest & decline. But if you get it right, it really is a free resource that can be an invaluable addition to you marketing activities.

About the Author

Louise Baker is a Sales & Marketing Consultant, Strategist and Interim Manager, helping companies set up and run their on-line presence including Social Networks strategies.

Please note that the views expressed in guest blogs do not necessarily reflect the views of The Richmond Marketing Consultancy.

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