Social media is starting to revolutionize the way that we do business, and we’re just at the beginning of the wave. As an entrepreneur, I got into social media as a way to find new opportunities for my business. I learned quickly that there are unspoken rules related to social media that must be followed if you want to be successful. However, once you take the time to learn the rules, establish your online presence, and build relationships, social media provides the capability to build your business more quickly than you may have thought possible. It also has “fringe benefits” of providing you with great relationships, the ability to learn a tremendous amount, and an opportunity to help others.
That said, let’s begin with a definition of social media.
Social media, simply put, is a collection of online tools that enable networking with others. It is a place to have a conversation with others, using the medium of the Internet. This 2-way conversation online is also referred to as Web 2.0. Web 1.0 was businesses pushing their info out to the public, mainly through corporate websites. Web 2.0 enables people to talk back. This is exciting for us as business owners, because it enables us to get a clear idea of what our customers are looking for, and it gives us a chance to respond quickly to their needs. It also enables us to reach a LOT more people, because the geographic boundaries are removed.
Some of the most popular social media tools that I recommend to my coaching clients include:
- Facebook: Facebook is an excellent tool to start with, because it is fairly intuitive, user friendly, and makes plenty of suggestions about people you may wish to connect with. Since many businesses start through family and friends, Facebook is a great tool to expand that network, connecting with family and friends that you haven’t spoken with in a long time. For the more advanced Facebook user, the Groups functionality is a great way to build groups of people in our targeted niche market, and provide content that positions us as an expert in our field. Groups also allow us to provide our customers with excellent customer service. The success of any business depends on our reach, and literally MILLIONS of people use Facebook every day. In fact, a recent report by compete.com said that in February 2009 alone, people spent nearly 6 million hours on Facebook. Since all those people are there, and many of them may be your potential customers, you should be there too.
- Twitter: Twitter is one of the fastest growing social networking tools that allows you to connect with people beyond your family and friends. It is much faster paced than Facebook, and takes a little getting used to, but once you jump in, the resources you can build are amazing. You can learn from experts in your field, engage in conversations, and meet people you would never otherwise have access to. Before engaging in Twitter, I recommend that people do a little research on how people communicate using this tool. A simple web search will provide you with plenty of information. Then, once you’ve joined, set up a profile, including a picture of yourself, a short bio, and link to an about page about you, possibly on your blog. Your next step is to observe people who use the tool well. Some of my favorite people to follow include @SarahRobinson, @DonnaSpeaks, @MariSmith, and @Unmarketing. Oh, and you can follow me too at @liajen.
Observe how they give, share, and help others. This should be your mantra as you build a Twitter following. You can also search for people in your targeted niche market to follow, using a tool such as Twellow.
- A Blog is another great way to build your business. By providing content on your blog, at least 3 times per week, that is valuable to your niche market, you position yourself as an expert that your market will turn to first when they have a need for the products or services that you provide. They are also more likely to provide referrals of your business when their friends need your products and services, because you are seen as an expert. You build a following for your blog through the use of search engine optimization keywords in your posts and blog title, as well as through the relationships you build on other social networking sites.
- LinkedIn: Depending on the type of business you are in, LinkedIn may be a valuable tool for building your business. You can use this tool to establish a business profile, and connect with others in your industry. This can result in valuable business referrals. You can also participate in groups on LinkedIn which can again drive traffic to your blog, and help position you as an expert in your field.
The world of social media is vast, but by identifying your target niche market, finding out where they “hang out” in the social media world, and creating a social media strategy based on clear goals, you can use social media to build your business, as well as relationships and knowledge that will lead to your success.