I get a lot of questions about social media. Everyone hears the names and terms buzzing around the internet and on the news. Facebook. Twitter. LinkedIn. Foursquare. Pinterest? Many people just throw up their hands and mark the whole concept up to something that’s owned and understood by another generation. Well, let me take a few minutes of your day and try to shed some light on the most popular social media sites and how you might integrate them into your personal or business marketing strategy. You might actually find a way to get some enjoyment out of it along the way too.
Disclaimer for the haters. This is an overview and not an all encompassing guide to social media. This is how I see it but someone else will surely use social media in different ways. To lead you off in a completely different direction checkout “18 cool things people do on Twitter” for an idea of how creative people can be.
If you haven’t seen the movie, see it. It’s great and it will give you a good overview of how Facebook came to be. What I like about Facebook is that it intimately connects you with people that you care about. It doesn’t matter if they’re friends or business acquaintances, Facebook allows you to get to know people better and stay connected on a regular basis.
Here’s an example. I have cousins that do not live in the Northeast Ohio area. Sadly, I hardly ever see them but they use Facebook a lot. They post what they’re doing, where they’re going, they post pictures of their kids and their family activities and we exchange quick comments, ask each other questions and have some laughs. For me, Facebook is an invaluable part of my life and it allows me to stay involved in the lives of people that I care about.
Endear yourself to business acquaintances and become friends
If we’re talking business, I think Facebook is excellent as well. Have you ever invited a business associate out to lunch or dinner and came away feeling like you were friends? Maybe you hung out at a party and they got to meet your wife and kids and vice-versa. This is good for business and connecting on Facebook can have this same effect over time. You might see what they had for breakfast, where they went with their kids over the weekend or what major life experience they had in the last week. (birthday, anniversary, wedding, travel, birth) It’s all a good thing to build relationships and endear yourself to people that you’re doing business with. Just make sure to be yourself and it will work out great. Don’t fake it.
TIP: Have fun with Facebook and be yourself. Don’t use it to agressively promote yourself or your business or your own personal interests. People are there to have fun so have fun with them. If you want to use it specifically for business make sure to setup a Facebook business page where people can “like” you and therefore give you permission to promote your business.
Twitter is a service that people (like my wife) roll their eyes about. They just mark it up as something they don’t get. It’s for the kids to chat, right? Right??
Twitter allows you to stay informed
Twitter can be used for many things as I’ve said. Personally, I use it to get news and information. I don’t read the newspaper, listen to the radio or subscribe to many magazines. I like to get news from a wide variety of reputable sources and Twitter is great for this. While I’m sitting with my coffee in the morning I can get the top headlines from a number of different newspapers, magazines, websites as well as comments and advice from a wide variety of individuals. All of the information is subscribed to by choice and I can follow and unfollow anytime I feel the need. My advice? Control yourself when following because your list will grow quickly. To manage information overload you should continually trim your list so you only follow people that return value.
Twitter is a connector
Beyond getting information I believe Twitter is a connector. How else could I directly connect to the President of a large company and send him a personal note regarding something he said? Maybe by good old fashioned postal mail but Twitter allows you to do it instantly and if he’s really engaged on Twitter he might respond back immediately. This happened last weekend when I saw that a local business was featured on the news. I just happen to follow the president of the company and saw his post calling it out. I sent him a message of congrats and he responded back!
Twitter allows you to follow and ultimately connect with people in your community and in any niche that you can imagine and it’s a great tool if you learn to use it correctly. It can help you to grow your network and engage with new people, customers and clients.
TIP: Aggressively weed your Twitter followers. I had a hard time with Twitter when I started because it became information overload. The people and things that I cared about got lost and all I saw was useless comments and banter from the 2000 people that I was following. If someone doesn’t deliver value on a regular basis cut them loose! You should have a steady stream of value from people and things that interest you.
You may have heard about LinkedIn lately and how they’ve had a very successful IPO. This is a good thing because I think this is a valuable service. Since I’ve been a little long winded so far I’ll get right to the point. LinkedIn, like Twitter, is also a connector. But I see LinkedIn as the place where you connect with business associates and contacts and build your network. You can do this on the other services like Facebook and Twitter but LinkedIn is specifically designed for people to interact on a business level. You don’t post your resume and work history on Facebook and Twitter or connect with the purchasing manger from one of your major clients. But on LinkedIn this is perfectly ok.
Connecting with current and past associates
Here’s an example. The other day I was out onsite working with a client. He mentioned that their marketing person left the company and that I would be working with someone new going forward. Not a big deal you say? Probably not, but if I enjoyed working with the person I now have no idea what company she’s working for or how to get a hold of her.
If I would have taken a few minutes to connect with her on LinkedIn I would likely know exactly where she works now, what her title is, how to contact her — therefore keeping her permanently planted in my network.
TIP: Many people post their Twitter ID on LinkedIn. So when you connect with them on LinkedIn you can easily connect with people on Twitter. In addition to this, posts made to your connections on LinkedIn can easily be sent to Twitter as well!
Building your network
I recently spoke at a local college and one of the questions was if I had any general advice for the students. I said “start building your network now” because it’s truly ALL about who you know and who they know. I told them to start by connecting with me and everyone else you know on LinkedIn. Someday I’ll surely be hiring again and I’ll put a notice up on LinkedIn about the job opening. If we’re not connected they’ll probably never know about it. Sadly, not one person connected which is a major missed opportunity.
TIP: Provide a link to your online Linkedin profile in your email signature and anything else that promotes your own personal brand. Sometimes just doing this is enough of a reminder for people to reach out and make that connection.
There may be some debate about whether Foursquare is the #4 social media service but I like it a lot. Services like Pinterest and Google+ are extremely popular and in the case of Google+ they’ll likely grow in popularity. (More to come on that) But for now I’d just like to demonstrate the concept of Foursquare because it’s wildly popular and useful.
Discovery of new things in your local area
The purpose of Foursquare is discovery — specifically LOCAL discovery. It allows you to discover new things wherever your are. Looking for the best Italian Restaurant in your area? Maybe you just want to find a cool attraction the next time you’re in Cleveland. Fourquare allows you to do this easily from wherever you are.
Foursquare is viral
But beyond being a tool for discovery (which you can get from other services like Yelp.com or Google Maps) Foursquare has a social/connector element within it. Foursquare allows people to “check-in” at locations (Facebook allows this now too) and it will alert your followers where you are.
This does two things. First, it alerts your followers to something they might not have been aware of like a great Italian Restaurant in their area. But the unique aspect is that you get points when you check-in. The points are used to gain status in the Foursquare community. The ultimate title is “Mayor” of a certain location. Sounds like something that you don’t have time for? Maybe, but read on…
TIP:The “check-in” feature and awards and competition are fun. There’s nothing wrong with having fun and playing a game in the real world. Especially if you’re getting good information and value in return. Go ahead, having fun is good for you.
This system has several benefits for small business owners that I’ll touch on. First, people are competing for the title of Mayor at your business location and continually sharing that they frequent your establishment. The more followers they have, the more your name gets around.
Second, you can provide special offers to Foursquare users that show clearly on your listing. This alone might be enough to sway someone to make a visit. The offers could be in the form of a coupon, special discount or even a special perk for the mayor of your location.
TIP: Wouldn’t it be a no-brainer if you own a coffee shop to give the mayor a free cup of coffee once a month? Would this not create competition for others who like your establishment and keep them “checking in” and spreading the word about your business?
So where do you go from here?
For me, this is social media in a nutshell. It can be a complicated world but hopefully you now have a better idea about how to use the popular services. It doesn’t HAVE to be time consuming. You can integrate social media into your internet marketing as a one way street for sharing information about your business but it can be so much more.
TIP: The thing I’ve found is that you have to make it useful and enjoyable. If you’re doing it to accomplish something or to just get ahead somehow it will become work and you’ll ultimately stop using it. Find out how to make it fun.
In summary, this is your takeaway on how you can use social media services:
Facebook – Use it to connect on a personal level with people.
Twitter – Use it to stay informed and connect with new people.
LInkedIn – Use it to stay connected to business associates and clients and grow your network.
Foursquare – Use it to discover, spread the word and build loyalty to your business.
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