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Getting on Board the Social Network

2008 | Dec 31 in Home Page News , Lead Generation , Lead Conversion , Client Fulfillment

By Caitlin Childs, Assistant Graphics Designer

Flickr Photo Credit to M. Keefe

As we kick off the new year, you're probably hard at work on innovations for 2009. Whether you're working on a new approach to management, lead generation or product innovation, January is a month of excitement and possibility. 

For some of you, 2009 may be the year you embrace new technology into your business. While most small businesses have some sort of online presence (if you don't, add that to your 2009 plan right now!), there's a whole new level to the online world that you might not have considered yet: social networking.

According to Webster's New Millennium™ Dictionary of English social networking is defined as: the use of a website to connect with people who share personal or professional interests, place of origin, education at a particular school, etc.

If you're not already familiar with social networking online, it can be overwhelming just thinking about where to start. Myspace, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter. There are a lot of options out there, but if you start small and think about your options strategically - like we discussed in our blog How To Eat an Elephant — you'll be able to find a good starting point.

Social Networks Aren't For Everyone

Just like any other advertising channel, you should always look at your Target Market Demographics (demographics are the objective, directly observable characteristics that describe people and organizations). If your target market isn't online, you might not need to invest the time in building a social network to reach them. But if your market is net savvy, having an expanded online presence can help you bring in new customers and reach out to existing customers.

Social Networks as a Customer Service Tool

Twitter is a free social networking and micro-blogging service that allows its users to send and read other users' updates (otherwise known as tweets), which are small, text-based posts up to 140 characters in length. Twitter may not sound extremely useful initially, but some companies are putting this tool to great use. Take this example:

Back in May blogger CC Chapman posted this frustrated message to his Twitter page:

Comcast - Why is it that on any HD channel I get a line across the top of the picture? REALLY noticeable with sports.

Unbeknownst to him, Comcast service representatives actually check Twitter for all mentions of their name and a Comcast employee sent CC a message back 1 minute later to initiate their customer service process. The end result? Comcast sent out a repair man the next day and CC Chapman used the power of his blog to publicize the great customer service Comcast had given him.

Social Networks as a Promotional Tool

One of the best, most immediate ways businesses can use social networks is to add them to your promotional arsenal. Having a sale? Putting on an event? Launching a new product or service? Post it to your online network and let people know!

Southwest Airlines does this with their Twitter page, and MySpace and Facebook are also rife with examples. Once you have "friends" on MySpace, you can send out a bulletin message that will reach all of them at once. Facebook lets you do the same thing by posting a short status message (like Twitter) a link (to a new page on your website or blog perhaps?) or a note.

Have new inventory coming in? Putting on a great event? Finished a project or job you're proud of? Take pictures of it and share them on flickr! Ford Motor Company uses flickr to share promo shots and event photos and encourages bloggers to use their pictures.

These photos are for you!
Download, trade, blog, or share, it's up to you.

Ford Racing on Flickr

Flickr Photo Credit to Ford Motor Company


The Real Benefit

Once you connect with your current customers you can encourage them to advertise your brand through their own social network, like Ford is doing with their flickr photos. This is viral marketing at work.

Used wisely, you can harness this viral marketing tool and use social networks for lead generation. Allowing your customers to get to know your company through social networks and blogs encourages genuine customer testimonials and interaction, plus it promotes a lot of good will. After all, the best leads come from referrals from your existing customers.

Share Your Story

How have you used social networking in your business? Was it successful? Post a comment and tell us about it.

Further Reading

Download: "Let’s Talk: Social Media for Small Business" a free e-book from our friend John Jantsch, author of Duct Tape Marketing, and recent co-host at E-Myth's Marketing Intensive Seminar. This E-Book provides a detailed description of the more famous social networking sites and how to use them.

Read: Facebook Business Page Information

Read: Brands on Flickr

Read: How to track your social network mentions

Read:Leveraging Social Networking Sites to Generate Business

Read: Social networking for business is the next big thing

Comments

  1. .Carmelita C. says:

    Thanks for your great article.  I'm just learning how to use the social network to promote my business.  I'm ready to start!

    Submitted Jan 2, 2009 6:09 AM

  2. .Kendra B. says:

    I love social networking. It's been a great vehicle for ideas, strategies and techniques that have long worked in my traditional marketing/pr/writing life. But by extending my reach and focusing it on my market, it's put my time-tested methods on steroids. I've been getting my clients involved too...showing them ways to boost their marketing with their own efforts.

    Submitted Jan 2, 2009 7:32 AM

  3. .Vi W. says:

    This is the truth for sure. Social network can be a great way for businesses to connect with clients, and potential clients.

    I am personally a huge fan of twitter and facebook. I have used youtube quite a bit as well.

    Here are some videos that I have used (my brother actually recorded the videos) on youtube for one of my clients, American Legacy Fishing:

    Youtube Videos: http://www,youtube.com/gotloomis

    American Legacy Homepage: http://www.gloomis.us

    Adding to their social interaction:

    Blog: http://blog.gloomis.us

    Photo Gallery: http://gallery.gloomis.us

    MySpace Profile: http://www.myspace.com/gloomissuperstore

     There is more, but this gives you some ideas on how to start this kind of social interaction.

    It's critical if you are going to create online personas that you monitor their activity and participate in the communities. If you don't, they don't help your online reputation.

    In fact, if people contact your online social persona and you don't respond, it could hurt your reputation.

    Good luck to all of you!

    Thanks,

    Vi Wickam
    http://www.wickam.net

    http://www.PrincipalWebSolutions.com

    Submitted Jan 2, 2009 7:44 AM

  4. .Steve F. says:

    I still don't understand why it is that so many bigger businesses are afraid of social networking. It appears that those that take a shot at it don't really understand what they are doing. It's almost like they put up a few posts and don't instantly see their anticipated results and then bail on it.

    Submitted Jan 2, 2009 8:58 AM

  5. .Sue A. says:

    This is a great article and it is a confusing techno world sometimes ! I think it helps to be genuine and to be sincerely interested in the other person - really social networking is no different from real life  networking and creating authentic relationships from where business can naturally and organically grow.

    Sue Atkins

    Author of "Raising Happy Children for Dummies"

    www.positive-parents.com

    Submitted Jan 2, 2009 9:34 AM

  6. .Bryan C. says:

    Social networking is definitely a great way to get your message out. We use Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to network with freelancers, clients, as well as others in our industry. We are also working with some of our clients expand their presence too.Social media helps expand reach and when done correctly fosters relationships and trust.

    Steve F., you're right many large companies don't get it.  Some of that is probably due to lack of a true evangelist. When a lot of companies try to use social media it ends up looking too commercial. People are smart, they see right through it and to them it is just an advertisement. Whoever is entrusted with the job to market through social media should be passionate about the company and services, believe in them and be able to talk about them. Just slapping a few links on a profile isn't going to cut it. 

    Bryan Coe

    Blackbird e-Solutions

    blackbirdesolutions.com

    Submitted Jan 2, 2009 1:27 PM

  7. .Paul K. says:

    One of our employees used their Facebook page to promote an event we held on New Year’s Eve and the response was amazing – so much so that I sat down with her today to get a better understanding of how we could use this more effectively along with our current website and blog pages.

    I was grateful to find this e-mail in my in-box this afternoon reinforcing the direction we are taking.  Thanks!

    Paul Kulpinski
    Mountain Waves Healing Arts
    Flagstaff, AZ

    MWHealingArts.com

    Submitted Jan 2, 2009 2:32 PM

  8. .Motlalepule M. says:

    This is a fantastic article, thank you. I was one of those who felt intimidated by social netwoking. Now I know as a business owner, there is no better way to connecting with others. 

    www.temogo.co.za

    Submitted Jan 3, 2009 12:55 AM

  9. .Mitchel C. says:

    As someone who is marketing a high-tech product most do not know about yet, we are putting this plan in place now so that in 6-12 months from now it will be a strategic generator of new business for our marketing plan. We market the latest technology in office communications that astounds people when they see it and the cost savings it provides over traditional systems. With social networking we will reach a segment of the business population we could not touch with traditional marketing methods.

    mitchel@roitelephony.com | 214 815 5610

    Submitted Jan 4, 2009 10:34 AM

  10. .Seth R. says:

    Great post! Here's a quiz where you can score your current social media strategy:

    http://www.formspring.com/forms/QWU-web_strategy_quiz__biz

    Submitted Jan 5, 2009 6:31 AM

  11. .terrie m. says:

    I'm just getting my feet wet with social networking from a business aspect. I agree there is some real opportunity, but it's such a big scary online world out there! I appreciate articles like this one. Having studied marketing well before the existance of tools like PPC, blogs, social networking, etc, I appreciate any info I can find about these amazing tools.

    Terrie Mavros
    SFC Engineering Partnership, Inc.
    www.sfceng.com

    Submitted Jan 5, 2009 12:00 PM

  12. .Mark R. says:

    Thanks for the reminder of the social network. As I learn more, I continue to see ther business value and not just the social value. I expect to learn more and see more as my project evolves. No rock can go unturned as web 2.0 evolves into web ?.?.

    Looking Forward to the ride!

    www.atomicpenny.com

    POWER ON--Mark

    Submitted Jan 5, 2009 1:05 PM

  13. .Nik H. says:

    I am leading a professional organisation and so far I am connected to 400 (and counting) odd members out of the possible 25,000. Managed to get some feedback about the organisation from them as well as being able to clarify issues. I also have a blog in my capacity as the President of that body and so far there are some followers of my blog from the membership.

    I suppose social networking works well as a communication tool to enable you to reach out to people in the space where they are comfortable with. It could work both for profit and not for profit organisations.

    Submitted Jan 5, 2009 1:45 PM

  14. .Cheryl R. says:

    This article is so timely!  I've been researching social networking for the past month and am clear that it is the way to go . . . old school out, new school in.  We must keep up with technology and new ways of communicating and relationship building.  I'd like to hear more on this subject (tips, articles, webinars, conference calls, etc.).

    lifecoachcheryl@aol.com or www.innerpeaceandjoy.com

    Submitted Jan 7, 2009 6:49 AM

  15. .Jason M. says:

    Can someone answer a couple of questions for me about Twitter?

    1) How is a Twitter update different from a Facebook status update?

    2) How are Twitter updates delivered to others?  Text messages to phones?

    Thanks!

    Submitted Jan 8, 2009 8:12 AM

  16. .Caitlin Childs says:

    Hi Jason,

    1) Twitter updates are similar to Facebook updates in that both Twitter and Facebook impose character limits on the length of their messages (160 characters in a Facebook status update and 140 in a Twitter message.)

    They differ in several key ways though: Facebook updates are only available to people in your friends network on Facebook, they're not accessible to the world or searchable through a search engine like Google.

    Twitter messages on the other hand, can be seen by anyone through a variety of means (be it a visit to your Twitter page, a Google search for a topic you posted about, a search of general Twitter posts, or more.) You can even set up your Twitter account to re-post your Tweets to a widget on your own website, or to your Facebook status feed for a double impact!

    2) I've already covered this a bit as far as Twitter's global accessability is concerned, but in the most direct sense, your Twitter updates are delivered directly to your Twitter followers–other people using Twitter who have chosen to follow your updates–when they view their Twitter homepage. Individual users can also set their own preferences for text messages and choose to recieve certain user's updates directly to their phones via SMS if they want.

    Submitted Jan 8, 2009 12:20 PM

  17. .Jason M. says:

    That makes a lot of sense.  Thanks, Caitlin, and keep up the nice work!

    P.S. - To Caitlin's boss(es)....give her a raise.

    Submitted Jan 8, 2009 3:05 PM

  18. .Jacob B. says:

    I agree with all the above and feel that social networking has bright future for promoting businesses. However, I also experienced a lot of spam generated by social networks. Sometimes amount of spam becomes overwelming. Just my 2 cents.

    Submitted Jan 15, 2009 1:22 PM

  19. .chris y. says:

    I did not know much about social networking until this past Fall when our company decided to focus on it. I've been in broadcast TV for over 20 years and always thought the networks were the best way to reach our viewers but I was wrong. 

    This past season we decided to really focus on social communities with our TV show called Gameday Rivals. We covered Big XII football but did stories on tailgaters and built a community around that. We got so much more involvement from the viewers then just giving them stories because THEY WERE THE STORY! 

    I have learned quite a bit about how powerful this concept can be when our show was not only seen on Fox Sports Network but got shown in Tokyo, Japan. The viral marketing was great and fun for everyone.

    We plan on expanding next season with this concept. If you want to see some of the examples that I am talking about it go to www.thegamedayrivals.com. 

    Submitted Jan 15, 2009 7:11 PM

  20. .Colin G. says:

    It's great to hear you guys are jumping on the bandwagon - utilising social media for marketing is the future of marketing on the net.  To look for further inspiration can I recommend Seth Godin, Hugh Macleod and Mike Coulter.  

    In the UK peple are also waking up to the possibilities and seeing the potential of interacting with their audience instead of pushing information at them.

    Can I also recommend FriendFeed an aggregator of social networks that allows you to populate and read multiple social sites all on the one page.

    If you want to drop by and say hello visit here: http://www.digitalface.co.uk

    Submitted Jan 19, 2009 2:34 AM


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