To the casual observer – or the too-busy-to-notice business owner or marketing manager – social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and others might seem to just be the latest in online trends: something that’s hot today, but ultimately isn’t much different than search engine marketing or banner ads. The reality, though, is that they can be much more… but only if you use them correctly.
That’s because these platforms allow companies to achieve something they’ve been striving to reach for decades: interactivity. When users log onto sites like Facebook, it’s not just to see; they want to participate, give feedback, and share with their friends. The result is that it’s easier than ever to create a campaign that goes “viral,” in a big or small sense, because customers can pass along their impressions with a simple click of the mouse. They no longer have to search through their e-mail addresses or use bulky attachments – everyone they want to connect to is in one place.
Of course, as with any new marketing technique, it takes some skill to get your message out in an effective way. If you are new to social network marketing, or have considered integrating it into your online sales strategy, here are a few tips to get you started:
Get personal. There’s a reason that huge corporations use talking animals and other gimmicks online and off. Buyers like to get a sense of personality, even from Fortune 500 firms that they trust. Whether your company is traded on the stock exchange or operating from a spare room, try to make a connection with your customers and prospects by letting them see you are more than a collection of products.
Avoid the silly. It’s one thing to let your clients see behind the curtain, and another one to seem completely unprofessional. Never forget that anything you post online could not only be seen by all of your customers and colleagues, but also archived or passed along. You can’t afford to have something offensive associated with your business, so always think twice before writing or showing anything that could come back to haunt you later.
Advertise creatively. Don’t settle for simply broadcasting whatever is on sale for the week – you could do that on your home page, or in a newsletter. Instead, try to draw in visitors and fans by offering tips on better ways to use what you sell, or sharing some insight on how a specific product or employee came to your attention. Remember, social networking sites are places for very soft selling; you can have a sales message, but it needs to be wrapped in something funny or sweet.
Organize events. Perhaps one of the most underutilized features of social networking sites is the ability to create groups and forums that can move from cyberspace and into your physical location. Are you having an event that would be of interest to the general public, or a free workshop that shows how to solve a common problem? These are ideal business uses for Twitter and Facebook, so be sure to spread the word.
Think beyond text and photos. While there’s nothing wrong with filling out your profile, or your company’s, with the standard corporate images and descriptions, why not integrate video and links into the mix? Social networking sites are no place to post clips filled with industry jargon or insider information, but if you have something that’s fun, interesting, or just offbeat to use… then by all means use it! Remember, the goal isn’t to treat sites like Facebook as simply one more way to drub a marketing message into your clients, but to make your business a bit more accessible in a human way. If you can accomplish that, the bump in sales will follow.
Social networking represents a revolution for marketers, not because of the technology behind it, but because of its intent. By allowing customers to use and share what they like about your company on their own terms, it encourages them to feel involved in the process. In other words, marketing becomes something they do with you, instead of you having to do it to them. Treated the right way, that makes it easier on both ends of the connection.