We all know Twitter, Google and Facebook by now.
But when you hear every day how people are using social media as a marketing tool, and especially the Google / Facebook / Twitter triad, what does it mean? What do these services tangibly deliver to your small business? What are the things you can do today to start benefiting from these free (or cheap) marketing tools that are so powerful, yet confusing and elusive for so many? What should you ignore?
The Background Stories [This section is for those who really do not know about social media sites. Feel free to skip to the Action Items section below if you do not need or want the full description.]
What is it? An "immediacy" tool – Twitter helps gain clients, but mostly it helps keep them interested, with short bulletin-board like messages about what's happening right now in your world. People subscribe to your bulletin board, or sometimes even search through it for words and phrases that interest them. You can also advertise your posts to other like-minded subscribers easily. Twitter is a great way to see what is happening right at the moment with someone or a business, because it is meant to be continuously updated with short messages. Twitter's gift to the world is the cheap and flexible ability to create immediacy, and to communicate up-to-date information easily to one or millions with short messages. Twitter can "feed" your messages to almost any other website as well, as soon as you send them.
How can it help me? It can be used so many ways. When the Mumbai bombings occurred in November 2008, Twitter gave me real time information coming on my phone about the awful events there. On a separate occasion, I opened up an account for a friend's business and watched the subscriber list go into the thousands – quickly. This is great, even if you do not know about the quality of these leads, per se. You can extend Twitter to all your website pages as well. Well we will show you in detail how to do that, and how to subscribe to relevant lists of similar interest contributors as well. You can also use it for customer service – for example, direct people to your Twitter page for daily updates to your product, if you see questions coming in. Have customers subscribe to your Twitter page, make it look pretty and relevant to your business, and you have instant street cred, and a potentially huge new avenue for customers to interact with you.
What is it? A great way to collect a long-term following. However, it is not hard to set up a page exclusively for your business, called a Facebook "Page", and to drive your Facebook friends to it, and then to your website to buy your stuff. You can also connect Twitter feeds to Facebook, to make it easy for clients to see what you're doing in the place they feel most comfortable. Set up is easy – I have had limited success with actually pulling in more customers, as opposed to Twitter which is like a magnet for people, comments, and a bit of randomness thrown in for good measure.
How can it help me? In a nutshell, it is a place where millions of people (and increasingly every thing , from your dog to your business) share with friends their pictures, and the details of their lives that they wish to share, including their affiliations, affections, and interests. Perhaps most importantly, it is a medium to openly discuss their opinions and comments about everyone else's pictures and details and stories as well. You give permission to your "friends" to see what you want them to see. Businesses also have pages that people can visit and subscribe to, and many companies have games that people can also subscribe to. Once you join and have a few friends you will be invited to become "friends" with other people (usually who you know), or sometimes to become a "fan" of all manner of items, which you are free to join or ignore. Making money with Facebook has been a challenge for many, but as an advertising platform, it is promising, since you can build a small advertisement for your business and promote it to people you know, and those they know. This is a relationship deepening tool – Facebook can help you learn more more about the people you interact with. And like the others, you can link to Twitter.
What is it? There are many intersecting Google services, but today we are discussing social media tools. Twitter and Facebook rule at the moment, but Google Buzz should also be considered, as it will most likely have the benefit of connection to all the other amazing Google services out there … especially for mobile users. It's just not quite ready for the big time yet. Keep it on your radar – this service changes almost every day.
How can it help me? While the service is redundant to Twitter and Facebook at the moment, and not yet available on Google Apps (only Gmail), I believe the integration of GPS, iPhone-like devices, and Buzz will have a dramatic effect on retailers – imagine being capable to advertise your products instantly, for free, to interested people near you? That type of thing is coming with Buzz, even if not yet available. And like the others, you can link to Twitter.
What is it? A social networking site for you with your "business face" on. This is basically a place to put your live resume, and a place to interact with, and connect to, business people. If Facebook is a casual environment, mostly for friends to connect their personal lives, then LinkedIn is a more serious environment, built exclusively for business. And like the others, you can link to Twitter.
How can it help me? Is your business on LinkedIn? I use both Facebook and LinkedIn for my businesses, because my personal life is closely connected with my business life. If you are someone with a more traditional casual / formal split between your personal and business lives, however, you may find this an interesting tool to use on its own, rather than connected to the others. A question to ponder on your own.
What is it? A wonderful application that ties (most of) the above services together. Trust me, just sign up and use it. You will love it once you're set up.
How can it help me? This is a "write-once, run-anywhere" application. You bring all of your social media accounts together on one page (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and more), write an update, press send, and all sites are instantly updated.
Extras: There are plenty of how-to articles I like for learning more about social media services, plus other interesting and popular services such as XING, say if you are Europe-based. If you have not used these services yet for your business, you should get moving for more traffic to your site and to deepen the relationships you already have.
Action Items: Sign up and start using social media to promote your business.
With all social media services, the ultimate goal is to let the mob do the work for you. A horrible analogy is the viral one … you create the disease and then it multiplies like a virus from one place to the next. But you get the idea … plant the seed, help the dandelion grow, and place it in a windy corridor to blow the seedlings all over to grow new ones.
Google Buzz – Check back here for more soon. Google Buzz is a work in progress, but important, we believe. If you use Gmail, check to see whether you are signed up for it. Be sure to remove it if you do not wish to use it for the meanime.
There is so much more as well, but for now, be proud of yourself that now are part of the social media elite, and marketing your business with new tools that will scale indefinitely!
For driving traffic to your site, there are many more social media services, such as StumbleUpon, Delicious, or XING which is a LinkedIn competitor more popular in Europe. Stay tuned for more shortly … these categories are more specialized than the above, and will help you sort out your information more easily, and drive people to your website – all targeted to your business. If you have not used these services yet for your business, you should get moving for more traffic to your site and to deepen the relationships you already have.
You can advertise your business cheaply on Google, which handles 80% of all search traffic globally, with Google AdWords – again, also a tool the big boys use, but instead of using their expensive keyword lists, you can find cheap keywords and limit your budget exactly to what you want to drive a reasonable level of traffic to your site – we will cover this in a future post, since it is a subject in and of itself.