by Lori Prosio
Social media can be a great tool to market one’s business; it can make it easier to interact with consumers, market your business by sharing relevant content in a timely manner and network with other professionals and potential customers. It’s great for big brands and companies that already have large followings, but it proves especially useful for small businesses, too.
Aside from helping generate business and interest, generating Tweets or Facebook posts with industry-related content helps business owners build credibility and become viewed as experts in their field, and provides ample opportunities for exposure for their business, too. However, as easy and accessible as these mediums may be, there is a fine line between using them in a professional capacity and abusing them. It only takes a mis-Tweet or overzealous LinkedIn message to ruin a potential business relationship or lose an interested customer. Here are a few applicable social media platforms for use by businesses—and how you should and shouldn’t use them.
Approximately 1.28 billion people use Facebook, making it the most popular social medium by far. While it serves as a great way to connect companies to consumers or let friends stay in touch, it’s important to remember that its two functions should remain separate.
DON’T: Submit a friend request to someone you just met at a networking function. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve received a Facebook “friend” request from someone I don’t know. I use Facebook to connect with friends and family. For many others, Facebook is a personal tool for them, too. Only friend someone on Facebook once you’ve gotten to know them and consider them a “friend,” or if you know for sure that they use Facebook as a business or networking tool.
DO: Create a Facebook page for your brand or business. Facebook is a great way to keep a company top of mind, promote services or products and sales and promotions. It also lends itself to being a great platform for customer interaction, allowing a company to engage with those who “Like” and post questions or feedback. If you decide to set up a Facebook page for your business though, be professional, respond to inquiries and comments (even the negative ones when necessary) in a timely manner, and provide consistent and relevant content. Setting up a page and then never using it is actually worse than not having one at all.
Twitter functions more as a way to provide brief minute by minute updates and responses. Because of its immediacy, Twitter has become a reliable source of news for many and sharing. With Twitter, you can Tweet to your followers, and reply and mention users who may not even follow your brand, making it a great way to reach out to potential consumers. When it comes to using Twitter:
DON’T: Blindly retweet without reading content or ensuring the appropriateness of photos that may be attached to a tweet. The headline of a tweet may seem interesting, but always read an entire article or view the whole post before retweeting it to ensure it is content you’d want to share with your followers. Be mindful of the relevance of the content, and what retweeting it says about your business.
DO: Use Twitter to build relationships with like-minded businesses. Retweeting or mentioning them helps build strong business relationships and might catch the attention of their followers, leading to more potential exposure for your business. Another tip, acknowledge those who follow you or retweet your content with a simple thank you.
LinkedIn continues to prove itself as a valuable networking tool, for companies and professionals alike. The site now has more than 300 million users, has grown to include business pages and groups for like-minded professionals and offers a way for individuals to market their professional skills among their peers and potential employers and business associates.
DO: Use LinkedIn to network, that’s exactly what it was designed for. Make sure that you have a professional profile picture, an updated resume and, should you decide to post blogs or articles, that they reflect you in a professional, educated manner.
DON’T barrage those you “link” with, with sales pitches via the messaging feature. While I’m happy to accept a Linked In request from someone I don’t know, anticipating that it might lead to a prosperous or mutually beneficial business relationship down the line – I’m also quick to “unlink” to them if they inundate me with pitches and smarmy sales speak.
Social media is a great way to promote yourself as a professional or raise awareness of your business, but careful and considerate use of it is imperative to your marketing success. If you aren’t sure how to use it for your business, you can always hire a professional marketer to help.
This article originally appeared in the July 25, 2014 edition of the Sacramento Business Journal found here.