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How to Engage with Potential Customers Online – Social Media

We thought that the readers of this blog might be interested in hearing about Mashable’s list of ‘9 Non-Profits That Get Web Humour‘. This list certainly makes for fun reading, but it also serves as a warning that every business or organisation seeking online social media interaction should heed.

With any type of advertising or marketing, traditional or cutting-edge, offline or online, you need to relate to your target audience. After all, if they don’t pay any attention to what you’re saying, you are unlikely to get the desired increase in sales that made you invest in marketing in the first place. This idea doesn’t seem difficult to grasp for businesses who are operating and marketing themselves in the offline world. Television and print ads are frequently designed and implemented with a particular demographic in mind. It’s rare to see toy adverts on TV during school hours, for example. Ads for makeup or other cosmetic goods always feature conventionally attractive actors. In other words, these efforts are tailored to the customer and to the medium, ensuring that the advertiser is able to obtain maximum value from his investment.

Unfortunately, companies which trade online continue to use the very same tactics that they always have, or simply don’t bother with internet marketing at all. Because there is such a huge potential market available, it’s crucial to maximise the benefit that any internet presence can give to your company. This means that you have to know what sort of person is going to be interested in browsing your site, where they are going to ‘hang out’ online, and how you are going to engage with them in a language that they will both understand and wish to engage with. Humour can be a key part of this, and the internet is home to all sorts of inside jokes and conventions that can be leveraged to encourage conversation.

We know that our clients are too busy running businesses to stay online all day, learning the ins and outs of online etiquette. That’s why we do the work for them by offering social media management services. We know what works and what doesn’t – so leave it with us.

How One Businesswoman Embraced Social Media Management

Mashable.com is currently running a great story about Julie Smolyansky, who inherited the position of CEO at the company her parents started in 2002, and was responsible for deciding the company’s direction at the tender age of 27. Since then, annual sales have increased from $12 million to $80 million and Lifeway Foods’ product has never been more popular. Smolyansky attributes much of this success to her early adoption of social media management. So what is the trendy product that has been embraced by internet users? Kefir, an ancient fermented milk drink. Not exactly the stereotypical subject of online popularity.

The product is made by introducing special ‘Kefir grains’, which are really a mixture of yeast and live bacteria, into milk and allowing the liquid to ferment for 24 hours. The resulting drink is rich in protein and in bacteria, leading some to praise its probiotic effects on the digestive system. Kefir has been around for some 2000 years, and Smolyansky credits its popularity explosion to her adoption of MySpace, Twitter and Facebook at a time when businesses did not commonly use social media services: ‘Everything that we do, we make sure that it’s sharable. We become a friend and a trusted source of information’.

At first, the young CEO attempted to manage the accounts herself alongside her other duties at Lifeway. Having realised that she just did not have the time to effectively engage with potential customers online, she hired a social media management expert in 2009. Nowadays, Lifeway employs 5 social media managers, and Smolyansky seems to suggest that she wishes to expand this even further: ‘We want to do more and more of it. You have to be everywhere’.

Lifeway’s story is an extreme one – few businesses can realistically hope to turn over $80 million each year. This case study does, though, illustrate the potential power of active social media management. If you want to explore the possibilities that social media could hold for your business, give us a call.

10 Steps to Social Media Success for Business

Over the years of working with small and business owners, there are some traits that I have noticed in businesses who successfully use social media and I wanted to share them here.

  1. It doesn’t matter what size you are – you must commit resources to creating content and engaging in social media on a weekly basis.  if you are the business owner and you don’t have time then make sure to collaborate with someone else who does.
  2. Plan for and generate regular content using blogs, Twitter, Facebook or other social platforms.  If you are not sure what to write, do some research online or talk to a professional.
  3. Not every platform will be right for you.  Depending on how much marketing time you have and whether you are a B2B or B2C business, you may not need Facebook, a blog AND Twitter (or whatever else). Try and work out where your customers are and what will drive business.
  4. Measure your activity – make sure you have some way of understanding how social media activity had an impact on business results.  Try things like tracking keywords on different platforms to see what people are naturally talking about.  You can also find out who the main influencers are on Twitter.  This could be done for free via Google analytics, NutshellMail.com, MarketMeSuite.com, Hootsuite.com, Klout.com, Peerindex.com or for a small fee via Sproutsocial.com, Viralheat.com, Trackur.com
  5. Set clear expectations for customers regarding frequency and types of social media interactions that the company is willing to provide.  E.g. if you say you are going to past a series of articles on something, make sure you follow through, or make a posting schedule that is on the same day of the week, every week.
  6. Leverage social media to position the company as a thought leader within its industry.  By writing blog posts or articles on your area of expertise, it shows people how you approach business and inspires confidence in your product or service.
  7. Provide clear calls-to-action and opportunities to generate leads and new customers using social media.  E.g. if you are running a competition or giving away an e-book, make it really clear what people have to do to participate.
  8. Don’t forget that you can use social media to drive participation in offline events.  Holding an event is a great way to meet people & get new customers.  Social media can help build anticipation and provide opportunities for follow up.
  9. Use information and data from social media to drive business strategy.  Make sure you listen to your customers’ comments – for example, if people are really liking a new product then maybe you can push it harder, or if people are not happy with your customer service, you can fix it quickly.
  10. Balance paid and organic search engine traffic. My own feeling is that you will get a much better long term gain by creating amazing content that gets shared online and builds a community around your brand.  ‘Paid for’ search leads like Google ads are good to get things started, but could be expensive over time if you are in a very competitive category.

So, there we have it – a quick round up of strategies for your business.  Each one of those topics is a blog post in itself – however it’s good to have an overview. See you next time!

Thank you to Tim Rabjohns for this Guest Post.

The Social Insider – freelance support for online marketing.

mob: +44 7958 958 162
e: tim@rabjohns.org
twitter: @timrabjohns
Link with me on Linked In 

 

Exciting work with The Princes Trust : April

As part of my desire to help within the local community, I pay a visit to The Princes Trust Enterprise course each month to give and inspirational talk about how I started I Say! from home, and to carry out some training on social media for small businesses. Each month I see a fantastic new group of budding entrepreneurs that really reminds me of how passionate I feel about helping sole traders and small businesses to suceed in their marketing.

Yesterday I met a really diverse group, including a magician, a window cleaner, a guitar teacher and some fashionistas to name a few! Each time I deliver the course, which I do very informally, I always find the conversation steers in a different way depending on the delegates level of experience using Facebook and Twitter, Blogging and using Pinterest, and of course based on their business ideas.

This month we talked a lot about using Twitter for start ups, and many of the group also wanted to know the best platform to start a new blog or completly new website on. Of course we talked about WordPress which I strongly recommended to all our clients for its simplicity and very many useful plug-ins. I then realised that I could fill a whole hour on the benefits of WordPress alone. I would love to spend a whole day with the group discussing their online marketing ideas as they are always so enthusiatic about learning, and have such great ideas for their websites and blogs.

We touched on SEO a little, and as usual many of the group were surprised to hear that new websites don’t just magically appear in the search results. I did however furnish them with a few tips to get started on their own SEO for free in their spare time, as well as some top tips for Tweeting. And naturally I have asked for all of the groups’ Twitter addresses so that I can add them to my next #FF! (Follow Friday) I also encourage everyone to read our blog here for continuing tips on using social media for business and SEO>

I also always try to stay in touch with the members of the group that want to, because it’s great to see how they develop their ideas over time.