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What is Social Media And Should My Business Be Using It?

Unless you've spent the last decade living in a cave, chances are you'll be aware of social media. If you're looking to start almost any type of business, chances are you'll need to become comfortable with using social media.

In the past five or six years social media has gone absolutely crazy. There are platforms to connect with friends, platforms to connect with strangers or with groups of people. There are platforms to share pictures, videos, and music. There are platforms for professionals to connect, platforms to bookmark and share web pages, share blogs, let people know where you've just had lunch – everything!

What am I using Social Media for?
Let's get back to basics. Look at your business plan - what are your objectives?
Do you want fifty people using your service within three months? 250 customers through your door within a month? Do you want to reach out to potential partners? Do you want to create a captive following of people to keep updated? Do you want to share your knowledge? Rather than going down the obvious channels, think of what you want to communicate and which ways are most effective – the tools will exist to do it! You should already have an idea of who your customers are – now to find out how they communicate.

What are your competitors doing?
Find other businesses like yours and check their websites. A Web 2.0 savvy company will have social media links, sharing and feedback options on their website. Do they have a blog? Is it relevant? Do they have a Facebook presence? Are they on Twitter? Do they have many followers? How often do they update? Imagine you're a customer who uses social media – what kind of impression is this company making?

Measurement
A massive part of social media. There are brands like Vocus, Brandwatch, Sysomos, Sprout Social and SimplyMeasured which offer services for hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year. For the humble startup, however, there are a number of free social media metric tools to help measure your online reach.

Tweetreach.com – is a great tool which calculates how many people have retweeted or mentioned a Twitter @username or #hashtag.

Klout.com – determines your online influence across Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Youtube, Google+, Tumblr and more. The Klout score is known as a 'compound metric' because it uses several pieces of data to generate an overall comparison. There is much controversy surrounding the score itself but there many other metrics which give you an idea of how you (or your competitors) are doing.

Wordpress.com – got a Wordpress blog? Lucky you – in the plugins section there's a tool called 'Social Metrics' which allows you track all the mentions and shares of your latest blog across all major social media platforms.

How do I effectively use Social Media?
A blog is a great way of demonstrating industry knowledge and giving your business some personality. Imagine turning up to a party with nothing to talk about – telling a good story is something that people will remember and share. Integrate social media sharing options into your blog and you're really getting somewhere! Remember your writing style and content is a direct reflection of what you're about so keep it professional, relevant and sharp. That isn't to say you can't have fun doing it, however.

Engage people, join in the conversation, have your say, guide people to your blog, tell them what you're about, get feedback, give feedback - but remember your objectives. Communicate with the right people, be generous with your retweets, mentions and likes – people love to be flattered. You're building relationships and friendships, just as you would do in any other circumstances. Remember it isn't only new customers you're looking for – are there people in your network who can offer advice or a helping hand to push you that extra step?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How do I know I'm using it properly?

In the early days it can be difficult. Set yourself realistic targets, for example, 50 new followers by the end of the month or 5 unique visitors per day to your website. Remember to relate your social media efforts to your long term strategy – if there aren't strategic benefits to what you're doing (i.e. building a reputation, creating a following, directing web traffic, etc.) then it mightn't be the best approach. Keep measuring, checking your targets and making sure you're achieving those goals.

What about privacy?
We all like to have fun, but all too often there's someone with a camera phone recording the antics – especially if they're funny or incriminating - make sure those Facebook privacy settings are secure.
Go outside!

Social media is not a substitute for meeting someone face-to-face, however, it can be an ideal first step to arranging one. Keep abreast of what's happening in other circles, make sure to attend plenty of networking events and keep an eye on the bigger picture!

A guest blog post by Neil Thornley, follow Neil on @neilthornely