4 Ways Any Business Can Benefit From Social Media

Social Media Logos by socialmediamixer, FlickrSocial media is all the rage right now. You see it in blog posts everywhere. You see Twitter feeds on news shows. In the last month my mother and several uncles joined Facebook! Simply put, social media is all over the place. But is it useful for the average business?

While not all businesses will use social media the same way, I am convinced that all businesses can make good use of social media. Here are 4 ways any business can benefit from using social media.

1- Get to Know Your Audience

About a year ago I went to Blog World Expo, and one of the points that really stuck with me from that conference is this: use social media to find your audience and then hang out with them. Social media is full of groups, fan pages, and other things that make it relatively easy to find an audience that is already interested in your topic or industry.

But with all of the different social media sites, how do you find out where your audience is hanging out? Here are a couple of resources you can use:

  • Use search.twitter.com to see what people are talking about that relates to your topic/industry. See what they’re linking to and mentioning. This can lead you in the right direction.
  • Get a Facebook account if you don’t have one already and look for relevant groups and fan pages. Watch for multiple groups/fan pages for the same topic, and also watch to see how engaged the members are.
  • Forums are more old school, but they can be great for finding other sites that people are using to hang out. In the end it may be the forum itself is the hangout, or they may direct you to other places.

Once you’re confident that you’ve found the popular hangouts for your industry start engaging with your audience. For many businesses Twitter and Facebook are great places to start since they are so universal, but you’ll also want to look for the niche hangouts.

2- Managing Your Reputation

Social media is a great way to keep an eye on the conversations that are happening online and respond to them. In fact, many companies have employees dedicated to watching the online conversations about their company and addressing them.

Here are a few tools you can use to monitor your reputation online so you can take any appropriate action:

  • Once again, you can use search.twitter.com to keep an eye on any conversations going on in the world of Twitter that relate to your brand.
  • For general monitoring of sites, news, and blogs you can always set up Google Alerts for your brand and main keywords to see what is happening online.
  • For monitoring blogs specifically, you can use Technorati or Google Blog Search. Both can help you monitor what bloggers are saying about your brand or industry.
  • If you’re really serious about tracking your reputation you could get an account at Trackur. Their pricing isn’t bad and it can be a great solution for companies looking to check in on the conversations happening online in a quick and easy way.

Watching and managing your company’s reputation is one way that every company can and should use social media. If you notice negative conversations happening you can respond and put out any fires before they get out of control.

A great example of this is Comcast’s use of Twitter. They have turned their Twitter account into another extension of their customer service division. For some great stories about this just do a Google search for ‘Comcast twitter’.

3- Promotions

Promotion is nothing new to the internet, but it hits new levels with social media. If you push the right message through the right channels you can reach a lot of people.

The key here is that you have to already have a lot of connections, especially with people that are willing to push the information to their followers as well. Twitter’s Retweet (RT) feature is very useful for this. If someone finds a story, blog post, or promotion interesting, they can just pass it on by doing a simple Retweet.

To be successful in promoting things through social media you have to have a plan and connections. Just sending out a tweet to your 30 followers won’t cut it.

Here’s another great article about using Twitter for advertising: Is Twitter Really an Effective Internet Marketing Tool?

4- SEO and Traffic Benefits

Being that we’re an SEO company, I naturally have to talk about the SEO and traffic benefits of being involved in social media. Social media can be a great traffic generator. Admittedly, it doesn’t always generate the kind of traffic that will convert into a lot of sales but it does increase buzz, recognition, and authority for your site.

Social media is also a great way to have a lot of links built to your site. As a page is promoted on different networks people are going to be linking to it. These links will include tweets, bookmarks, and even blogs. All of these links can help improve the authority of your site and lead to higher rankings in the search results.

Putting it All Together

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, not all businesses will use social media the same. But the fact is that all businesses can take advantage of social media in one way or another. Here are a few places to start:

  • If your site doesn’t have a blog, you should start one. Blogs are where you’ll generate the content to be promoted on the social media networks. It is also a great way to interact with your customers.
  • Start a Twitter account. Having a Twitter account will give you a place to interact with your audience and also promote the articles from your blog and from other sources that you find interesting. You don’t want to be a Twitter spammer just pushing your own stuff. Show that you can be part of the community.
  • Create a Facebook fan page. Facebook is one of the giants in the social media sphere, so you need to have a company presence there as another way to promote your content and interact with your audience.
  • Set up profile pages on a few social bookmarking sites such as StumbleUpon, Digg, and Delicious. This will give you a place to create links to your content. Make sure you also bookmark other content from your industry. Also make sure to create links back to your site in your profile.

There is always more that can be done, but these are four places to get started. For additional reading, here’s a great case study from Business.com on how they have been using social media: B2B Social Media – The Business.com Case Study.

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20 Comments

  1. Matt Siltala says

    I think this is a great beginning guide for people Dan, on what to do with getting started in Social Media. My biggest piece of advice to newbies is to BE YOURSELF, and join the conversation …. no matter what platform you are on. Think about these communities the same way you do with your neighbors… you are not going to get invited to the BBQ if you are a freak and keep to yourself – or if you do stupid stuff that creeps people out. Be yourself and people will like you, and listen to you – and it will work!

  2. Nate Moller says

    I’ve been “hanging out with my audience” a lot more lately via Facebook and Facebook Pages. Not only has this increased my traffic to my site substantially, but it’s also helped me make direct sales that I can track right directly to Facebook.

    The thing I LOVE about facebook is that you can search for people by their hobbies, interests, etc. and many groups are already created that you can tap in to and start connecting.

    Great tips Dan! Hope to see you at Blog World again this year.

  3. Rick Hardman says

    Matt,

    Being yourself is a big key because it will allow you to attract others who are like you and whom you can have the most influence over. I would add one thing – determine how you can add value to the conversation and then do it. If it helps promote your business/product great but that most often will not be the case. Add value, be part of the conversation and then you are one of them (your customers) with far more influence than you can ever have as the business owner.

  4. Christian says

    So, when beginning a site for the first time, I basically have to build from the social media and then interact with, right?
    Looks like this article is meant for those who are established already.

  5. Andy Beal says

    Great primer Dan!

    I agree that you should fist find your audience–something I refer to as finding your brand’s “centers of influence.”

    Thanks for including Trackur in your list of recommendations!

    Andy Beal
    Trackur

  6. Case Ernsting says

    Hi Dan,
    I found this post engaging and instructional, but how do you see social media finding it’s way into daily business strategy? Do you foresee the creation of whole departments focused on Social Media? A good SM presence takes tons of time to nurture and cultivate. You did a great job highlighting the benefits of social media to businesses, but what are the costs?

  7. Dan Patterson says

    @Matt – Very well put. I think a lot of us go through the phase when we first get started in social media where we try to be something we’re not. Don’t play a role, be you!

    @Nate – Nice work with Facebook! It’s a great place for a lot of businesses to engage with their customer base.

    @Rick – Well said!

    @Christian – I hope I understand what you mean. You should use social media to locate your audience online. Spend some time just listening and observing on the different networks. Then start to engage when you find out where your customers are hanging. You’ll be starting from scratch of course, but as time goes on you can become a part of that community.

    @Andy – Thanks for the comment! I’d great to see a master at this leaving his two cents!

    @Case – A lot of companies are heading that direction. Look at what companies like Southwest Airlines, Dell, and Comcast are doing with Twitter. It does take a lot of time and that’s why companies will dedicate either one person or a team to it. There are costs of course, but if you’re not watching and managing your reputation online who is?

  8. Robert Lönn says

    Hi Dan,

    I agree with former comments that this is good starting point for beginners and also a welcome reminder for people getting lost in the stream of new tactics and everchanging strategies.

    It is still about connecting with people, listening and giving back to your group that works in the end.

  9. Raaj Paatkar says

    This is very comprehensive information about using social media for promoting business. Great share, Dan!

  10. Pune India says

    Kandarp Thaker I agree with you that conversion is the best way for social media. Go through all bookmarking sites and facebook, twitter its really helpful for Business. Thanks for informative information.

  11. Jasvinder Dhaliwal says

    Hi Dan

    It is really good and it clear my doubt which i had little bit about social media. Really comprehensive, Good Job

    Thanks

  12. shirish says

    This is really a helpful article. Many things go into making a successful SEO strategy. Social networking is the thing no one can ignore.Thanks for the insight. There are other factors which also could help you achieve a good page rank in search engines like keyword density etc.
    very good article. Thanks for sharing this with all of us.

  13. Michael says

    Being able to monitor what the web is saying about your company in real-time is great. I use ice rocket for that.

    good post.

  14. Mic says

    Hi, nice gentle introduction into social media and very well written.
    My concern with social media is that for many small to medium sized businesses social media is time consuming and unless well thought out can be a waste of time.

    Starting a blog just isn’t at the top of the agenda for small to medium sized companies.

    There are so many web savvy people who can’t make a blog work and convert, that I can’t see it working for the majority of businesses.

  15. Noah says

    Nice article, Dan. I’m a little surprised you didn’t mention finding niche specific social sites. I mean, granted, its not always going to be possible for every site you work on, but there are so many social sites popping up these days you’re more likely to find some than not.

  16. Dan Patterson says

    @Noah – I would put that under the first point of knowing your audience. If you find your audience is hanging out at a niche social site (which they probably are) then it should definitely be included in your list. Thanks for pointing it out!

  17. corian says

    Another benefit is when you are following up with customers over the phone you can simply copy and paste their email they provided you into Facebook and have a little bit more knowledge about your customer. Things they like, marriae status etc.

  18. Justin Maher says

    Good article. I have a question though. I am looking to get the company I work for in the Social Media world. What we do is provide clean solutions and services to restaurants and nursing homes. How would I go about getting the company in the action? Thanks

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