Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Importance Of Social Media In Business

Social Media - What can it do for your business?

Many of you may be asking yourselves “Why the sudden thrust in ‘social media’ all of a sudden?” Well – let’s face it, we are in an ever-changing and always advancing world. This is especially true in regards to technology. It reminds me of an old quote that reads “If you cannot adapt to a changing environment, you will find yourself trying to live in a world that no longer exists.”

In any profession, your social network is your life blood. You develop and maintain a strict code of ethics and standards to keep clients referring their friends and family to you. When someone needs work done – you are the first one they call, right?

Why wouldn’t this extend over into the virtual world we all know and love? Of course you have social networks such as church, professional associates, community, etc… Why wouldn’t you develop your presence the same way on the internet? When 81% of home purchases are done via the internet, imagine the business you would be missing out on in just one year!

Not that anyone has to necessarily convince you that social media is important – it is just a lot of people have trouble knowing where to start. Getting started with your social media may be the hardest and best thing you can possibly do for your business. Once you get the ball rolling – it can be a lot of fun and you will meet more interesting people than you ever thought you could, even in your local area!

I often get this question after mentioning social media as a marketing technique: “Well, I have a website, isn’t that enough?” Websites are not really included in the social media cloud – they are static information-providing pages (and often very formal). (In other words, they don’t change very much very often.) Website vs social media is very simple – its interactive and freshly updated.

Kick-start your social media marketing plan with Twitter.

Professional Twitter Marketing
Targeting Pro Marketing on Twitter
Where can you start that will be simple and easily managed? My first suggestion would be on Twitter. What is Twitter exactly? Well, in all honestly, it’s exactly as it sounds! Just as a bird would make a small twitter on a window sill, the same would be the usage idea of Twitter – just a small blurb of info you share with your online community. Also known as micro-blogging, they are text-based posts (also known as “tweets”) up to 140 characters. You may follow other Twitter users and will find their posts in your feed – and other users may follow you. Short and sweet and to the point – if you like that you will love Twitter! Check out my page and "Follow Targeting Pro on Twitter!" I can't wait to hear from you!

Formal social media & networking avenue - go for LinkedIn.

Professional LinkedIn Marketing
Targeting Pro Marketing on LinkedIn
Where can you begin with a strong professional presence? My suggestion to this focus would be on LinkedIn. It is a great professional networking outlet with other professionals and groups. If you like to build up referrals – you’ll really enjoy LinkedIn! You may also join groups with similar interests and learn the latest tricks of the trade. I'd love for you to be a part of my LinkedIn Network - please feel free to add me!

Blogging - your online journal to the world.

What is a blog exactly and how do you manage one? I personally love blogs (can’t you tell??). The name comes from a shortened version of “weblog.” It has also developed into a verb, as in “I’m going to go blog” or “She was blogging that.” A blog in its simplest form is basically an online journal. Now there are many different types of blogs. Mostly textual with added images and links, blogs have exploded into not only many different genres (personal diary, professional commentary, informative (how-to), news stories, local community, web-based community, sharing art, etc), they have also branched out into many different types of blogs – including but not limited to artblog, photoblog, sketchblog, vlog (video blogs), MP3blog (music) and audioblog (podcasting). There are many business-focused blogs out there to help you build your business with great ideas for postings and are easy to use. If you would like to start out small and free, I would suggest Blogger (big surprise, right?) or Wordpress as they are extremely easy to use and I enjoy Blogger as it links up to my Gmail account. So what do you blog about once you set one up? …Just about anything! Discuss your current activities, products, services, community news, business reviews, etc… Don’t have time to post the 2-3 recommended times per week? Feel free to contact me in regards to “ghost writing” for you (I write the articles, link them up and put them into your blog and you own the content). You can also share your blog content to your Twitter account and Facebook having a dynamic one-source inputting for all of your social media outlets – great stuff.

Casual contact & great sharing applications - dive into Facebook.

Professional Facebook Marketing
Targeting Pro Marketing on Facebook
Looking to have some fun while social networking? Okay I’ll admit it to everyone – I’m a Facebook addict! I love the program and the way it allows you to interact with your fellow Facebook contacts. It keeps things light and you can have your blog pull right into your Facebook account! You can even play simple flash games and take quizzes with your friends – all nice items to stimulate conversations. You can also share links and pictures. I love the photo album feature (which you can set privacy filters on to choose who you want to see them) as you no longer have to email huge amounts of pictures to all your friends and family – they can just get them from your Facebook account when they are posted! Another fun medium is MySpace – a lot of people already have accounts, you can just start gearing them towards business (or maintain two separate accounts, one strictly for business, the other keep personal). Another great element of Facebook (and one of my personal favorites on Facebook features is Fan Pages. You can literally create a "mini-website" that is interactive via the Facebook platform that your friends, family, clients and associates can "like" and share, making your Facebook Fan Page and all of it's wonderful content go viral. You can also tie in your blog to place your posts directly on your Fan Page and your profile can automatically update with your Twitter account. Not to mention the convenience of all the Facebook Mobile applications that make it even more accessible to the world. Information spreads quickly through social media - will your company be the next buzz?

Online community forums - just like your neighborhood.

Some people are familiar with internet forums. A forum is an internet-based discussion board. Very similar to what one could refer to as a “bulletin board.” These are becoming very popular as they are easy to setup an account and interact with one another. I have been participated personally in forums for over ten years and haven’t found one I didn’t like! Forums build a comforting sense of community, and the relationships I have developed on them have lasted over the said decade – bonds are created that strongly. If you can’t find a forum you particularly like – start your own. They are easily managed and maintained and if your friends or family are into forums it is easy to pick up board managers to help keep appropriate postings in check.

Like TV? You'll love sharing on YouTube.

Thinking of making some YouTube videos? I would recommend this for the more technologically advanced individual. Endeavoring in this usually takes some additional software and (most of the time) a decent video recorder. You can make any promotional video you want and embed it to your website, blog, Facebook, link to it on Twitter, share it, etc. Some people have had amazing success and great rankings with YouTube – just be aware it is very time consuming to put together quality videos. You can keep things simple with simple video casts, or do something elaborate as a product or company promotional video. You can make the video yourself, have your company make it, or hire a professional to help you with your video needs.

No info on where you are or what you do? Start a wiki & be the expert.

Another interesting aspect of social media is a wiki. What on earth is a wiki might you ask? You have heard of Wikipedia, right? In its own words, Wikipedia is a web-based collaborative encyclopedia. Wiki is a word for creating collaborative websites (from the Hawaiian word wiki meaning “quick”.) Anyone who knows me knows that I am a down to the roots gamer girl. I don’t know where I would be without my game wikis giving me information on what I need right at that moment. You can start wikis in your local area! Not everyone is endeavoring on these projects – they are big and need management but you will be innovative and up front as far as technology goes.

As you can see, different types of social media have all different types of indexing, formality and styles of interaction. I realize that not everyone was born with a USB port in their forearm like I was (yes, I’m that geeky - okay I really don't, but you still get the idea). You will find that you may like a particular one more than others, this is fine – you will soon find your niche and where you feel comfortable interacting online. The point is – doing something is better than doing nothing in regards to social media. Just be sure to stick with whatever endeavor you decide on – it is not like a website where there is a destination of sorts, social media is an open-ended invitation. Your social media is updated more often than your website and therefore gets better placement with search engine rankings. I did a large portion of SEO specializing on our home-based transport business, we were #1 in Google for our keywords – I started a Twitter account and updated it 1-10 times a day and in less than a month my professional-oriented Twitter account was ranked #3 in Google. That just goes to show you the power that a simple social media account can bring you when you put the effort in.

Social media - the price is right: FREE.

The best part about social media? The price. FREE! Unless you pay for upgraded accounts for Twitter, specialized Blogs or to hire someone to help you manage them, all of these high-powered, high-ranked sources of marketing don't cost you a thing! Now get out there and take advantage of all this free marketing! If you find you are running short on time to keep up with your social media outlets once the leads and contacts start coming in, you may want to consider hiring a Virtual Assistant that specializes in those areas to help keep up your appearances. No more roller coaster lead flow - stay on top of your game!

Feel free to include me in your Social Media networking - I look forward to keeping in touch with you!


Stay tuned for my upcoming articles that will delve deeper into each aspect of social media – really getting into the meat and potatoes of what it takes to be top in your field. If you need assistance in setting up or maintaining your social media outlets, feel free to contact me to discuss if Virtual Assisting or Ghost Writing is right for you!