Today, I had the distinct pleasure of presenting for the Middlesex West Chamber of Commerce Business Builders Group. Or should I say, this morning I presented (the group’s meetings start at 7:30 am). The topic: Social Media for Local Business. These business leaders wanted to get ahead of the curve and start thinking about how social media can help in their local business. I want to send a special thanks to Lori Grant of Always Your Weigh for inviting me to present (and for being such a great friend).
So, here’s a quick summary of what we went over…
What Is Social Media: I started with my favorite definition of social media, which I found on the wonderful Duct Tape Marketing site from John Jantsch, which is:
Social media is the use of technology combined with social interaction to create or co-create value.
Basically, any website tool that increases communication and creates content for the benefit of a community is social media.
Types of Social Media: Next, I went over a number of the different types of social media, including:
- Forums – People ask questions, other users answer them, and a rich discussion ensues (or name-calling if it’s that type of forum). There’s a forum for just about any topic, and forums are a great way to interact and get questions answered.
- Blogging – Weblogs, or blogs, are a way for people to quickly put content out on the Internet without having to code in HTML or know about FTP (once the blog is set up). And with comments and polls, blogging is a great way to interact with your community. I use the WordPress blogging system for this site.
- Communities – Websites built around relationships, like Facebook or MySpace, provide a forum for reconnecting with old friends and connecting with new friends. Each community has their own rules of engagement, so you need to do some research to discover the dos and don’ts.
- Video and Music – Sites like YouTube and other video sharing sites are not just to see videos of cats playing the piano. They offer great opportunities to participate in the community and share interests with other video makers.
- Micro-blogging: Twitter, the most pervasive micro-blogging site, offers users the chance to send out 140-character updates about “What are you doing?” These updates can be about anything, but new users should get a feel for the rules before jumping in.
- Review Sites: There are a number of sites that offer user-generated reviews of local businesses, such as Yelp.com. On these sites, a business can make sure their profile is correct and see what people are saying about their business right now.
Top Three Social Media Sites: In my opinion, the top three social media sites that local businesses need to concentrate on initially are LinkedIn.com, Twitter.com, and Facebook.com. Each has their own place, but in total, they offer a great foundation for social media success.
LinkedIn.com: According to the site, LinkedIn is “an interconnected network of experienced professionals from around the world, representing 170 industries and 200 countries. You can find, be introduced to, and collaborate with qualified professionals that you need to work with to accomplish your goals.” You post your work experience, contact information, and skills to let your friends and colleagues know about your expertise. You can also search for old friends and colleagues, and can ask for referrals to their contacts. In addition, there are a number of groups and forums for asking, and answering, questions about business subjects.
Twitter.com: When getting involved in Twitter, you will be connecting on a much more personal basis, and in real time. Twitter is currently being used by a number of businesses for connecting with customers and prospects, customer service, and even notifying people about events in real time. It’s also become a great place for finding out about breaking news in real time. The business uses are only limited by the imagination of the user.
Facebook.com: Facebook offers a little more space than Twitter for providing information, but Facebook also has standards of engagement that should be followed if you don’t want to alienate people. Initially set up for communications among friends, Facebook has expanded to include more business-oriented platforms for communications like the Fan Pages. These Fan Pages can be a great way for businesses to communicate with their communities, but they should definitely not do the “hard sell.”
Tie It All Together: In order to get the most out of social media, you need to have a company website with a blog. You can point all of your social media communications back to your website in order for people to get more information, but a blog provides further interaction via comments, polls, etc. In addition, your blog can include video, special content (like white papers or reports), and offer email subscription options to keep people informed.
Conclusion: When combined in a complete web marketing strategy, social media and your website offer wonderful benefits such as:
- The ability to interact with customers and site visitors
- Developing rapport with your community
- Increase your search engine rankings
- Convert casual visitors into customers
Obviously, this is just the Reader’s Digest version of the presentation. There were a lot of great questions and some very good discussion around the best ways to use these tools to increase business as part of an overall marketing program.
If you’re interested in having me present to your group, please feel free to contact me!