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Social Media And Your Business

Does your business need Social Media?

These days, it seems that every business has those trendy little social media links to Facebook or Twitter and despite their popularity, the purpose of these kinds of websites is lost on large portions of the population.

So why is it that social media has been snapped up by so many businesses and is it something that your business should be doing?

Facebook

Currently there are 26 milliion people using Facebook in the UK* and the number is growing daily. For many people Facebook has already become a part of the daily routine. It can be a way of keeping up to date with friends and family across the world, as well as a way of arranging social events and sharing interesting information.

It's not just school children and students that use Facebook either, it is estimated that over half of Facebook's 500 million worldwide users are out of college*. In fact, Facebook users between the ages of 35 and 44 have grown by 51% and users aged between 45-54 grew by 47%.

Facebook provides two services which could be use to your business, Facebook pages and Facebook groups. Each of which has their own merits when used properly.

Facebook Pages

A Facebook page is basically a free listing for your organisation. It works in the same way as a normal Facebook profile page, with the added benefit of extra options, like opening hours and examples of your work etc...

The best thing about a Facebook page is that it allows your customers to give feedback on your services and to subscribe (or "like" as Facebook calls it) to updates. This allows you to share special offers and news, as well as other helpful advice to your existing customers and allows those customers to recommend you to others.

The writing's on the wall

Information you post on the site is on what is called a "wall". A facebook wall is not made of bricks and mortar, but out of comments. It is effectively an evolved form of guestbook which allows customers to post anything they like. This could be feedback about your products, a question about a delivery or even a link to a related service.

Anything that is posted on the facebook wall will automatically appear on the "feed" for anyone who has subscribed to it - which, as your following grows, should become an ever increasing group of people. Of course, it is important that this content is monitored - since answering your customers questions - even if initially negative, can help customers to see how open and honest your organisation is.

More recently Facebook have begun upgrading their walls into "timelines". A Facebook timeline, like the wall, shows comments, links and pictures arranged chronologically. The key difference being that popular comments and stories are more likely to stick around on the timeline with Facebook considering them to be more important.

Sites like facebook, are effectively an online form of 'word of mouth' advertising, which, as any business knows, is the best kind.

Facebook Groups

Facebook groups are the predecessor of pages. They are intended for groups of people, rather than businesses. You cannot `like` a group in the same way that you can a page and the information is not shared as widely.

Twitter

Twitter has certainly taken the celebrity world by storm, with anyone who is anyone inviting their fans to follow them. So what is it and why should your business pay attention to it? In many ways it's a way of promoting Freedom of Speech - with many celebs being able to share their own unedited opinion with the world.

The same can be true for your business. If you have a lot to say about current affairs, specifically if your industry is often in the news, you could potentially benefit from a Twitter Feed.

What not to do

When using social networking websites, it is important to be real, since that's the appeal of such sites. Forced marketing does not go down well with tweeters or facebookers, so whatever you do, make sure you don't over do it.

Your feed must be useful to the reader - if it isn't, they will soon change their mind about whether they want to 'like' you at all. So, don't just use it to constantly post links to your own website, make sure that when you link to anything you think might be useful to your followers.

Give them an incite into who you are, as an individual and as a company, without making it too personal.

Also be aware that your customers will probably look on your own personal profile too - if it is public, that is. There have been lots of high profile cases where an employee has been fired due to comments made on Facebook, so just think how many potential customers could be put off by inappropriate comments.

To tweet or not to tweet?

That is the question. The answer will depend on your particular organisation. If done correctly, Facebook and Twitter can be good way of promoting your business, building up a community of like minded people, getting real time customer feedback and word of mouth advertising. At worst they can actual harm your reputation, annoy existing clients and even alienate friends.

So in short, when used responsibly, social networking can be hugely beneficial to both you and your customers.

P.S. It is important to note, though, that links from Facebook will probably not directly affect your search ranking on Google (due to link masking) - but it will help more people to become aware of your brand. (What is SEO?)

*Sources: According to BBC News - July 2010, Ask.com: How to Market your business on Facebook.

 

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