Using Social Networking To Promote Your Business
Social networking websites can be a great way to spread the word about your business, especially for reaching an audience who would not otherwise be introduced to your products or services. As well as the likes of Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, social networking can incorporate commenting on blogs and forums. With the latter form of social networking, you need to be careful that you do not come across as a 'spammer' who frequently bombards blogs, forums and websites with 'spam' messages advertising your business without making any valuable contribution to the community in question. Bearing this in mind, how can you use the various social networking opportunities to promote your business without alienating potential customers and clients?
Why should you use Twitter to promote your business? Experts suggest that it offers the opportunity to present a more personal side to your business as fellow Twitter users will be able to contact you directly if they are 'following' you. This enables you to build a brand which can lead to sales in the long term as you build trust and credibility with your potential customers.
How do you go about this? Once you have set up your profile and chosen a Twitter handle that has some relevance to your business (preferably your business name), it is time to get involved in the Twitter community. Many people use Twitter as a platform to get help and advice, so it can be beneficial to make a point of answering questions that fall into the same niche as your business. For example, if you have a gardening business, try looking to answer questions from Twitter users who are having gardening problems to demonstrate your expertise in this area and build a reputation as a gardening expert. Conducting Twitter searches can be a useful Twitter tool for keeping track of the many conversations that may be of interest to you in this respect and you can ensure that the search results are directed to your RSS feed. If you have products for sale as part of your business, you can use Twitter search to locate 'tweets' that mention these, and respond directly to any questions or concerns that have been raised about the products. This can lead to increased sales in both the short term and the long term.
Along with Twitter, Facebook is currently one of the most popular social networking websites. As a result, it makes sense to make use of it when marketing your business. Joining one of the countless Facebook groups gives you the opportunity to both find and interact with the kind of people who may be interested in your products or services. On each group's page, you will usually find a discussion board (where topics can be started by group members, and other group members can discuss these) and a 'wall' (where messages from other group members can be left). These should not be treated as a chance to bombard group members with information about your business - instead, you should use the group(s) to share your wisdom on the topic and offer advice to other members. For example, if your business sells garden products, you can join various groups that are related to gardening and impart your gardening knowledge. At no point should you post your business website or contact details as this will scream 'spam' and encourage group members to ignore your messages. If your messages impress other group members, they can click on your hyperlinked username to visit your profile and find out about your business in this way.
LinkedIn may be less well known than the likes of Facebook, Twitter and MySpace, but it can be a valuable business tool. While those types of social networking websites can be highly beneficial for reaching out to potential customers, LinkedIn is useful for developing business connections. In the 'Q & A' section, users have the opportunity to pose questions to other users. You can use this section to search for any questions that are pertinent to the expertise of your business. The aim is to provide useful answers to these questions without being tempted to use it as a chance to promote your products or services. Instead, you should aim to achieve 'expert' status. Once a question has been open for a week, the asker can rate the best answers that he or she received. If your answer is rated as the best answer to the question, you will be granted 'expert' status. If you go on to answer more questions, you can achieve an 'expert' badge. This gives you added credibility, which is invaluable from a business point-of-view.
Joining groups is another option. As LinkedIn is predominantly a business networking opportunity (rather than a social networking opportunity), you can briefly promote yourself and the services of your business within this group without alienating other users. You can even start your own group, but it is better to create this around the niche of your business. For example, if your business involves selling gardening products, you can try setting up a gardening group to connect with users who want to ask questions about gardening.
4. Blogs and forums
Using blogs and forums that are relevant to your business can enable you to reach individuals who are interested in the type of products or services that your business has to offer. For example, if your business sells gardening products, blogs and forums that are frequented by people who are keen on gardening are more likely to yield fruit in the form of potential customers as they are like-minded individuals. When doing this, you need to make sure that you do not 'spam' the blog or forum as this will almost definitely give your business a bad name as a consequence. If you are going to use blogs and forums to 'speak' to prospective customers or clients, make sure that your comments and posts are adding something to the discussion and are not just self-promotion. You are more likely to have success if you make an effort to offer a positive contribution to the community. If your comments or posts are insightful or provide genuine advice, people will often be more inclined to take notice of subtle promotion efforts, such as a forum signature or link at the bottom of a blog comment.
If done correctly, social networking can bring prospective customers or clients to your business. This involves more than simply 'spamming' blogs, forums and websites with links to your business as this will give you a negative reputation and alienate potential customers. To make social networking work for your business, you need to be prepared to put the effort in to build connections and encourage potential customers to seek you out.
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