Marc Krisjanous, director of Mobilize Mail, writes about using social media as a business tool:
More than likely you have heard talk about "social media" and wondered what all the fuss is about - and more importantly how can it help your business.
"Social media" is used to describe a set of tools that when executed correctly help in the building of personal and business relationships and networks - which, when you think about it is what a good sales person does constantly: build their network.
Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Ning, YouTube, blogs - the list goes on. They are all social media tools that can help you with increasing your brand exposure.
You may have noticed on some business websites promotion of their social media channels such as Twitter, LinkedIn and FaceBook and wondered what the benefit was to the business. The benefit in these channels lies in the fact that they help form and grow communities that are built up around the business.
The communities by their nature help promote the business through discussion and sharing content with their friends and workmates. This is an extremely powerful benefit! The community is promoting your business for free to their own networks, which you may never have been able to reach (or if you did only as an outsider to be distrusted).
A company blog is a powerful social media channel and one that I would recommend you look at first as the concept of "blog posts" is similar to posting articles on your business website.
Using our own business blog as an example you can see how we benefit within marketing, customer support and sales.
We have created a business blog that our staff can contribute posts to such as industry news, software updates, business social events, customer support FAQ's.
However the most important topic for our readers is the research findings on email marketing. A blog is an ideal tool to transmit the research data to the public in a way that is easy categorised, searched, read and archived.
Comments are encouraged on the blog, which we monitor and respond to. This shows that we as a business are interested in what customers and prospects have to say.
Another benefit of providing a blog is that prospects who are not yet ready to engage us in a sales cycle can subscribe to the blogs RSS feed or subscribe to our newsletter.
They can now keep track of what we are doing without having to directly contact to us. When they are ready to engage us in a sales cycle they already know how we operate, our skill set and what we represent.
The end result of this effort is the creation of a community of loyal followers who believe in what we do and feel respected by us.
Stop for one moment and think about the previous sentence, since it highlights one of the positive results of using social media tools. We have now created a community of followers who know that we care about what they have to say.
They talk - we listen and respond. It is not hard to imagine that given the chance they will mention us in their conversations and hopefully go out of their way to recommend us.
We have now moved to third party endorsement which is the most powerful form of marketing you can get.
So by using a blog we have provided a communications channel between our customers and prospects that not only reveals a more human side to our business but also allows people to directly communicate with us.
Reality Check with Social Media Tools
The key point to remember as a business owner when looking at social media tools is to not assume that having a blog, a Facebook page or a Twitter account is going to be the best thing for your business.
You need to first identify how your customers and prospects want to deal with you.
For example approved authors who are normally the staff control a blog's topic and frequency. Once a blog post is published only then can the public respond but only respond within the context of the post. A forum environment allows the public to start a topic of their choice thus giving control to the public not the business.
Social media tools help greatly in forming a community of customers and prospects that think highly of your business because the tools allow for more direct and transparent access to your business.
Will this take effort on your part? Absolutely! But we have found the rewards to exceed the effort involved. Mobilize Mail has been rewarded with:
1. Great feedback about our product and willing free testers for the latest releases of our software,
2. Increased business referrals that have dramatically increased our pipeline of opportunities.
3. An increase of traffic to our website from search results that include discussion about our business in the social media networks and not forgetting our blog posts.
But remember you first need to understand how your customers and prospects want to communicate with you. Only then should you select the social media tools that provide the environment they want.
You will constantly need to review the effectiveness of the tools you have implemented. You may need to remove some of the current ones and replace with other tools.