Social Media for Business – the Basic Four Explained.

With so many social media venues and methods, it can be daunting to first – understand what each one does and the main purpose, and second – how it can help your business. Some of the key elements are time-saving methods for business networking. They help establish you as an expert in your field and rewards your sweat and clicking with better search engines results — provided you are posting valuable content.

I'm dating myself here, but remember the days of having to go to the local photo reproduction house – not Costso – the really good ones to have transparencies made of your portfolio and then buy the holders and folders to package it professionally?  What about elaborately printed press kits; in addition to the unique papers, presentation folders, attention-getting trinkets, the postage had to be factored into the budget.

Social media has leveled the playing field for all talent, regardless of budget, provided you are willing to spend the time, write well, and have a good message.  These efforts are rewarded in true search engine results.  Let's focus on the top four social media sites that will cover the bulk of your needs to get the word out about your product or service: LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. They each have a unique place for your online followers, potential customers and existing customers. 

LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional social networking site.  Through their question and answer modules, it allows you to shine if you are an expert . There are widgets or tools to sync your blog, Twitter account and other news feeds to post to your LinkedIn profile – all automatically.  This is a huge time saver so you don't have to remember to post the same information in several venues. When you sync these sites you reach your various audiences since everyone has their favorite online hangout. You can also share past Powerpoint presentations with their Slideshare application, and LinkedIn makes it easy for you to find any business contact you may have come in contact with via E-Mail or mutual contacts.  Through an upgraded paid membership you are also able to send out enewsletters and announcements to your groups.  (Remember to keep your online etiquette and "contact" poaching in check – there are still social rules that apply here.)

Facebook is a fantastic site to share links, articles, pictures, videos, and much more with all of your followers. Facebook now has options to build Personal and Group pages for yourself and your business, so there are plenty of options to choose from depending on how you would like to utilize the site. If you have clients with Facebook pages, as a page administrator, you can easily help them keep current on their very public face, while keeping their personal profiles as just that – PERSONAL.  The two shouldn't mix.  Your friends love seeing your personal info, but they may glaze over a bit with every business post synching to your personal profile.  Better to have it push to your Facebook PAGE for your business and allow ANYONE to find your good news, special offers and industry-related tips.

Twitter is a TINY blog — MICRORBLOG — with very simple rules for posting from your phone or computer – keep it to 142 characters. The beauty of this, it keeps brievity as a valued commodity.  LONG links can be shortened with a friend to Twitter:  http://bit.ly or http://tinyurl.com. Download their tool bar for your browser to make it REALLY easy to create very short custom links on a moment's notice.

Twitter is another ideal venue that can automatically receive posts from your blog.  Realize, Twitter isn't all about automation and just pushing, pushing, pushing.  Don't overdo the self-promo "buy my stuff" posts.  Be part of the community. Spend some time visitng the profiles of those you follow or who are following you to see if you want to give them a shout out. Those who self promote or tweet a dozen times in an hour are usually "unfollowed" quickly or even blacklisted.  If what you are posting can be categorized at all, such as it is a topic for the pet food industry, you can add a hashtag to it, such as “#petfood”. Think of hashmarks as a keyword — all one word, and unique.  (We'll cover more of this in a future post, "Twitter Tour.")  This way, Twitter can be used as an informational search engine, where people can type in hashtags of a specified subject, and all tweets with that hashtag attached would come up in their search. It's a great way to track promotions, as well.

The last one some people forget about or can't think of a creative way to use it. YouTube is perfect for the creative side of your business. If you have a FlipCam or Digital Camera with video features hanging around, create a 30-second to 2-minute video clip. Company announcements, quick training videos or product promotions are all great examples of how you could use this site. YouTube is a great way to humanize your brand and to step out of the box when it comes to promoting your business. Again, this is another venue that can push to the others, including your Facebook company pages.

Think of this as the convention floor, water cooler, professional organization gatherings, direct mail, networking meetings and chamber of commerce all in one.  Secure your company's presence or that of your flagship product by reserving the URLs for each of these that will further build your brand:

youtube.com/yourcompany, twitter.com/yourcompany, facebook.com/yourcompany. 

When you do this, you show that you are a forward-thinking company that believes in a consistent message.  Just like your email and website address – you wouldn't brand yourself as:  yourcompany.blogspot.com or yourname@yahoo.com. Focus on consistently building and engaging your network, and follow up with tracking and analyzing your social media activity so you can focus on the areas with the greatest return.

Last tip – even with Twitter and other social media sites – this is their first impression of you. They can't get a great view of your smile or hear your sincere voice and hearty laugh.  PLEASE take the extra moment to review your spelling and the proper homonyms – their, there and they're are not interchangable.

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