VOL. 126 | NO. 92 | Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Social Media: A Mystery to Most Businesses
Not a day goes by that someone doesn’t ask me about social media for business. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter are all new media tools that can help bolster your Internet or “digital footprint.”
The most important question business owners want to know is how to use social media to boost sales and get the phone ringing. Social media for businesses should mean one thing: free tools that can strengthen your organization’s SEO (search engine optimization), help get your message out and engage with customers and prospects.
Here are the main barriers to using social media and why it remains a mystery, followed by how to get started and what to do first:
Time and education. Small businesses usually have limited time, resources and must focus on revenue development, so most owners have not had time to get up to speed.
Lack of resources. It takes a dedicated effort to employ social media tools. Most companies can hire help, but many simply don’t have the extra resources to do so.
Reluctance to embrace new media. A lot of people are just flat out skeptical of social media, but there are legitimate reasons to ignore it – especially if you are in a regulated industry (banking, insurance, finance).
Generations. Most people would be surprised to know the average age of Twitter users is between 40 and 55; age isn’t an excuse to avoid social tools but it is often an explanation.
Here’s how to get started:
Read, read, read. If you really want to jump in, you have to do the reading yourself. You can hire it out of course, but the ideal results spring from the business understanding social media and embracing it – even if it only means monitoring at first.
Pick one tool and learn that first. I think by mastering one tool, businesses can see results faster. Then, begin to explore and incorporate other tools.
Look at what your competition is doing. Get online and do a little research to see what your competition is doing in the social space.
Get a social media policy in place and communicate it to your organization. I suggest any business that wants to use social media tools have a policy in place just like a media policy. Talking online is like talking in the newspaper, and it’s important to have a strategy and know the do’s and don’ts of posting online.
In closing, I will say the smaller the organization, the easier it is to employ social media. The larger the company – even though they may have more resources – often the more red tape and bureaucratic they can be. Social media gives the little guys a leg up and is a great way to have a big voice online.
Amy Howell is the founder of Howell Marketing Strategies LLC, specializing in PR, marketing and social media for Memphis businesses.