Welcome to Social Networking 101. This is the first of a multi-part series covering social networking from a business perspective. Subsequent posts will tackle individual networks, how to use them, what tools to use, and more.
Social networks are online communities of people who share common interests. While most social networks are designed to be used by individuals to communicate with friends and family, share pictures, movies, and more, your business can use them to engage existing customers or to reach out to potential customers.
Why should I be using social networks?
In short, you should be using social networks because you need to be wherever your customers are. But here are a few of the main reasons you should be social networking:
- Brand Awareness – Having a presence on social networks is one way to keep your brand fresh in the mind of new and existing customers. Make sure existing customers know you have a presence on social networks. Encourage them to tell your friends. Track mentions of your company name, product and/or service. Show those people that you and your company care about what the public thinks of them.
- Brand Tracking – Sites like Twitter Search make it super-easy to track mentions of your company, products, and services. Pepsi recently introduced Pepsi Throwback and Mountain Dew Throwback and monitored use of the hashtag “#throwback” as well as specific mentions of “Pepsi Throwback” and “Mountain Dew Throwback”
- Public Relations/Information Sharing – You control the flow of information and you can target it more effectively. The people that you’ve connected with on social networks are likely to be more interested in what you have to say.
- Search Engine Optimization – One of the side benefits of social networking is that it can potentially aid your SEO efforts. Share links to your website content with friends and followers. Those links could potentially get reposted (or, in Twitter lingo, “retweeted”) driving additional traffic to your site.
- Support – If customers know you’re monitoring Twitter or Facebook, they may be more apt to contact you there rather than calling or emailing.
- Damage Control – Companies such as Comcast are using Twitter to proactively contact frustrated customers who might be experiencing outages, having issues with phone support. People will vent their frustrations about companies quite openly on Twitter. Doing what you can to assist these sorts of customers can help mitigate any damage it might cause if left unresolved.
What social networks should I use?
This is a fairly loaded question. But here are two that are growing at a phenomenal rate:
Twitter – At it’s most basic level, Twitter asks the question “What are you doing?” Users post updates (140 characters or less) to friends and followers, ranging from the mundane (“I watered my plants after eating a bowl of cereal.”) to the informative. Businesses use Twitter to share news about their company, provide customer service, and much more.
Facebook – Though primarily used by individuals, companies can create Pages that allow them to share links, news items, photos, videos and more with their “Fans”. Whenever a “Fan” interacts with your company on Facebook, their friends see it as well.
While Twitter and Facebook are two of the fastest growing networks online, you’ll have to be the judge of where you feel having a presence will have the most impact. Our next article in this series will cover Twitter. It will focus on how to get started on it, how to use it, some of the terminology you’ll encounter on the service and how you can get more out of it. Future posts will cover Facebook, LinkedIn, Upcoming, Yelp, and a few other sites in much the same way. Stay tuned!