Baptism into the social networking world
By Sophie Sestero
Social networking is a rapid advancement in the technology world; upgrading and changing every day. However, some were left in the dust as it began to take-off and weren’t able to keep up with the trends of this valuable business tool. A social networking 101 should help any business make a presence in the twenty-first century. Social networking simply refers to large groups of people brought together by common interests. Taking this to a global level became possible with the inception of the Internet. Websites for social networking have become an integral part of business today because they help narrow focus in on one specific market. This saves time, money and energy when used correctly. However, if a company tries to be part of too many sites, generally time is spread too thin and messages are lost within information clutter.
The Holy Trinity of social networking
Each business should be part of the holy trinity of professional social networking: Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. This offers business a presence in the social networking sphere with little effort and often a streamlined connection to those who are already interested in learning more about what the company has to offer. Each of these has developed a presence in the business world. Users expect to see suggestions directly targeted to their interests. This means, if you love to read magazines in Idaho, the Idaho Women’s Journal has the potential to become a suggestion on pages to follow.
The Golden Rule
Updating frequently is crucial to having a successful social networking presence. Simply having a page or profile means nothing if updates aren’t popping up to remind users to follow a company or person. A marketing standard is posting three times a week, however, businesses should be updating all social networking sites at least once a week. New helper sites like HootSuite and TweetCaster lend themselves to sorting out this process. Create an account on one of these sites and it organizes all major accounts so users are able to post updates from one location. Users can even write a list of posts and create a timeline of when they want to be sent.
Often, sites like LinkedIn offer widgets to allow any updates from their site to automatically update Twitter and Facebook too. Services like Hubspot.com can link multiple email accounts, create blog posts and have everything feed into the Holy Trinity. Don’t be afraid to post relevant articles, links to other websites and stories linked to the business; these provide contact with your audience and give them pertinent news. Most sites have “tweet this” or “share this” buttons readily available.
Attendance is optional
Beyond the vital three are some aides to be used if necessary: blogs. Dozens of free sites exist now for hosting blogs; WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr are a few.
Blogging should not be a task taken lightly. It too follows the golden rule of updating often and with non-superfluous information. Unless the business wants to be an authority on a given topic, or act as a newsletter, be wary of being another dry blog that withers into the unloved files of the WordPress archives.
If you do plan on hosting a blog, make sure it is visual, brief and casual. Successful blog posts will have some form of visual element, will be between 200 and 400 words, and are much less formal than business writing.
Blogs are easy to integrate into existing websites, and make wonderful posts for Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to alert followers that the blog has been updated.
Preach to the right choir
“Know your audience” applies to social media, just as it does to traditional business. When considering which extra networking sites to join, do a little digging. Wonderful niche markets are developing around the web for any interest group. Does the company deal with publishing, art, general business, travel, human resources or interior design? There is a niche social networking group for all of those and hundreds more. Demographics of age, gender, race, income and interests are broken down on sites and in recent news stories.
And also with you
One of the many reasons why social networking is so valuable is because it provides two-way communications between customers and businesses, something traditional mail and cold calling do not. To use this, be sure to read what fans and followers post on your walls, or @mention about the business. Keep up with current #hash tags and trends to make sure your tweets are going to be popular. Most importantly though, be proactive with your contact by liking posts, responding to comments, or checking out followers’ updates.
Cardinal sins of social networking
There is a tendency to want to write a “fanny pack post.” To explain, picture a fanny pack from back in the 1990s. They were full to bursting with anything that could squeeze into the polyester walls. In status update form, these are five lines long and focus on what someone is thinking about having for dinner.
Don’t do this. Repent. Status updates need to be significant to your readers.
When writing an update, try to think of something pertaining to your business or client.
- What has the company been doing?
- Post a response to a news story.
- Tweet a picture from around the office.
- A bit of trivia or asking questions can be fun to encourage dialogue.
- Hosting contests or asking followers to respond to a question on a certain day can help boost popularity and keep followers watching your newsfeed.
Be sure to not post anything too opinionated, controversial, sexist, rude or with fowl language. It has happened. Often, employees accidentally post to their business account instead of their personal account.
Other than that, post often, gather new friends, and enjoy a social business life on the Internet.