Businesses today become a part of social media even if they do not want to – a mere mention of your business’ name on Facebook or Twitter for any reason (good or bad) can easily set off a chain of comments and posts. To build and maintain a good online reputation, you need to actively track such posts and then use social media to the advantage of your business. It needs to be comprehended that traditional media marketing strategies do not work on social networking and blogging sites. An advertisement on television, radio and even in newspapers/magazines is a one way communication but when you post the same advertisement on You Tube or Facebook, the audience and your existing customers have an opportunity to express their views in praise of criticism of your advertising style and also your actual business products or services.
When you use social media for business, it needs to be made
• A medium to connect with your customers, business partners and establish long term, cordial bonds with them
• A medium to generate more traffic for your business websites
Efficient use of technology such as blogs, short posts, videos and podcasts help websites move from being isolated entities providing information, to interlinked and interactive platforms connecting you to your customers. Social media allows your target audience to generate and distribute content and allows you build up a better relationship with your customers and partners.
Unlike conventional media, the first rule to social media is ‘to listen’
It is not always wise to sing praises of your brand, your business products and services endlessly. We have entered a new era of marketing – one that requires marketers to stop talking, pay attention and listen. The introduction of social media marketing has made listening mandatory and not optional. It presents an amazing opportunity to gather insight on what people really think or feel about your business, brand, products and services. Social media listening is indeed, the new method of marketing.
Why must you listen?
In terms of your ‘brand image’, nothing can be more powerful than an average everyday user. All it takes is one review from a single user and as per the nature of the review; it could either make or mar your business. Social media allows you to converse with the user in a casual yet informative manner. But, the only way to have a positive impact on the user is if you genuinely listen to what their queries or problems are.
What needs to be listened to?
There are three elements that your business must pay attention to, when it is trying to implement ‘social media listening’. These three elements are important constituents of online reputation management. They are:
Share of Voice: There is a certain amount and degree, at which people talk about you on social networking sites such as Facebook, and Twitter. However in case of small and medium businesses operating at local levels, the problem typically arises when nothing is being said. This is almost as bad as a negative or snide remark and if it is happening, you must do all you can to stimulate an interesting conversation.
Tone of Voice: A good understanding of this helps you to decide whether the conversation comprises negative or positive remarks. Remember, at times even an apparently 'positive' remark could be sarcasm. You or your social media team must be good at 'sentimental analysis' of comments and posts concerning your business. If a substantial portion of the conversation does include positive sentiments, then recognize and reward thank and wherever possible, reward those who have spoken well about you. When the tone is negative, you must ensure that you get to the root of the problem and find an appropriate solution. All genuine complaints about your products/services must be promptly addresses and a heartfelt apology must be expressed. In case of misunderstandings, you should engage the critics and correct their misunderstandings.
Progress over time: This is probably the most important element. Once you have worked upon some engaging content – blogs, short posts, videos and podcasts – for your social media marketing, you must study reactions of existing and potential customers for the same. With an ability to check on the two elements mentioned above, you can monitor the impacts of your advertising, marketing and PR efforts via social media platforms.
Using optimum tools for social media marketing
On every social media platform, there are different ways to connect with target customers. Here are a few things that should ideally be a part of your social media marketing:
Blogs: A descriptive blog gives you the opportunity to inform Internet users about the updates in your industry or business domain. You can also develop content on the need for your products/services addressing the exact people who could benefit from such offerings. At times blogs can help you to constructively answer criticism of your products/services.
Podcasts and webcasts: These are short films or audio presentations that you can add to your social media profiles and websites to give additional information about your business to visitors. Webcasts are streamed over the Internet, whereas podcasts are downloaded and used on multimedia devices such as iPods. Both are good ways to speak to potential and existing customers, and allow you to offer a range of information. You can demonstrate products and allow customers to see what is on offer. You can also provide them information or advice on specialist topics.
Microblogging/posts: While search engines help increase your online visibility, social networking sites are important tools to drive traffic to your website as well. With their millions of active users, Facebook and Twitter provide you with an opportunity to not only get traffic and make sales, but also to engage in friendly and humorous discussions with your customers.
Social media may not be rocket science but it is surely different world. Just remember its multi dimensional nature and the two way communication factor – you can try new things to connect with your customers and if your customers really find them interesting, polite friendly and useful, the gain is all yours!
About the Author:
Frank Johnson is a regular editorial contributor on technology products and services that help small to mid size businesses. To know more about the right ways to use social media for business, you may interact with him here