Unless you have been hiding under a rock, you have no doubt heard people talk about "Social Media". Even though it has been around for a while, for many business owners it's still a confusing subject.
So what exactly is social media?
According to Wikipedia, social media is defined as "interaction among people in which they create, share, and/or exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks."
What social networks are there?
There are hundreds and possibly thousands of social networks, however, the most common ones include: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, Flickr, Pinterest, Bebo, Google Plus, each with millions of followers.
Many people use social networks to connect with their family and friends, but more and more businesses are taking advantage of social networks to reach their customers and get extra exposure for their products and services.
It's important to realise that interacting with your customers via social media is different than interacting with your friends.
Here are some tips to ensure you make the most of social networks for your business.
1. Do be interested in your customers.
Social media is a two way street. It's not about you talking at your customers, it's about communicating with them. Not only will your visitors feel valued, but you may be rewarded by search engines with a higher ranking, if they see a lot of activity on your social network.
2. Don't sell your products and services.
Social networks are not about pushing your products and services. Visitors come to your network for information and only if they feel comfortable with your business, will they buy from you. So rather than doing a hardsell on your social media network, ask questions, provide tips, offer giveaways and encourage interaction.
3. Do choose the right network for your business.
Just because everyone else seems to be using Facebook for their business, it doesn't mean it's right for you. You will need to find out where most of your customers are hanging out and then join that social network. Learn how it works first, then set up your own profile and link it to your website. For example, if most of your trade is business to business, you are better off to join a network such as Linked In or similar.
4. Don't give your password to anyone.
This may seem like a no brainer, but many business owners put full trust in their employees and happily hand over their password, which, unfortunately is the same for all of their networks. This can lead to disaster, especially if the employee is not skilled at using social media or worse yet, leaves the company unhappy. Instead of handing over your password, set up your employee(s) as administrators. Most networks will allow you to do that and also to set different levels of what the administrators are able to do.
5. Do set up your privacy settings properly.
What you do in your private life and how you interact with your friends is your business. Ensure you set the privacy settings on your private social network in such a way that your potential clients and business partners don't get to see posts, which may cost you your business.
6. Don't upload anything you don't want others to see.
This is the internet - if there is a photo or message you don't want people to see, don't put it out into cyberspace. Even with your privacy settings set up properly, hackers can get into your account and leak sensitive information.
Social media can be a great tool for your business if used correctly. Before you blindly leap into social networking, learn how they work and how you can get the most out of them.
If you need help with setting up and running your social media networks, there is plenty available. Ensure you find someone who is trustworthy and who knows what they are talking about. Search for social media experts and contact their clients to get feedback.