Social media 101

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Not sure where to begin? Rean on.

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“It’s easy to get started. You need to be there.” You’ve heard it many times, haven’t you?

Yet, you’re still wondering if social media is all it’s cracked up to be for your business. Let’s get you started with a realistic outlook on using social media to promote your business.

Face forward. If you haven’t already, it’s time to set up your own Facebook page. Every project starts with research. Start with competitors’ pages. Take into account their communication, their posting frequency and how often their fans respond back.

Locate fans. Put your personal friend base to good use. Anyone who lives in your area should be invited as a fan. Encourage them to share your page with others. You’ll also be able to import contacts from your Outlook address book. If you’ve captured email addresses from your customers, you’ll be able to find them easily with this tool.

Now, you’ve got about 30-50 fans. That’s obviously not going to make a big difference. So, what can you do to generate more interest? Start a contest, add links to your advertisements, add a note on your invoices or promote your Facebook page with an email – this is just the tip of the iceberg. Once you get started, much of this will come naturally.

No negativity. And now for the million-dollar question: Are you afraid of negative feedback? If someone has a bad experience today with your company, where will they write the negative feedback? And who will see it?

When moving into my apartment, I had two TVs, the largest of which is a whopping 19-inch flat screen. I called one local cable company whose prices started around $100. I explained to them that I just needed something basic, cheap.

“Cheap! We don’t have cheap service,” I heard them yell back to me. After a few minutes battling back and forth, I slammed down the phone. I found their fan page, liked it, and wrote about my experience with the company. Why? Because I knew in return I’d get great customer service. Within an hour, I had a personal message sent to me along with a comment on my post.

How would I have handled my experience five years ago? The company never would have heard how unhappy I was, but my friends would have. The company’s potential customers would have had a negative impression.
Now, the company took this opportunity to respond back and handled the problem before it turned into a larger conversation. So now, as a renewed and satisfied customer, you might hear me say, “Wow, they addressed my problem quickly. I must have spoken to a bad egg the first time.”

Decide how to handle negative comments with a written policy for your employees. Here’s what I’d suggest:

  • If a derogatory or mean-spirited comment is made that does not offer an opportunity for response, the comment will be deleted.
  • If you receive a negative review or comment and there is an opportunity to respond and fix the problem, don’t delete it. Show publicly how your company handles problems of this kind. Most people are reasonable; they understand that not everyone will be a happy customer.

Sometimes fixing a customer’s problem in a big way is even better than the customer having a normal experience. It becomes a referral story and a memorable experience.

Tweet it out. Can you say it in 140 characters? That’s what Twitter is looking for, a little piece of your thoughts. Much like a Facebook status, tweeting is the perfect way to get a short message out to the world. Once you start your Twitter page, follow local businesses, community advocates and industry leaders.

Linked research. LinkedIn is a perfect tool for commercial sales. As a professional networking tool, the site allows you to research companies and find decision makers. Your sales team can now call confidently, knowing exactly who to ask for. I began using LinkedIn while working as a recruitment consultant in London to find potential candidates. To head hunt, I’d call and act as though I needed their service, in exchange I was able to receive their contact details. Later, a team member could make contact and start the recruitment process. A little sneaky, yes, but it worked well.

Blogging business. Earlier this year, I stepped into the blogging world. I started using my blog to promote my marketing consulting company, DLB Creative. It allows companies to share thoughts and ideas quickly and frequently. Posting free guides, helpful tips and current events in your industry are just some of the ways to keep your blog active. Enlist help with the initial page set up, but platforms like Google’s Blogger let you post with little difficulty.

Realize that social media sites are tools; they’re not the answer to all your marketing needs.

Use them as a way to share information and develop trust. Avoid the traditional sales approach. Today’s society reads right through it and stops listening. Instead, be a voice that helps clients achieve their goals.

Diana Lauren Berneker is marketing and advertising coordinator at Moyer Indoor Outdoor, Souderton, Pa., and owner of DLB Creative. Find her on Facebook at facebook.com/dianalaurenb.