An elongated response to a LinkedIn question about Social Media... hence the blog post as I ran out of characters.
Question from Dale Berkebile : Is hard work and social media the holy grail of marketing even for B2B?
Answer from Ricky Munoz : The problem is that we are treating social media like a holy grail when we should be treating it like telephone. It's another way to talk to people at a distance. Learning the tricks to social media communication is no different from learning the tricks to face-to-face or telephone meetings. Go to your customers and get your message out and draw feedback.
Answer from me, Ant Hodges, Director here at toinfinity : Social media as Ricky says is just one marketing channel that can help you establish credibility for you and your business, together with providing a platform to show your expertise in your area of specialism. The beauty of it is that it is growing at such a rapid rate that many many people are around to listen to what you have to say (from a broadcast point of view) and as Ricky also mentions, treating it a bit like the telephone means that you can have instant conversations with people and respond quickly to their needs.
There are many ways that you can use the different tools available to help your business. Social media is about connecting, sharing and having conversations with people. These conversations are public and can be eavesdropped on by others to see what you are talking about. Similarly you can be an eavesdropper yourself.
If you have a blog, a regular PR piece that is put out to the media, an email newsletter or indeed a rapidly increasing number of client testimonials and case studies, you could start to tailor these for social media to give people an insight into the world of your industry - re-using this content saves time.
You could provide regular 'top 10 tips' around your expertise to help and assist businesses and individuals. Preparing these and scheduling them in advance, for example 12 lists - one for each month, prepared in December can then be set up to be published automatically throughout the year - Saving you more time.
You can also syndicate content that you find useful or interesting, to those that follow you or are connected with you on these networks. The best way is to use an RSS to Social Media aggregator that will send tweets for you, even while you sleep. This saves more time, but also remember that this should not be the only way you tweet - You do need to interact.
The one thing about social media networking that many people forget is that peoples habits are primarily boxed up into little boxes. Some like Linkedin. Some love Twitter. Others may enjoy Facebook. The thing you'll find with most people is that they operate in the one social network that they enjoy, and wont move from that without a big push. For that reason finding ways top operate on different social media platforms will allow you to engage with users that sit in their little walled gardens of the networks that they feel comfortable in.
Being in many social networks can be a time consuming thing indeed. Logging in to each site and responding to messages, then moving on to the next and so on. Surely you have better things to do with your time! Auto posting to networks is your answer - there are many ways that you can get your blog updating Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Your Facebook Page for you business... etc, all at the same time with one click or one email.
As a starter for ten - start up a blog. Write on your blog on a regular basis (maybe just once a week) with content that will provide value for potential target market. Automatically, or manually, post a link to this post on your social networks. And keep going. Doing this will start to build up credibility for you in your field of expertise, you can then engage with those that forward your link onto others, people that comment on it and build relationships with people interested in what you do.
The other great thing about social media networking that I have found personally a great benefit to me and my business, is the potential for easy referrals. The eavesdropping I mentioned earlier, alerting me to people saying things like "I need this" "I need someone to help with that" has meant I was able to pass on the details of people and connect them together. The flip side is that I have been on the receiving end of positive referrals from people that have seen what I talk about, what I do and how I go about it, then passed people my way who they think could benefit from my help and assistance.
All in all the phenomenon of social networking is still in its infancy, even though there are so many people out there professing to be an expert or guru on Twitter or Facebook. It remains to be seen exactly which network will be the best for business and how they will develop in the future.
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Ant Hodges is a Director for toinfinity, a specialist online marketing company based in Swindon UK, helping ecommerce clients and those in the financial services industry, develop more profitable internet based marketing activity for their business.
For more information and assistance mapping out the best social media roadmap for your business, contact Ant at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01793 238697.
Ant has been on Twitter since 27th November 2008, is ranked 38,185 in the world and today has over 4,120 followers. Follow him at www.twitter.com/anthodges and you can follow toinfinity at www.twitter.com/_toinfinity