Gone are the days when having a highly ranked web site was enough to make waves and attract new business. Just like people, company brands now need to communciate, to "network" and to reach out beyond their normal comfort zone.
This shift means moving from the two dimensional apect of a static web site, to the three dimensional realm of engagement and interaction. It starts by identifying the type of social media sites that best reach your target audience. Here's how to start...
1. Fish where the fish are
For business to consumer brands, it can begin with a presence on Facebook or Pinterest. For business to business brands, Linkedin can provide fertile ground. For solepreneurs, authors, speakers and life coaches, developing a following on Twitter or Quora can prove effective. For blue collar trades, a YouTube channel can showcase your know how and expertise. Find the site (or sites) that best match up with your customer base and focus your efforts there first. (You can check the availability of your company brand name at sites such as http://namechk.com.)
Spreading yourself too thin can prove inefficient and actually weaken your brand image. Go deeper with fewer sites to create real traction with your customers. Once you have a firm command of that media, then feel free to move on.
2. Establish a consistent brand voice
Before jumping into the conversation, read up and listen to what people (aka potential customers) are saying. Get a sense of the tone and scope of the conversations, topics, and information, as well as the pacing. Find your own style of communication that fits with your brand message. Some online companies such as Groupon, take a very informal and lighthearted approach to their interactions and copy. Others take the role of "trusted advisor," (espeically B2B companies.) Discuss internally which type of brand voice fits your organization best and develop your unique groove.
Whichever style you choose, remain consistent in your approach. Identify and empower people in your organization that understand the essence of your brand message to utilize social media as both a communication and customer feedback tool.
3. Go for quality not quantity
Sending out hundreds of random posts and tweets may seem proactive, but the point of social media is to be social - not profuse. That means interacting in a real way with real people. Make a point of highlighting helpful articles, acknowledging great insights, comments and feedback. Be generous in recognition and appreciation for those taking the time to interact.
Your business brand is not just your name and logo -- it's the actions you take, the words you speak and the tone you set that determines how people feel about your company. Give them a reason to share by creating an inviting and rewarding experience.
Finding the right balance
Extending your business brand from your home page into the social media mainstream can seem overwhelming. By identifying the sites that best match up with your core customers, and creating a clear, consistent presence, you can glean new customers, as well as new insights and feedback about your products and services. Slow and steady wins this race, so make the commitment to leave "home" and connect in new and potentially rewarding ways.
If you were hesitant to start out in social media, what were your first steps? What sites did you find most helpful? Which weren't helpful at all? Did any provide direct ROI for your time? Share your voice and join in the discussion.