People often talk about how social media is a waste of time because they think of how much time it sucks from them, and they realize it's actually taking away from time they should be working as opposed to increasing their bottom line. To those people, I say "stop wasting time" and learn how to effectively use social media for profit.
Social media is a powerful means of communication and if used correctly can help you grow your business profitably. The key is that you actually need to learn what to do on these sites, or you really will end up wasting time simply reading all about what everyone else is doing.
The goals of social media marketing are to:
Connect: First with those you know, then with those you don't know (preferably through those you know).
Engage & Influence: Share information with these folks (your fans and followers) sharing your expertise as well as other industry insights. This will establish and/or reinforce that you are the expert in your field.
Convert: Here is where many people miss out. As you are engaging folks, you have to be aware of buying signals. Those are usually in the form of questions. Always answer the question and then offer to contact your prospect to follow up or offer up your contact information in case they have further questions. This is step that many peolpe leave out. I decribe it as "Internet dating without giving out your phone number." If you did this, you would never have a real date and this is why many people who are engaging prospects don't turn them into paying customers.
Now that the goals are clear, let's talk a bit about strategy. It doesn't have to be hard, but it should be consistent. Here is my recommended five fold social media strategy. This is a general guide and should be adjusted for a specific business or market.
1. Blogging. This should be the starting point because it is how you share information. Ideally you should have your own blog (personal or company blog), and you should post at a minimum weekly, to keep people engaged. This way when you are sharing all of this cutting edge information about your field, it all links back to you. I recommend using the WordPress platform, as it is the best for leveraging search engines.
2. LinkedIn. Every business owner should be on LinkedIn, simply because it makes it easy for other professionals to recommend you. Invest some time every day building your network. Join some groups and contribute to the conversation (you can even share your blog content in the groups). Lastly, check out the Q&A section to see if people are asking questions you can answer. If you serve a Business to Business market, then you want to make your primary focus connecting with this community.
3. Twitter. Haivng success here comes down to doing the basics. Make good connections, share good content, and be good netizen (thank people for their re-tweet, etc). Also, learn to use Twitter search. Just do a search for what you do and see what comes up. Many times you can respond by messging the person to let them know you offer a solution that might be looking for.
4. Facebook. With all of the recent changes, I hate to say it but Facebook has lost a bit of appeal. I know many who have recently decided to give up on Facebook, and sadly they have not made it easier for business pages to be seen. I recommend testing the Facebook ads to see how that works for you. The results will be different for differnt types of businesses. For example if you are a cutting edge local web design company, you might find lots of people who need your services (I see lots of them advertise). If you serve a busines to consumer market, this is where you want to play to win.
5. YouTube. It has been estimated that over 50% of Internet traffic will be video by the end of 2012. I didn't say it, CISCO did. There is lots of opportunity to build your online footprint with video and video sharing happens often more rapidly than content sharing if the video is really hot. Here is a tip; if you have a smartphone, use it. It's what I refer to as a pocket video production studio.
The key to getting where you want to go is starting. If you already have the basics down, it might be time to sit down with a social media strategist and take it the next level.
Alright, now you've got a plan. No more wasting time on social media!