To Use or Not to Use: Social Media and Business
If you are like most entrepreneurs, social media is something that seems extremely confusing, and you may find yourself wondering if and why you should learn about social networking sites. Many people don’t realize that taking time to learn a little about social networking could increase revenue. You could potentially gain more clients, get people talking, make new contacts, and gain fresh perspective on how to improve your business. If the words twitter, “Tweet”, “Like”, and “Poke” still have your mind reeling, here are a few basic steps to get you started.
Best fit for your needs.
Still wondering if social media is really necessary to improve your business? Consider your audience. If your clients or potential clients are mostly people over the age of 65, odds are that social media may not be your most useful tool. However, it is a FREE (how many marketing tools can claim that?) and extremely quick, depending on how deep you want to dive into it. The next decision is which social media tool is best for you and your company. According to a recent Drake Software survey of over 1,200 tax professionals, Facebook (57.7%) and LinkedIn (50.2%) are the top two most popular venues being used by tax professionals today, with Twitter following in third. First consider your target audience, and then decide which social media outlet is best for you. Facebook is great for consumer sales, Twitter is best for promoting short blurbs about your services to potential clients, and LinkedIn is great for business-to-business sales of products or services.
Setting up a social media account is a fairly simple process, and generally takes less than ten minutes. On Facebook, a company can create a “page”, which allows people to search for it, like it, comment, and see updates that are posted on that page. This means that if you create a Facebook page for your company, you can post specials, deals, updates and new products/services for everyone to see. Once someone has “liked” your page (by simply clicking a button with a “thumbs up”) they can receive notifications whenever your post to your company’s page. Post pictures of events, products, the sales team, or the company picnic, allowing the viewer to connect. Promote new items with pictures including a description, allowing people to comment .This provides free and easy feedback.
Twitter is a venue that most people may still have trouble understanding. While “tweet” and “follow” may seem like obscure terms that don’t apply to your business, learning more about Twitter could be helpful for your company. Setting up a Twitter account is fairly simple. However, few small businesses know how to properly utilize all that Twitter has to offer. As of July 2012, Twitter had 517 million accounts worldwide, with 141.8 million of those being in the U.S. This is a HUGE market to promote your company or services, and Twitter even offers promotional services. For a fee, you can get your tweets promoted, meaning they will automatically show up at the top of everyone’s news feed. That means those one or two sentences that you put about you or your business will be seen by literally millions of people, with a click of a button. That type of marketing has never been available, especially to small businesses, until social media caught on.
Did I mention it’s free?
Josh Drake, Vice President of Education and Marketing at Drake Software, explains the main reason why he uses social networking so often. “I love social media. It’s great because it’s free. At first, you have to build followers and likes, and once you do that you can put your name out there without driving people nuts with specials, etc. However, if you can do that well and get people to interact with your social media, it can be a very powerful and FREE tool for your business,” he said. Part of being successful is knowing how to utilize the tools that are available. Over the past five years, social networking has exploded among the general population, causing liking, tweeting, following, poking, and instagraming to become household terms. .
Another useful social media tool is a blog. A well-written blog that posts fairly often can help customers feel like they are being kept up to date on the inner workings of a business. Posts do not necessarily have to be long or detailed; a simple paragraph once or twice a week can be a very useful tool. One of the main benefits of a blog is that readers can comment with their ideas and opinions directly onto a post. You can receive feedback and gain fresh perspectives from clients; all while keeping up costumer service by helping customers stay up to date with your company.
Keep your friends close, but your competition closer
Keeping an eye on the competition is an additional benefit. Browsing through social media may provide ideas on utilizing these social outlets ... Has your competitor created a Facebook page or Twitter account? How often are they posting updates? Pay special attention to the feedback your competitors are receiving. Are people annoyed by how often they are posting? Do they use different advertising techniques (i.e. giveaways, prizes, etc.) and do they appear to be working?
Good business practice
Now that we’ve covered the basics of social media, what about good business practice? Remember to connect and engage with people, but don’t bombard them with pitches right away. If someone sees daily updates about the same product or service, they will quickly start to ignore them, or even unsubscribe from your posts. Keep personal messages to a minimum, Sites like LinkedIn offer great business-to-business opportunities, but there’s no need to start up a casual conversation right away. Be aware of your audience, and don’t lose sight of your focus. Maintain a common goal, and it can be a very helpful tool.
For more information on Social Media and the Tax Professional, download a free Infographic here.