Social Media - You Had Better Learn to Love It!

Have you tweeted today?

One of my favorite expressions is: "All because you can, doesn't mean you should". But when it comes to social media, such as Twitter, Linkedin, Myspace, Facebook and a few dozen others, this expression should be changed to read; "All because you don't, doesn't mean you shouldn't."

Social media sites are becoming one of the fastest growing and most powerful marketing tools available to online and "offline" businesses alike.

Warning: All because you don't understand how social media works or the true value does not excuse you from participating. Here is a simple fact of this medium, and one few social practitioners will tell you. The disadvantages of NOT being on these popular sites are FAR greater than the advantages of using them.

According to numerous media reports as much as 92% of all people get the majority of their news online. Whether you realize it yet or not, your prospects spend more time online than in any other activity, save maybe television viewing and that gap is closing.

In a previous article we discussed the practice of consumers using the web to get information about your firm. Many prospects will use the net the locate contractors, get feedback from customers via chat rooms and service referral sites and even cost compare.

So suffice it to say you simply have to do this stuff (If you just can't stomach the idea of updating your Facebook page daily or posting a "Tweet" from time to time, turn the project over to your teenager. They love it and understand it better than you ever will anyway)     

As of this writing there are around two dozen social sites. But for the sake of space let's look at the top three. They are, and in no order of significance since they all serve different purposes, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

All three do have a unique platform, but they all serve a common purpose - to locate, nurture and leverage relationships with the people most likely to do business with you.

Despite the designation "Social Media" there is certainly a business application on all these sites, even the supposedly social only Facebook, so let's start there. 

The Facebook platform was designed primarily for people to "interact" online. A basic subscription is free. On Facebook you can share comments of primarily a personal nature, post pictures, links to videos and audio files, play games either solo or with groups, and basically keep your circle of friends up to speed with what is going on in your life.

 In recent years people have begun to post links to political and business sites as well as use it to find employment. Today the site also allows you to create your own private or public groups where people can join to find out more about your ideas, products, services and interests.

Facebook, like others does not allow you to link up with just anyone. This site is, in theory at least, designed for people you actually know personally. Of course this can include your customers. The great thing about Facebook is it allows you do something no other traditional marketing technique will - let your customers to get to know you personally while maintaining a measure of separation.

But don't discount the power of Facebook. More than ever customers and prospects alike are demanding a certain level of familiarity with the contractors they are considering. Facebook allows you to connect on that more important than ever personal level.

Next comes probably the most misused and misunderstood of all the social platforms, Twitter.  Essentially Twitter is a micro blog that allows users to communicate in 140 character snippets called "tweets".

Many tweets contain links to articles, videos and other online files that your followers may find of interest or even simple tips. One Twitter user - a chef from Nashville - uses Twitter to post excerpts from his favorite recipes each day. People sign up to follow his tweets which is free to everyone, so they can put the recipes together and use them. This is a wonderful example of both showcasing your services and maintaining top of mind awareness.

Contractors and remodelers could do much the same thing by giving topical daily remodeling advice or tips.  I use Twitter to post the upcoming guests on my radio program and even encourage feedback and questions. You could use one of the online survey sites to create your own customer poll and direct your followers to it via Twitter.

Editor's Note: Check out ForConstructionPros.com on Twitter

Once you're signed up - let all your customers know you post daily tips and specials on Twitter and watch your followers and customer base grow. By the way if you have a blog - you do have one don't you? - you can direct your Twitter account to scroll on your blog. People that find you online via your blog will then see your tweets too and in real time. (You can see an example of this at work on my blog. Simply go to http://www.exploitthemedia.blogspot.com)

Last let's take a look at LinkedIn. LinkedIn makes no bones about it - "we're here to do business". This platform is very similar to Facebook but is all about locating business contacts. While your customers can find more information about you here, this site is more about locating other business people, whether in your industry or not, that can help you find a variety of services, vendors, capital, training programs etc.

Colleagues can leave recommendations about you - as a matter of fact it's wise to seek these out. You can post Power Point Slide shows, join industry groups, locate the power brokers in your industry or town and seek an introduction. There is a whole host of opportunities.
   
On LinkedIn the people that you know ask for permission to link to you. If you accept they become your first level contacts. But now you have access to their first level contacts. This exponential component to LinkedIn can allow you to put your name in front of literally millions of people in a matter of weeks.

While most puritan LinkedIn users preach only allowing people you know to link to you, you can grow your list very swiftly by joining groups such as Top Linked to explode your data base. It too is free. Check it out at http://www.TopLinked.com

As you can see the opportunities are mindboggling and growing daily. It's easy to get confused by the best thing you can do is just to jump on in. In time it will all make sense.     

 Michael Hart is a speaker, author, talk radio host and shameless publicity hound. His marketing and publicity strategies have been featured in numerous magazines including: Selling, Forbes, Entrepreneur, Sales and Marketing Executive Report and many others. He is the host the Michael Hart Radio Show which can be heard on several stations across the US. He can be reached at (866) 238 5294 or michael@MichaelHartSpeaks.com.

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