24 tips for using social media in your business

1. Offer
a peek behind the scenes
.
Offering a sneak preview of new products,
services, or features online can help build demand and provide critical
feedback to help smooth the launch. For instance posts photos of new products
on
Flickr and
invites comments from customers.

2. Harness your expertise. It is
unlikely that your company’s white paper won’t go viral. But sharing knowledge
you’ve gathered through your trade can go a long way toward boosting your
brand.


3.
Demonstrate what your company does.
Because multimedia is so integral to social media, getting connected allows you
to express your company’s value proposition beyond words. Create a series of
videos showing your product in action.


4. Put your website’s content to work.
Want to draw more traffic to your website? Help spread the word by encouraging
visitors to share content they enjoy. Add pieces to
Digg allowing
others to share video links on the site. Another way is to promote the sharing
of your site’s content is to install a widget, such as AddThis, that makes
visitors able to share your site with their contacts at the click of their
mouse.  


5.
Be candid. In unsure economic
times, transparency goes a long way toward retaining and attracting customers.
Giving readers the scoop on your company blog is an easy way to keep the lines
of communication open.

6. But
be careful what you say about others.
 
Describing a supplier or rival business a “scam,” might result
in your receiving solicitors letters. While recounting negative experiences
with others won’t necessarily lead to a court battle, it’s best to steer clear
of name-calling.



7.

Interact with visitors—really.
Just putting up a blog,  a
Facebook
fan page
or open a Twitter account just fed by and RSS feed won’t do much good
if visitors sense the flow of conversation only goes one way.


8.

Don’t try to create a stand-in for
yourself
.
With all the other tasks required within your company, it’s
tempting to outsource managing your social media or even to try automating the
process. That can easily backfire, Sending automated welcome messages to new
followers on
Twitter
will quickly be found out and could be perceived to be spam.


9.

Don’t pretend to be someone else.
Thanks to IP address tracking, observers can also quickly tell when company
figureheads adopt fake identities for the sake of fluffing up their reputation.
Not only can the practice hurt your company’s reputation, it could also land
you in legal trouble.


11. Reward
customer loyalty.
Through social media, companies can not only run
promotions more frequently than coupons in the mail will permit but also devise
a more engaging campaign. Sprinkles Cupcakes, an American based bakery chain
uses
Twitter to send out daily promotional
offers. The tweets, which ask customers to whisper a “password” to
receive a free treat, have helped the company draw more than 17,000 followers.

12. See what
people are saying about you
.
A quick search for mentions of your
company on Facebook, Twitter, and
Yelp can yield a goldmine of information
concerning your reputation. 
Applications such as monitter and
Trackur
can help you keep track of the conversation across the Web.

13. Don’t go on
the defensive
.
A harsh rebuke of your business on sites like Yelp
can not only bruise your ego but also hurt your livelihood. But resist the
temptation to lash out in public. Respond to less-than-flattering comments and
encourages them to discuss them in person. And keep in mind that you can’t
please everyone.

14. Keep
customers in the loop
.
Frequently on the go? Twitter can help your
customers keep track of your latest destination. Keep followers constantly
informed of your location with real-time updates to manage customers expectations.

15. Find
potential customers
.
A quick keyword search can help you find
prospective customers who may not be aware of your company but could
nonetheless benefit from your product or service. Whilst we aren’t sure of any
UK based estate agents doing this yet, the New York real-estate management
company Rose Associates, generates 100 leads per month on Twitter for his
company simply by replying to users whose tweets include phrases such as
“moving to
New York City“.

16. Target your
online advertising
.
Both Facebook
and MySpace allow businesses to run
ads that attract specific groups of users based on what information they
include in their profiles.

17. See where
your customers are
.
A growing number of social networks are
designed specifically for users on the go, and some, such as the mobile
application
Foursquare,
offer tools specifically for businesses. Starbucks for instance uses Foursquare
to gather data on how many people visit its locations and sends promotional
offers to frequent customers.

18. Let
customers help each other out
.
Including a customer forum on your
website or social network profile can help enhance your customer service while
building a sense of community.
Get
Satisfaction
is a great site that offers dedicated spaces for customer
service forums.

19. Help others
promote you
.
Social media can help you find passionate customers
who are more than willing to spread the word about your company.

20. Cultivate
relationships that lead to sales
.
Get to know customers so well
that they not only initiate conversations through Twitter, but if you are a
restaurant or café periodically field menu requests through Twitter to engage
with your customers.

21. But don’t
promote too aggressively
.
While social network users have proven to
be open to marketing—especially if it involves a discount—they’re not flocking
to Facebook or
MySpace to
hear sales pitches. If your profile or blog reads like an ad, it will turn
visitors away.

22. Find
influential people in your industry
.
In addition to maintaining
your blog, make sure to keep your eyes open to what others in the industry are
buzzing about online. Reading independent blogs and joining industry groups on
Facebook and
LinkedIn is a good way to
join the larger conversation.

23. Boost your
credibility by helping others
.
For service providers, establishing
yourself as an expert in the field can bring in a steady stream of business.
LinkedIn’s Answers feature enables
business owners to do just that.

24. Look for
talent off the beaten path
.
While LinkedIn is specifically geared
toward professional use, some companies have found other social networks to be
effective recruiting tools as well. Look at status updates on Facebook,
LinkedIn, and
Plaxo, which aggregates
contact information from social networks.

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