While there are different things to talk about for each of the individual businesses, the basic usage really remains the same – only the conversations are different. The ‘goal’ with social media is about creating relationships, not simply putting advertising out there over and over.
Recently we were selected as one of the Top 60 Business profiles on Twitter by other users that was organized by kBuzz Marketing – I guess we got more attention from being mentioned in the recent NYT’s article about how small businesses are using social media than I had realized.
I think the most often asked question I get from small businesses I work with is “how do you do it?” and it dawned on me how misunderstood much of this is – needlessly.
Using social media in business really isn’t such a new concept in the least bit – only the tools to use are new. Every direct sales businessperson I’ve ever met over my working life did social networking – at the Rotary meetings, Realtor’s open houses, the country club, Chamber of Commerce or on the golf course. Insurance & real estate brokers, attorneys & doctors, the local CPA all were out in the world interacting with other people and those connections led to new customers and clients.
All this Web 2.0 social media has done is 1) made the places we can interact with others much, much bigger and 2) allowed us to narrow down the people we’d like to interact with with various search functions that let us find people with similar interests. The rest of it is combining what we’ve all been doing in our professional lives along with learning some of the new technologies that help make it easier.
Part of figuring out the new computer tools is obviously what sites to go to, how to sign up and fill in a profile and how to keep your information up-to-date. But I think the bigger part of it is making the the connection that you have to use these technologies the same way you would in person.
I watch people using Twitter or Facebook as though it’s just like a newspaper ad and just shake my head. If they’re simply putting out ad after ad, no one is going to want to follow them – they’ll flip the channel the same way they do on their TV’s. The “correct” etiquette isn’t complicated to figure out at all – if you wouldn’t stand in the lobby of your country club or any other social gathering of people and say it – then you shouldn’t say it in your online social gatherings either. Can you imagine standing up during your local Lion’s club meeting and shouting out “All our summer dresses are on sale this week – 25% off “?
Sure there are times where you could say that to some of the people within earshot, once you’ve established yourself that you’re part of the social community for reasons that go beyond simply making a buck off of them. You have to establish genuine relationships before you’ll be able to build sales.
When I strike up a conversation with someone online, it’s because they’ve said something I found interesting or they’ve asked a question that I may be able to answer – a particular wine recommendation for the dinner they’re planning, activities that they may want to do while stayiing in our little mountain resort village.
If they visit our webpages because of those conversations and choose to become a customer, that’s great. They’ll also stop into the wine shop to have conversations in person (and those who taste some of the wine flights normally will find a bottle or two that they’ll get to enjoy later). Part of the networking will continue online if they continue the conversation and keep talking not only to us, but as their followers and friends get to read the interaction as well. Some will put information out there recommending your business to others (and they’ll be much more inclined to share all the dirt if they have had a bad experience)
We’ve had almost a 12% increase in business over last year at the wine shop – I can attribute almost every bit of that to Social Media – it’s pretty easy to track because they’re such interactive mediums. We’ve also had bookings at the Inn from direct Twitter conversations and also people that we’ve talked with online who’ve recommended us to their friends.
In this economy, to be able to use these free tools and actually increase business is a must do for any small business in my opinion.