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How social media can help create a voice for your business

This series of blog posts is aimed at helping you understand social media and how you can get the most out of it for your business.

How social media can help create a voice for your business

The chances are that you’re aware of social media and are probably already using some sites to keep in touch with your friends. That’s how networks like Facebook originally came into being, after all. But are you using social media to help your business?

Social media has revolutionised the way people communicate – and do business. It’s no longer simply about ‘pushing’ out your company information via printed material or your website. It’s about interacting with people online: joining in the conversation and getting people actively engaged with your brand.

That’s why it’s often referred to as social networking. And most businesses will benefit from social networking as much as they do from face-to-face networking. People and conversations make businesses work, after all.

Why get involved in social media for your business?

Worldwide, both Facebook and YouTube currently have over 800 million active users, Twitter has 140 million and 150 million movers and shakers use LinkedIn. In Britain alone, 37 million people are actively engaged in social networks.

With impressive numbers like that, the question should really be: can you afford not to be involved? As I said earlier, social media is about encouraging people to join in the conversation and shout about your brand. It’s a great way to keep in touch with and reach out to more customers, helping your marketing and ultimately helping to drive up sales. And what’s more, it doesn’t have to cost you a penny.

Here are the main benefits to businesses of using social media:

1. Spreading the word about your business

You’ve got a website? And some brochures, leaflets and other marketing materials to tell people about your business? So why not use social media to extend your reach to a much bigger audience? In many ways, social media can be an extension of your existing marketing activities. And if you’re not yet doing any marketing, social networks are a simple and effective way to start.

2. Getting others talking about you

One of the main benefits of social media is the ability to share content with others. Talking to your customers online will get them talking about you to the people in their networks. When you post something that is interesting and relevant to your audience, they will share it with their followers, who may in turn share it with their followers, and so on.

3. Winning new business

In the ‘real world’ many new customers will be referred to you by an existing customer. The same thing happens online in social networks. And because you’re reaching a bigger audience with your online conversations, more people will hear about you and want to do business with you.

4. Helping your search engine optimisation

One reason above all others to get involved in social media is because it helps your search engine optimisation. Increasingly, search engines like Google and Bing are incorporating data from social networking sites into their results. When thinking about your web design and development, associating your website with your social networks will help to bring you higher up the search engine rankings, making it easier for people to find you. A no-brainer!

5. It’s free!

Signing up to social networking sites is completely free. Sure, you’ll have to invest some time in setting it all up and keeping the conversation flowing. And you may find you want to pay someone to help you with it or to subscribe to the enhanced services of a social media management tool but you don’t need to. All of the social networking sites are free and most of the management tools, like Hootsuite, offer an entry-level free service, which is good enough for most small businesses.

A word of warning

This all sounds great, but where’s the catch, I hear you ask? Well, social media can absorb a lot of your time if you’re not careful. And of course, everything you post is a public record – so be careful what you say!

Rather than attacking it blindly, it’s much better to have a social media plan that sets out what you want to achieve. That way, you’re more likely to get the most out of it and see real improvements to your business.

I’ll talk you through how to create an effective social media plan in my next post.

About the author

Jane Rogers is a public relations and communications expert, with over 13 years’ experience helping businesses large and small to raise their profile with cost-effective, clear and credible publicity. She advises clients on social media, as well as traditional media, and helps them create compelling content to create a voice for their business.