Expanding Your
Business Network:

Social Media...Curse or Blessing?

I

n today’s fast paced business climate, time is a premium commodity. Whereas we enjoy the social cup of coffee with a colleague or an extended lunch with a client, deadlines and other commitments often encroach on that face-to-face time that cements relationships. Hence the rise in social media—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn and a host of lesser venues.

Considering the speed and ease these venues allow us to communicate, it is no wonder that they have risen to such popularity in both our personal and  professional lives. It is only in recent years that social media has become a part of our business marketing strategy. And, if not used properly, it can become an albatross around the neck—absorbing time that can become consuming and costly.

Let’s back up and take a look at the purpose of social media and what it means to us as a business community. First and foremost social media was developed to give us an opportunity to connect to people. As individuals, the focus has always been family and close friends. However, in today’s social climate that focus has expanded to include friends of friends, extended family, events and causes. As business owners, it can sometimes become a thin line as to whether we are engaged as a business professional or an individual.

It is that “thin line” that can become a blessing or curse. How do we manage social media to our benefit? Can we grow our network through social media and still maintain the personal aspect of our business culture? Is our network valued in terms of “numbers” or “quality”? When is it time to unplug and become physically engaged with those who are critical to our success?

After speaking to an array of sources, we came up with some tips that can help with the social media dilemma that can plague a business.

Keep your social media manageable.

When is comes to business postings, social media experts suggest that Facebook posts be limited to no more than twice daily.  Some even suggest 3 posts per week. Posts can be scheduled ahead of time to become public at designated times. Keep in mind, every time you post, you lose visibility to previous content. So, if it’s something you want to gain some mileage—refrain from posting on top of it for a while. 

Measure your results.

Some venues are better than others in letting you see analytics associated with your posts. Where possible, pay attention to the analytics—they will tell you which posts received the best interaction and which ones fell on deaf ears. Either way, it’s a learning curve. Pay attention to patterns—they will tell you what your audience wants to see from you.

Know the audience associated with each social media venue used.

Just because it’s an available avenue for social media marketing, doesn’t mean it’s good for your business. Do some research and pay attention to the age, economic, lifestyle and other demographics of the audience reached by the various social media outlets.

Maintain the personal element in your marketing efforts.

One study we looked at shows that social media postings should be 70% entertaining. That does not translate into having to be funny. It means, business postings can carry a high impact message, but be mindful of the way you say it. As in all relationships, rude, crude, hateful, obnoxious postings can be extremely damaging to your marketing efforts. Keep it pleasantly warm and professional.

Grow the numbers and cultivate the quality.

Remember, social media is all about connecting. Go ahead and invite those you haven’t physically met yet into your network—just as you would at any networking event. Once that person is a member of your social media network, spend some time to get to know them. Read their posts, interact appropriately and always remember - these are possible future customers. If not customers, they are the source of future referrals.

Take time to unplug.

It’s important to realize that social media is an extension of other marketing efforts. It is not and was never purposed to be your primary marketing tool. Make it a habit and priority to unplug and find effective opportunities for face-to-face encounters with both your online and offline networks. It is through these personal encounters that others determine how much they are valued.

Be purposeful.

Realize that what you post is a reflection of yourself as well as your business culture. Make sure your social media delivers the right message and positions your business according to the same standards as your other marketing efforts.

Have fun!

Social media is akin to a 24/7 social event. You would never dream of going to a party where you expected to be bored, ignored or treated rudely. Follow the same rules for social media. Embrace a culture of creativity and have fun with your social media efforts. Curse or blessing. The choice belongs to every business owner. Used properly, social media is a great addition to your other marketing efforts. Have fun with it...but be savvy about it!  

 

by STEPHANIE NUGENT

Stephanie Nugent is the President of CyberSpyder Marketing Service, a local web design and internet marketing firm. In 2000, she had a dream: to use her talents to help small and medium-sized businesses claim their place on the world wide web. She and her team work hard to do just that for over 200 local businesses.

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