When most people think of social media, they think of Facebook and Twitter. The impression is that these are places where teenagers and celebrities share photo's from nights on the town and whittle away hours on end, chatting with friends and strangers, sharing intimate details about their lives, which previosuly would have stayed behind closed doors.
Whilst undoubtedly there is a grain of truth in the myth, social media is much more than the common perception and offers businesses an unrivalled opportunity to increase their profile, build trust in their brand, position themselves as experts in their field, generate leads and interact with existing and potential customers alike in a cost-effective and efficient way.
Let us begin with the obvious; increased profile. Facebook alone has over 700 million individual profiles at the last count and the number is growing. A similar number are on Twitter and when you factor in the numbers on sites such as Google+, LinkedIn and the traffic frequenting YouTube everyday, you begin to realise the potential audience your business profile can reach. It is this audience size, which necessitates the need, not only to have a profile, but to manage it professionally. As someone once told us, you wouldn't let an intern put together a TV commercial for you, so don't let one publish messages on your behalf which have a potential audience of billions.
Other social media platforms such as the one created by EEDA, are used by businesses in the tendering process. Recently David Coulson from EEDA updated members of the Broadland
and Breckland business forums
, on how to register your business online for the chance to win some of the remaining London 2012 Olympic contracts. In his presentation David also informed our members that once the Olympics are run, Local Authorities, will be using the site in their own tendering processes
A social media presence can also boost your profile in other, less obvious ways, particularly in terms of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). When an individual searches for terms on Google or Yahoo, the search engines not only crawl websites, but social media sites. This is in part because the main search engines are owned by, or work in close partnership with, social media sites (for example Google own both Google+ and YouTube, while they are great friends with LinkedIn) and will thus naturally look to those sites first. Search engines also work by ascertaining the relevance of a term in relation to a search, to provide it's users with the most appropriate results. it does this by not only locating the terms by searched for but the context they are being used in. As such, social media sites, which by their definition are social, allow you to engage with the terms, in a way that the search engines love. If you are having a conversation about a great place to buy music, search engines will pick up on the context and point searches for "music stores" to the content. If you link these conversations back to your brand and your website, you can be onto a winner. Social media sites, also allow you another platform on which to post your news, events, offers and vacancies, all of which can link back to your main site, driving traffic back to your site.
It is this involvement in conversations, that also allow you the chance to increase the trust in your brand and position your brand as an expert in your industry. By providing authoritative answers to questions, not only are you interacting directly with potential customers as they look to validate purchasing decisions, you are boosting your SEO, meaning people with similar queries in the future, are likely to be pointed to your answers. If you aren't there to answer the questions, a competitor will be and their brand, not yours will be front and centre as people look to make a purchase. Done correctly, a social media campaign can thus position your brand as a market expert, increase your SEO and influence purchasing, generating leads, all in one fell swoop.
Despite it's growing importance, one of the biggest challenges facing businesses is time allocation and experience in navigating the internet, whilst still doing the day job. With more and more businesses are using social media and other websites to promote their business, you cannot afford to be left behind and it is not as expensive, time consuming or as painful as it might appear. Spending a short amount of time getting up to speed with it, will ensure your business reaps the benefits long term. If you are still unsure, do not have the time or would like a second opinion on the viability of your website which will include the loading of an EEDA web page for your business, if required, then give our Marketing Manager and Social Media guru, Andy at The Lively Crew a call on 01603 702374, or email firstname.lastname@example.org and he will be able to advise you on, how your business can quickly become more visible on the internet, how to set-up quick business profiles, and a hassle-free way to use the internet and social media as an ongoing marketing tool for your business.