Social Media Uses
You know you're supposed to be using social media to promote your company, but for many business owners it's not clear how to put social media to work. We asked six social media experts for advice on how you should be using social media right now.
Communicating with customers
Client communication at one time relied solely on a phone call or a letter, but social media has unlocked new doors.<p>
Deborah Sweeney, CEO of <a href=http://mycorporation.com target=”_blank”>MyCorporation.com</a>, said the top advantages of using social media as a platform to communicate with customers are the opportunity to give a voice to an otherwise faceless brand or company and, with the advent of mobile options, the chance to respond instantly.<p>
"You can address concerns or issues no matter where you are as soon as you can, and in a personable voice that’s relatable to the audience, which in turn is reassured that someone is listening to them and making their needs met," Sweeney said.<p>
When it comes to communicating on social media, Sweeney said it's important to know the target audience. The writing must be conversational, on point, timely and short. And the key to getting customers to click on a link is to write a title that will resonate with them – or, at the very least, catch them off-guard and persuade them to drop everything and read the post.<p>
"Social media isn’t going to go away, and any company that expects to either ignore using the platform or the needs of people who have concerns will not succeed in the long run," Sweeney said.
Social media is providing huge opportunities for companies looking for employees. <p>
Gal Almog, CEO of the recruiting network <a href=http://realmatch.com target=”_blank”>RealMatch.com</a>, says there are several ways in which social media can help a business find new workers.<p>
The first is by using the brand's online image to attract the type of employees it is looking for.<p>
"It’s important for businesses to show prospective employees why they would want to work there, and social media platforms are a great way to get the word out," Almog said. "Companies looking to hire exceptional people can promote a positive image and demonstrate their commitment to employees on social media platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook."<p>
Social media platforms are also an emerging way for human resources professionals to source new candidates. <p>
"LinkedIn offers a huge database for recruiting, with millions of profiles and a lot of intelligence businesses that are looking for the right people need," Almog said. <p>
But he noted it can be tricky to find the right employee among such a large pool of candidates across various social media sites. "For optimal sourcing, recruiters need an all-in-one solution that transcends platforms and job sites in the search for active and passive job-seekers," he said.
With studies showing the vast majority of consumers now use search engines, social communities and feedback sites to understand a business's commitment to service before they make brand or product decisions, customer service consultant <a href=http://bradcleveland.com target=”_blank”>Brad Cleveland</a> believes we're seeing the emergence of the greatest customer movement in history.<p>
"Bad experiences end up on blogs, tweets, video posts and rating sites," Cleveland said. "Good experiences also spread quickly, and organizations that consistently deliver great service can build amazing brand loyalty."<p>
Cleveland said it's important to start by listening to customers and finding out who is having discussions about the company – and where they're having them. <p>
"I do not recommend trying to be everywhere and do everything," Cleveland said. "Through observation, you'll learn where you can be most effective."<p>
Once businesses get started, Cleveland said, they can craft a more sophisticated approach geared around specific criteria, such as a customer's influence, root cause analysis and marketplace opportunities.<p>
"Use what you learn to improve your products, services and processes," Cleveland said. "This happens through capturing and sharing input that is helpful to the rest of the organization."
When it comes to potential crisis situations, businesses should use social media as an early-warning system and be part of the response, according to Helio Fred Garcia, president of the crisis management firm <a href=http://logosconsulting.com target=”_blank”>Logos Consulting Group</a>.<p>
Garcia believes businesses must show they care about the situation and the well-being of their customers.<p>
"The key is to notice quickly that stakeholders expect action, and then to take that action and communicate promptly," Garcia said.<p>
He points to the controversy last fall surrounding a J.C. Penney T-shirt. The shirt was adorned with a saying in whimsical typeface: "I'm too pretty to do homework, so my brother has to do it for me." <p>
The shirt was immediately criticized by many parents, who said it sent the wrong message to girls. An online campaign to get the shirts removed from the store chain generated more than 1,600 signatures.<p>
Garcia said J. C. Penney pulled the shirt by the end of the day and posted messages on its own social media pages saying the garment delivered an inappropriate message and its sales were immediately being discontinued. <p>
"Once stakeholders saw the retailer doing the responsible thing, the controversy abated and the company suffered no meaningful harm to its reputation," Garcia said.
For any business serious about implementing social media as a marketing tool, a "mobile first" mind-set is critical, according to Alex Kutsishin, a mobile Web expert who is president of <a href=http://fiddlefly.com target=”_blank”>FiddleFly</a>.<p>
A look at the social media landscape shows every major network has embraced mobile as a must, and so have users. Kutsishin said the majority of Facebook users are now accessing the network through mobile devices, with over 78 million unique users monthly, and sites such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest are seeing their user bases follow the same trend.<p>
"The mobile platform allows for a level of freedom and flexibility that makes a perfect complement to social networking," Kutsishin said. "Businesses that are able to implement mobile-optimized websites and mobile Web apps that link to well-designed social media campaigns should see huge gains in both their existing customer bases and their future profits."
While the importance of customer loyalty has long been known, Brooks McMahon, senior vice president of <a href=http://marchex.com target=”_blank”>Marchex Small Business Marketing Products</a>, said understanding what loyalty means in this digital age is a new imperative.<p>
He said the key is knowing that social media sites are where today's customers are. <p>
"Simply, businesses need to be where their customers are," McMahon said. "You should be listening to what your customers are saying."<p>
Lending that ear and responding to concerns can help businesses turn clients into repeat customers.<p>
And forging good relationships with customers online can turn clients into a free form of social media-based advertising for businesses, McMahon said. <p>
Through positive reviews, tweets and blogs, current customers now have the ability to help businesses generate new customers as never before, McMahon observed.<p>
"Customer acquisition in most cases is very, very expensive," McMahon said. "But those are all free."<br><br>
<i>Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance business and technology writer who has worked in public relations and spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter. You can reach him at <a href=mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org>email@example.com</a> or follow him on Twitter @<a href=http://twitter.com/cbrooks76 target=”_blank”>cbrooks76.</a></i>
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