Before outlining our ideas to get started with online and social media promotion, we'd like to share a couple of videos that showcase the influence of social media and provide a visual description of social media. Sayitvisually.com's video highlights that the key to social media is the 1:1 relationship -- emphasizing the conversations we have at a personal level.
Now that you are convinced that social media is the right way for you to promote your business, your first action step would be to set up accounts (profiles and pages) for you business on the major social networking sites that generate the most traffic:
- http://www.facebook.com (set up a personal profile for yourself as well as a page and a group for your business)
- http://www.youtube.com (create an account where you can showcase your business through videos)
- http://www.twitter.com (set up a "handle" that you can use to "tweet" about specific topics and "mention" others)
- http://www.linkedin.com (create a personal/professional profile and also a company profile tied to your personal one)
- https://plus.google.com (add connections to "circles" and separate them based on their relationship to you)
Once you've set yourself up on the major social sites, you may want to explore other networking sites and create accounts at additional sites such as those listed here: http://www.focus.com/fyi/50-social-sites-every-business-needs-presence.
Also, keep an eye out for other new or less widely publicized social media sites that may help you develop key relationships that can help you expand your business. For example, we like:
- http://www.mightybell.com (create and participate in "experiences" that are generated by other users, and "smile")
- http://chime.in (find people with similar interests, join communities, and view "chimelines")
- http://www.meetup.com (discover local groups with similar interests and participate in online and in-person "meetups")
- http://www.quora.com (ask questions to a community of connected users, and follow specific topics relevant to you)
You can use other online tools to monitor, manage and grow your social media accounts. Resources include:
- https://www.socialoomph.com (automate messages and follows on Twitter -- thanks to the free Twitter training at http://jeffknowles.socialmediaautomation.com for sharing this resource)
- http://www.twiends.com (find Twitter users with similar interests as you, and exchange follows)
- http://sproutsocial.com (monitor all your social media accounts in one place)
- http://www.klout.com (gauge your level of influence based on your social media activity)
- There are also applications and communities on Facebook that you can explore to expand your presence there.
Once you have all your accounts set up, you can use a number of techniques to engage your audience on the various sites (we'll discuss some of these techniques in another post). We also suggest that you consider placing ads online such through popular services like Google, Yahoo, and Facebook Ads. Often you can get free "ad credit" to test out these services. For example, American Express is offering small business owners $100 in free Facebook ad credit through their page, which is creating a buzz around the upcoming "Small Business Saturday" on November 26, 2011 (see details at http://www.facebook.com/SmallBusinessSaturday).
Finally, we want to remind you again that the key to social media is still the 1:1 relationship -- and the heart of your business is your relationships with your customers and partners. By building strong relationships, you will be able to establish a trusted presence online and those who know you will want to share their relationship with you with others who are in their networks.