Important Benefits of Social Media
I use social media- a lot. Not only do I use it for myself to maintain personal connections with friends, family, clients, colleagues and old acquaintances, I also use it to promote my business and my clients. The benefits of social media for both my personal life and business are obvious to me. But I’m finding out as I talk with some in the small business community that they are not aware of social media’s many benefits or sold on its effectiveness. So I’ve decided to do a little research and write some articles presenting the benefits of social media. Here is a recent article from my December 2009 newsletter listing what I believe are the top 10 benefits of social media.
The first major benefit of social media is that it brings awareness. It is a low-cost way to get your name or the name of your organization on the web and into the minds of customers, patrons, and prospects. Anyone can set up an account on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Merchant Circle, Plaxo and dozens of other sites free of charge. The only cost involved is the cost of your time.
Identify Customer and Prospect Wants and Needs
Once you have established a presence in social media your business can connect with and stay in touch with customers to identify wants, needs, and problems- and communicate your solutions. Ask questions to find out what customers are looking for. Create forums on your Facebook fan page for fans to speak their minds about likes and dislikes. Since space is limited on social media sites (especially Twitter) when you need more detailed information, create surveys and questionnaires with a free tool such as Zoomerang or Survey Monkey and simply post the link on social media sites asking people to take the survey. Used with survey tools, social media is a great place to watch trends and get feedback from customers and potential customers. Bonus tip- if you want to get a bigger picture of the marketplace by knowing what your competitions’ customers want, check your competitor’s sites. Follow them on Twitter and join their Fan pages. Sign up for their emails. This is a good way to pick up on trends and get ideas for new product or service offerings. It’s also a great way to discover how you compare to your competition so you can know how to further differentiate yourself from them.
The third major benefit is that you can monitor what your customers and others are saying about your brand. Sites like Yelp let customers post reviews of businesses. You can use Yelp and similar sites to find out what is being said about your company or brand and respond through social media. In fact, some companies are using Twitter as a customer support platform because of its ease of use and real-time updates. Likewise, you can monitor what your customers and others are saying about your competition’s brand. These types of conversations used to go on out of listening range of business owners and managers. Rarely did they know what a customer said about them- good or bad. However now, with so many taking their thoughts, complaints and comments online, we have the privilege of being able to “listen” in on these conversations and respond accordingly.
Increase Online Exposure
A fourth major benefit of social media is increasing your online exposure. The Google and Bing search engines pick up Facebook and Twitter posts and updates and include them in search results. If your website in referenced in your Facebook or Twitter profile (and it should) people who visit your profiles can see and click your website link and be taken directly to your business’ website, increasing your traffic directly. Indirectly, these searches put extra eyes on your business name, your name, and/or your brand name thereby increasing your exposure. Additionally links from social media sites back to your organization’s website often increase your website’s page ranking by being associated with a well-known and trusted website such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Merchant Circle. Kind of like the instant boost in credibility or coolness nerdy high school kids get when a member of the cool crowd accepts him into his group.
Generate Targeted Traffic
A related benefit is that businesses and other organizations can generate traffic to their website, blog, or events- by posting relevant information and links to your website, blog, etc. right in their social media posts. Twitter is a terrific tool for this and I use this when appropriate. Not every post can contain a link to your stuff or a plug for it or you won’t have fans and followers for very long. But after you have earned the right to promote yourself this is an excellent way to let people know about your business or cause.