Social networking is a powerful tool, used by people and businesses alike to communicate with others around the world.  From your Aunt Gertrude in Warwick to Ashton Kutcher in Hollywood, it seems like everyone has a social network profile (if not three or four!!).  The popularity of these sites continues to grow, with Facebook recently gaining over 500 million users and Twitter breaking the 300 million mark.  Thus, it is no surprise that businesses have caught on to the marketing potential that exists on social network sites. While there is no mystery algorithm or special blend of online/offline marketing, there are certain things companies can do to improve their social network profiles. Below are some helpful tips on achieving a successful social media presence:

Social networking is important for any online marketing strategy

Don’t treat social media marketing like other forms of marketing. Many companies are quick to assume that social media is a great way to send out marketing messages to people who have chosen to get them. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Social networks were developed in order to create and build relationships, and businesses thrive best when they adhere to these principles. People have linked to your business’s profile because they like or are interested in what you offer, not because they like your advertising. It’s important to keep in mind that social networks have only recently opened up to businesses, so be wary of advertising too much on your profile (the occasional special offer is welcome, too much more may be viewed as spam). If followers get to know you and trust your organisation, chances are you will come to mind when they need your product or service.

Do put in the time. Although updating a Facebook status or writing a Tweet may only take a minute, your business should dedicate time to developing its online presence.  Not only does this include regularly updating statuses, but also appropriate content such as images (portfolio, staff events, etc) and links.  Take time out to find relevant news articles that people would be interested in and share these sources through your profile. This will allow you to stand out as an industry expert and a source of knowledge.

Don’t treat your business profile like your own personal account.
Your company’s profile is exactly that, a place for regularly updating people on the business.  So while your clients may enjoy a bit of gossip regarding the company Christmas party, this isn’t appropriate for the company profile. Keep it professional. However…

Do give your updates a bit of personality. Although your connections are interested in your business (they are following you, after all), they don’t necessarily only want to hear about your products.  In order to hold on to followers, regularly include humour, light-heartedness, and interesting facts about employees and the industry.  Show the human side of your business and it will go a long way in developing online relationships.  So if Liz in accounting has just won first place in a baking competition, or if you’ve just discovered a great iPad app, share it with your social network.

Don’t take a passive approach. Social networking is very similar to face-to-face networking: the more active you are, the more you will get out of it.  If you sit back and wait for people to connect with you, you may be waiting a long time.  Actively seek out people who you feel your company would benefit from knowing. These can be loyal clients/customers, industry leaders, and even competitors.  In order to get a full picture of your industry you need to understand everything about it, so the more people you know, the better off you are. As you actively build your connections, more will come your way.  Additionally, the more active you are in keeping your profiles up-to-date and interesting, the more people will want to connect with you.

Do get creative. Most social networking sites allow you to build upon the basic profile template.  Take advantage of the opportunity and integrate an appropriate background and add a profile picture (logos are a great option).  Your company’s profile can look just as professional as its website.  Facebook profiles can become more interactive (games, competitions, surveys, etc) with the use of Facebook Apps. These Apps can be created for a specific marketing campaign or for a general promotion of the company.

Don’t overdo it. We all know them—the social networkers who constantly update their statuses and take over your news feed.  Often we react in one of two ways: either we delete them from our list, or we scan over everything they write because it is too much to deal with.  Neither of these options is ideal for a business profile, so it is important to find a happy medium.  There is no magic number of updates.  For some companies it will be 2-3 times a week, for others its 2-3 times a day.  Just keep in mind that you need to offer information that is newsworthy and relevant, and avoid overwhelming your followers.

Do create your own network. Join more than one social network.  The list of sites is endless, so join some of the big ones (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn) and try to find some other relevant ones that may be used heavily in your industry. Use your profiles as a way to get as much information to people as possible. So, link all your social media accounts together.  LinkedIn and Facebook now accept Twitter feeds into profiles, so people can instantly see the Tweets you send out.  Include an RSS feed from your blog to all your accounts.  The more links you create, the more likely people are to get all the information you are releasing.  Don’t forget to include links to your profiles on your company website and vice versa.

Cite are proud of our expertise in social networking. We develop bespoke Facebook Apps and offer a monthly social networking service.  For more information please call us at 0116 254 9888.

Find out more about our Rosetta Stone, E-Act, and Weight Watchers Facebook Apps.