in Misc., Tech

Ignoring Social Media? A quick guide to starting your companies online presence.

Over the past couple years, online presence, interactive new media, social networking and location aware advertising has changed the way many businesses communicate with their customers.  Buzz words and brand names such as microblogging, venue mayorships, virtual badges and pins, twitter, Facebook and foursquare can however be intimidating to average Jo running a hair salon business. Here are 5 easy and simple steps to establish your online presence and insuring you make the best of it.

Choosing your platform and claiming your name

With the choice of hundreds of social networks these days, choosing the right platform for your business is essential. It’s nearly impossible to participate in the hundreds of platforms that are available, so think about which of the available tools you think your business needs to succeed with its online presence. To start your online presence, get yourself a company blog! It’s the quickest and easiest tool you can use and although it may sound dull and boring at first, you’ll quickly realise it can be an essential part of your strategy. Don’t bore your readers with press releases and blog posts about your staff, inform your readers with rich content and media that may be of interest to them! I’ll talk more about content later on. WordPress and Squarespace are some of the popular choices as they are easy to set up and very customisable. Remember to always have simple yet powerful names on all services. http://www.johairdressingaberdeenscotland.com would be too difficult for someone to remember! 

Remember to try as many channels as possible. Let customers become fans via aFacebook fan page. Allow them to follow short and quick updates via a (verified)Twitter profile. Share pictures with them on instagram. Do you have a public figure your customers look up to within the company? Give them a dailybooth page.

Unbeknown to yourself, you may already have online presence. Customers may already be checking into your shop through foursquare and Gowalla, so claiming your business is a great start. On foursquare, you have the ability to claim your venue and once you do you get insight information and statistics on your clientele, edit details and offer specials. 

Clear goals lead to success

Simply signing up for social media services and blaring out information won’t work. You need to focus on the why. Think about your goals, the reasons why you believe social media can be effective for your company. You may want to attract new customers, build relationships and bonds with existing ones or simply find out data about your clientele. Understanding your goals will allow you to focus in depth on exactly the things that drive your company. 

Content is key

No matter what platform you use, weather it may be videos, blog posts or promotional offers on foursquare, content of good quality will always stand out and drive traffic. If you’re a hair salon, why not have a blog with video tutorials and styling tips, a monthly Q&A, weekly digests of the news summed up in one place. Have compelling foursquare offers such as your 5th checkin awards the customer with a 30% discount. Let your customers be fans on a Facebook fan page and integrate the Facebook like button on your website. If your company has a public spokesperson or someone your customers relate to, give them a personal Dailybooth, twitter and fan pages. People love to know insight information on someone, so allowing them to follow you will grow your customer relationship greatly. Take for example Kevin Rose, founder of Digg and angel investor to Twitter, Foursquare, Gowalla, Dailybooth and many more services, Kevin Rose is now a well known internet personality. He writes blog posts on company websites as well as personal ones on his own blog. His personal Twitter page is filled with insider knowledge, personal life ramblings and community conversation and through this he’s achieved to gain over 1 million Twitter followers. 

Remember to always keep content fresh. Try and write something different in your blog every now and again as well as keeping some regular formats going. If you’re an oil company, don’t bore the average user with a press release. Why not give them articles on the chemistry of oils, the history of facts and youtube videos of experiments. Make sure your content is different from your competitors. It doesn’t have to be of a different style necessarily, but at least different in quality; make sure yours is the best out there.

Manage your networks

With so many platforms, tools and networks available for you to use, managing them all can become quite a hassle. So called SMM tools, or social media management tools, ease the burden and stress by allowing you add various services together into one place. This allows for quick overviews of statistics, updates, comments, etc. 

TweetDeck is a good start as it’s free and relatively easy to use. It allows you to connect various social media profile such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare, Google Buzz, Facebook and MySpace. With an easy to use dashboard, TweetDeck is perfect for you to manage your social media profiles.

Sprout Social takes things up a level. With features such as brand monitoring, a social media dashboard and data mining on customers, Sprout Social is the perfect tool to turn your social connections into loyal customers. Starting at just $9/month, it’s relatively cheap too. 

Engage121 is a software application that allows users to monitor and respond to social media conversations across an ever-expanding variety of social networks, blogs, microblogs, as well as traditional media. Engage121 works on the principle of using four modules to address specific aspects of the social media communications process; explore, listen, speak and evaluate.

CoTweet is an excellent tool for small businesses or divisions of larger businesses that spread social media duties among team members and have a customer-service approach to engagement. CoTweet’s unique feature is its OnDuty status, which allows you to note who is responsible for which social stream. Not only does this organise your SMM experience, it also you to receive emails when something needs to be acted on, freeing him or her up to go to meetings or take calls while remaining aware of social media activity.

These are just some of the many tools and services available that will hopefully make life a bit easier. A simple google search for SMM tools will show you a huge variety of applications, some that may be more beneficial than others for your business so finding the correct tool will make managing your social streams much simpler.

Think outside the box

Stay on top of the game at all times. Think of ways to separate yourself from your competition and grab the competitive advantage that’ll differentiate you from all others. Coming up with clever marketing ideas and interesting content can spread like wildfire in the days of the viral web, so thinking outside the box is key to success. Write blog posts no one else would’ve though of, make tutorial videos that have never been seen and come up with promotions that people just can’t refuse. 

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