Social media is about connecting with the people in your niche: customers, potential customers, people who are interested in what you do, or who share similar interests and circles or hubs with you. It’s about building relationships and networking, not selling, although that does come as a result.
Get Out of The Store
Business owners with a brick and mortar store need to reach out to a bigger audience online. Social media isn’t new. People have always gathered to talk about business, life and community events. Social media is about doing that online. Establishing a presence on the Internet even if you have a physical store, is critical. Create an interactive, regularly updated site or blog, or by build informative yet informal profiles on social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter. Being active on social media sites will not only increase brand awareness, it’ll also boost your company’s rank on search engines, and prove that you’re a business that is in sync with the times.
Share Your Expertise Freely
Let the public know what you’re an expert at and use that to boost your credibility and value. Publish tips, share your expertise through public speaking, even try pitching the media… make it super easy for people to associate you and your business with excellence and expertise in your field.
Many communities now have online forums/bulletin boards that offer varying levels of paid memberships. Purchase a membership that allows you to advertise your business and USE IT. Every time you post with your business ID, your business name (and web page link) you’re putting yourself out there in front of potential customers. Just remember not to get caught up in community drama as every post represents you and your business!
Not all exposure is online. Make yourself the expert in your field in your local community as well. Volunteer to teach seminars through your local Chamber of Commerce about your area of expertise. Your business will receive promotion through the event itself, as well as through all marketing for the event.
Never Stop Growing Your Network
Expand your network of contacts and potential clients. Ask your best, most powerful, most influential friends or business associates to introduce you to the five people they think you should meet to expand your business. Take each of the contacts out for coffee and get to know them. Discuss your plans and future goals, tell them about why your business is special and ask for their advice. You will be amazed at how these new contacts will pay off ten-fold with recommendations to you for new business and innovative ideas you hadn’t thought of.
Give away your product or promotional item on Twitter. Ask a question about a product on your website or blog. The first person to answer wins. When you send the item write, “Retweet upon receipt,” to be entered in a second contest.
Network Your Networks
Network with friends who then network with their friends. There’s power in numbers. Don’t spam of course, but utilize your network to get the word out to your people who know people who know people. Someone ultimately knows someone that can help you out…and believe it or not…will want to. When networking, do NOT focus on getting a referral or lead. Instead, focus on helping others. If you help them first (by adding value to their life/business), they’ll help you later.
Maintain Relationships With Clients
The difference between a successful company and a mediocre one often boils down to an owner’s commitment to building (and sustaining) relationships with clients and prospects. While it’s important to keep up traditional communication and PR, business owners should also be extending their relationships through online forums – website, blogs, and social networks. Conversations are happening all around you – are you listening, are you participating? Are you a thought leader? Be visible!
Listen. Tweet. Listen. Listen Again.
Identify your ideal clients and find them on Twitter. Then start following them! Spend weeks listening to them; you’ll be amazed what they will tell you about their concerns, their ideal products, their current frustrations with their vendors. It’s a great way to get open honest market research.
Get a Twitter account in your business name. Post links to your articles educating people in your niche market. At the bottom of the article have links to your products & services. Also offer discount coupon codes to twitter members. This has worked very well for me.
Join as many Linked-In groups as you can that are related to what you sell and post a question or tip on a regular basis. If you have a blog or e-newsletter, post an announcement to your Linked-In groups with a link whenever you release a new issue or blog posting. It’s free, you’ll be recognized as a leader, and you’ll reach thousands of business people interested in your field.
Your Facebook friends can be your greatest free marketing tools so enlist their help! In Facebook, use the NOTES application to create a special, limited-time “friends and family” promotion (i.e.: enter “facebook09″ at checkout to receive 10% off), tag all your friends and ask them to pass along your exclusive deal to their own friends. A great offer goes a long way quickly…especially through our favorite social networking sites!
Twitter is a great place to share photos (TwitPic), host contests, shout out to loyal customers, have scavenger hunts, and promote events. Think of ways you can incorporate Twitter into your promotions in a fun, engaging way. Thank loyal customers, retweet their tweets, and even host fundraisers. All the cool kids are doing it. Why shouldn’t you?
Taken from the Toilet Paper Entrepreneur.