Any good business person can attest to doing things that don't make them happy but are bare-bone necessary to be successful.
Accounting, for me, is that necessity that is painful to endure. I'm creative, not a numbers person.
For some, joining networks like Facebook and Twitter can be that twinge of uncertainty. Let me bring some light to the social media darkness for you. Right now, joining the ranks of social media needs to be at least a small tick on the mind of a business person, if not an all-out important task to implement.
Regardless if your business is business-to-business (consider LinkedIn) or business-to-consumer (Facebook and Twitter are your go-tos), social media communication is important to build relationships with current customers and grow your audience-base for future sales. I've broken it down into three easy steps for you to consider: listening, engaging and transferring.
People are talking about your company right now, whether you like it or not. Being absent-minded is detrimental to your growth, and you could be losing customers without even knowing it. Tools like Social Mention (socialmention.com) allow you to search what people are saying about you in blogs, microblogs, comments, mentions and even audio and video. It can be a Google Analytics of social media activity. It's important to use sites like this to listen to your audience.
The ability to talk back to the audience is where sites like Facebook or Twitter can be important. If a business has the ability to draw an audience to its own forum, it can control the interactions and create relationships. These sites can be appropriate places to listen to the people interacting with the brand, but also can give a business the opportunity to start a connection with many people at once.
Fan pages on Facebook, for example, already have a built-in audience (once you find them), complete with demographic and location information, an ability to engage those fans with content and create smart communications in one place designed to transfer the fans to actual customers.
So how does a business actually transfer fans to customers? I have found that the No. 1 thing business owners or marketing directors are worried about isn't being in the space, but having a lack of things to say. Many times, the question of "What do I post?" arises.
Fear not. Every business has a story, a target, a market, a customer and problems they solve. The problem is that a business needs to figure out why a unique customer base on Facebook (your fans) or people that follow on Twitter are listening to what is said. What's in it for your customer? Why do I care to listen and be your fan? What's in it for me?
Social media is about as targeted as it gets. The strategy behind the interactions take thought, time and the ability at times to give up a piece of pride for the business. If a customer slams a business, not being in the space allows others to see the negativity and choose accordingly. However, if a business monitors and engages with those comments, face can be saved and customers can be won. Businesses can actually stay on top of these interactions and respond accordingly, not freak out and react.
Using social media can make a business better. It's the ability for a business to operate in the open and really create some amazing products and services for customers. This isn't an age of absolutes anymore. If customers don't like something about a business, they'll speak. If the company does nothing, people vanish. Welcome to the new age of customer service.