1. Exposure / Branding
For a small business, sometimes half the battle for success is exposure. If handled correctly (no spam), Social Media is an effective tool for generating awareness for your brand. You can use Social Media to promote content and knowledge expertise. Plus, as we'll see in a later point, Social Media provides many opportunities for networking.
Tip: Use your company name in your Twitter handle. For Example: @LevelTen_Colin
2. Customer Service
Use of social media makes the task of connecting with your customers infinitely easier and faster. Plus, it can save you some serious cash. According to a research study conducted by Forrester in 2006, "cost per action in customer support averages $12 via the contact center versus $0.25 via self-service options." (Forrester 2006, via ReadWriteWeb)
This represents a huge opportunity to cut costs and reach a larger number of people then you previously could.
Tip: Search websites like Twitter and Technorati for people talking about your company.
3. Networking / Sales Opportunities
With social media sites like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook at your disposal, networking has transformed from a tedious task performed at networking meetings and other physical events, to a joyous task that can be initiated online. Minutes spent on social networks each day can help you to network with those who have similar business interests, or who have a need for the product or service you offer. Online networking can be followed up with offline engagements if and when the need arises.
In fact, social networking and it's widespread use can be credited with helping to push foward the Sales 2.0 movement. Sales 2.0 (Oracle PDF) features extensive use of new communication tools like social media, blogs, and forums to drive sales activities.
Tip: Throw a Tweetup, or schedule a lunch meeting with someone you met through Social Media.
4. Backlinks / Traffic
Social media use can drive large amounts of traffic and backlinks for your company website. If you're producing high quality content on your site, you can use Social Media as a promotion channel for that content, which should provide traffic and valuable backlinks. Case in point, one of our marketing clients receives 10% of total site traffic from Twitter. These kinds of numbers can not be ignored - especially when you're on a budget.
5. Market Intelligence
If you spend enough time with Social Media and the Internet, you soon realize that just about every website that is worth it's salt has some form of site search. Some are more advanced than others, but each at the very least provides the ability to search a websites content. More robust websites will provide advanced search options, and some will even allow you to search by geographic area.
Most major social media websites provide users with these advanced search options, which enables you to run searches through networks for company, service, or industry related keywords. For example, we're able to keep track of service, product, and brand mentions for one client across seven different markets. This helps us to better understand the competitive landscape for a particular market, as well as provide quick feedback opportunities, which can inform strategic and tactical decisions.
Tip: Set up a Google Alert for your company name and subscribe to the alerts through e-mail.
What Can You Do?
The first step, if you're not doing this already - is to join some social networks. Good places to start are sites like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Create a simple profile on these sites, and spend some time observing the social norms of each community. The time spent in observation mode will help give you proper insight into community best practices so that your not considered a spammer.
We can help! You can find many of LevelTen's staff on several social media outlets.
Colin Alsheimer, Internet Marketing Specialist - Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter
Chris Sloan, Project Consultant - LinkedIn, Twitter
Tom McCracken, Director - LinkedIn, Twitter
Neil Lemons, Internet Marketing Specialist - LinkedIn, Twitter
Dustin Currie, Lead Developer - Twitter