NETWORKING IS VITAL to the success of any business, but you can bypass the Chamber of Commerce meetings and hop online. With more than 200 million people around the country using the internet, it’s vital that you take an online approach to your marketing efforts. Social media, especially, is growing at an exponential rate. Twitter, for example, has reached about 20 million users in the U.S. alone. In taking advantage of social media, you will build your business’ credibility and increase traffic to your website.
Mark Your Territory
The sooner you begin to build your social media presence, the better. Make sure to register your brand on all social media ports you want to use—even if you aren’t yet active in the social place. You want to protect your brand name and ensure that no one else gets ahold of your name before you do. On YouTube, for instance, a company is using the channel youtube. com/mcdonalds to promote its own line of burgers. Visit any portal that you plan to use in the future and open a user account under your company name. Most portals require an e-mail address and username to get started.
A Cohesive Tone
It’s important to create a social media policy which illustrates and explains how your company’s brand should be represented by its employees and affiliates. This will allow multiple employees to manage various social media efforts at once. Additionally, if you are a franchisor with multiple franchisees, it will allow for everyone to have a similar voice and message. You want all outlets to have the same look and feel as your company website and marketing materials. With platforms that allow you to customize your page, like Twitter and YouTube, create a template that can be used systemwide.
Convenience is Key
Internet users are lazy. Make it easy for your customers to save money through the use of social media. Offer exclusive coupons and specials via Twitter and Facebook. You can also interact with customers and allow them to make and cancel appointments on Facebook, however, this means it must be closely monitored at all times. Other Twitter and Facebook users will notice the perks you are offering and most likely want to follow or fan your accounts as well.
Gauge Customer Service
Portals, such as Yelp!, Citysearch and Twitter are invaluable resources for you to monitor what your customers have to say about your business. If the feedback is positive, send a “Thank You” e-mail and a coupon for a free manicure or hair cut during their next visit. If the comments are unsavory, however, take action! In late April of 2009, Yelp! began allowing business owners the opportunity to publicly comment on reviews about the businesses and provide additional context around specific reviews. Replying shows you care about your reputation and are willing to go the extra mile to ensure your clients are happy. And, since this is done publicly, people searching the site see the vested interest of the business, and may give you a chance at a later date.
Add a Personal Touch
While investigating your social media opportunities, consider creating a company blog first. A blog is a great way to establish yourself as an industry expert and engage your customers with industry news and hot trends, as well as special promotions, services and events at your business. Link the blog to your website and other portals, such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Also, include pictures and embedded videos to keep content creative. Most importantly, update the blog on a daily basis! For those of you new to the world of blogging, Wordpress is both user and search friendly.
Show, Don’t Tell
Facebook is a great way to generate new customers. Upload images or create multi-media components that show innovative updos and fashionable hair cuts. Take “before” and “after” pictures of your clients to show visitors the complete transformation. This will get potential customers excited about using your services. They’ll also have fewer questions and more trust in your salon. These elements can be easily created with a digital camera and help from an employee.
Overall, if you make a social media blunder, admit it. Be upfront and quick with your correction. If you’re posting to a blog, you may choose to modify an earlier post—just make it clear that you have done so. If conversing about products and services, use your real name, identify that you are representing your company and be clear with your role. If you decide to hire outside help for your internet marketing efforts, it’s important to find a company that has the industry knowledge and marketing background to properly represent your brand and effectively build a following. Once you’ve found the right fit, listen closely to that outside source. Make sure they know the end result you seek, but be adaptable and roll with their recommendations.
Ron McArthur, is president of WSI (We Simplify the Internet), the world’s leading provider of digital marketing solutions to small- and medium-sized businesses. He can be reached at 888-678-7588 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.