As a personal user, you’re probably already familiar with the use of social media websites as a way to interact with your family members, friends and acquaintances in an informal way online. But did you know that these sites can be used to promote your new website as well?
The use of social media as a marketing tool is well-established, although finding a place to jump in and start engaging with your audience can be overwhelming for first-time business users!
To eliminate some of this anxiety, let’s take a closer look at what social media is and what you need to know about using these sites to build awareness for your new website:
What is Social Media?
If you’re completely new to the world of social media, take a second to envision your website as a one-sided conversation between your business and your customers. While your customers might visit your site and interact with the information you’ve published, they aren’t ultimately in charge of the content of this information – making the delivery of information on traditional websites a one-way street.
Social media websites, on the other hand, exist to facilitate conversations between different people. On Facebook, for example, you might log on to respond to a message from a high school friend or to post a message on the “Wall” of a sibling who lives across the country. These types of interactions and more cause social media to resemble a two-way street in a way that static websites can’t.
Currently, there are hundreds upon hundreds of different social media networks that exist – some of which cater to very different types of interactions than others. However, as a business owner, you really only need to be familiar with the most popular of these social networks, as making it a priority to engage with your followers on these sites will ensure that you reach the highest possible percentage of potential customers:
How Can Businesses Use Social Media?
Essentially, forming connections with current and potential customers on the social networks listed above allows you to engage with your business’s followers in a non-threatening way. As an example, posting to your business Facebook page allows your message to be displayed in the News Feed of some of the people who have “Liked” your brand, generating easy exposure compared to other advertising techniques.
Businesses can also use their social media profiles in order to:
- Improve their reputation as industry leaders – By regularly posting helpful advice and informative updates to your company’s social media profiles, you’ll position your company as a “go to” leader within your space. Though your business’s brand recognition won’t directly result in more sales, it can go a long way towards helping “on the fence” buyers to feel more comfortable purchasing from your company.
- Provide real-time customer support – When people have questions about your company’s products and services, they want answers as quickly as possible! For this reason, many consumers turn to a company’s social profiles in order to ask businesses for the information they need – rather than waiting for sometimes-lengthy email support response times. Being present and actively engaging your followers in this way is a great way to demonstrate how much you care about your customers, increasing their confidence in buying from you in the future.
- Conduct market research – Having a two-way connection with real people who have demonstrated an interest in your company can also be incredibly useful from a market research standpoint. Wondering what type of product to add to your shelves? Curious about what type of promotion would encourage the most website visitors to buy your products? Just ask your social media followers and get direct feedback that would otherwise be expensive to gather using traditional market research techniques.
How Can I Get Started?
If all of these different social media benefits sound promising, they should! Social media usage is a great way to connect with potential customers and to expand your brand’s recognition without resorting to expensive, higher-pressure sales techniques.
To get started, the first thing you’ll want to do is to choose 1-2 social networks to focus your efforts on. It isn’t necessary to maintain an active presence on all of the different websites listed above – and, in fact, attempting to do so is likely to tax your marketing time and budget without providing a significantly better return than investing in a few well-chosen platforms.
Instead, do some preliminary market research to determine where your competitors are and where your target market is most active, and then use the results of this research as the starting point for your social media campaigns. Remember, you can always go back and start working with additional networks in the future, so don’t burn yourself out trying to do too much all at once!
Once you’ve chosen the 1-2 sites on which you’ll begin your social media promotions, start by setting up a business account on each service. Some social networks – including Google+ and Facebook – offer business-specific page services that allow you to create a digital “home base” for your business. Others – including Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram – offer a single type of account that can be configured to include your business’s information. Consulting the “Help” section of each platform and searching for business-specific instructions will reveal instructions on how to create your new social media account.
As soon as your business profile has been created, you’re ready to start engaging with your audience! “Engaging” can take a number of different formats, including everything from the sharing of pictures and updates to the purchase of sponsored stories and ads. We’ll cover more of these different strategies in the future on this site, but for now, simply taking the first step of building profiles on the networks that best enable you to connect with your target audience is a great way to get started with social media.