How many friends does your business have?
Get the most from social media
Friday 6 January, 2012
By Duncan Heaney - email@example.com
Our guide will help you get started with Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn for business.
The dramatic rise of social media transformed the business world forever, bringing the relationship between company and customer closer than ever before. These days, consumers want direct interaction with businesses, who can no longer afford to have an “us and them” mentality.
All organisations, from the smallest to the largest, should be using at least one social network. Not only do customers expect it, these services can be a very effective way to promote your business.
Of course, with so many social media tools available, it can be hard to know where to start. This guide provides a broad overview of the main options available, and provides some tips to help you hit the ground running.
Even the most technophobic person will have heard of Facebook. It’s grown to become THE social network, with more than half the population using it in some countries.
With its 800 million users worldwide, Facebook is a tremendously valuable tool for business users, helping you promote your business directly to your audience in an easy but non-intrusive way.Your personal profile
It’s up to you whether you want customers to be able to “friend” you personally on Facebook, or if you want to keep your personal and business lives separate on the site. Either way, if you’re already a Facebook user, you might want to check your privacy settings before you start using it for business, lest you tarnish your carefully cultivated professional veneer.
For example, if a friend tags you in a photo, showing you dancing like Beyonce on a table during a boisterous night out, you probably don’t want clients seeing it. Fortunately, such incidents can be avoided by spending a few minutes in the “privacy settings” menu. There are lots of options, but here are some quick tips:
- Separate friends into groups with the “friends list” feature. Always keep real friends and customers in separate groups. This is crucial because you can set different privacy settings for each group.
- Disable photo tagging. That won’t stop people posting embarrassing pictures, but it will stop them attaching your name to it.
- Hide your personal contact information from customers. You don’t want them ringing you at home, or emailing you on your personal account.
- Hide your friends from each other. Facebook’s standard privacy settings let friends see each other. You might not want customers to be able to contact your real friends and vice versa, so keep everything under wraps.
Setting up a fan page
If you want to promote your business on Facebook, you should set up a fan page. A fan page is a public profile that you can use to share content, provide advertising and discuss your business with customers. A fan page is common practice - people searching for your business on the site will expect to see it - and it’s a great way to share information, interact with customers and drive people to your business.
Setting up a fan page is simple and free. At the bottom of the screen is a link that says “create a page”. Clicking this takes you to a step-by-step guide to setting up the page.
A fan page is easy to set up, but here are a few tips for getting the most out of it:
- Make sure people know it’s your company - a fan page is essentially a second website for your company, so you need to treat it accordingly. If you have a logo or company brand, make sure this is included on the page.
- Supply as much information as possible - All fan pages also have an information section, and you should make sure this is as comprehensive as possible. For example, you should have a link to your official website (if you have one), description of the company, its products and any other information you want customers to know.
- Customise landing page and tabs - This is one for people who know HTML. Facebook’s version of the programming language is called FBML, and to use it, you’ll need an application called Static FBML. The app adds a box to your Facebook page, which lets you modify it using basic HTML. This means you can change the design (to an extent), and create a specialised landing page asking people to become fans - an effective way to get more followers.
- Update regularly -When you post a status update on your page, it goes out to everyone who’s joined. Regularly add content to promote your business and keep it in people’s minds. Just be careful not to overdo it. Otherwise people may start getting annoyed and “unfriending” the page.
- Promote it wherever possible - If you want to build a decent community on Facebook, you need to promote the page. That means you need to promote it whenever you can. That can be anything from running a marketing campaign to encourage people to subscribe, or just adding the link to your email signature.
Twitter is a phenomenon. From humble beginnings where people didn’t really get what it was for, it’s grown into one of the major sources of news and discussion on the internet.
The premise behind Twitter is staggeringly simple. It allows you to say whatever you want - as long as you can say it in 140 characters and it isn’t anything defamatory. People choose to follow others, creating a timeline of easy-to-digest updates in a continuous feed. That in itself is useful to a business that wants to get information out, but the real value of Twitter is that, like all social networks, it makes it easy for people to find, share and respond to content.Sign up
Signing up to Twitter is easy. Simply go to www.twitter.com, and enter your details.
Everybody must choose a user name, written @[USERNAME]. Choose one that reflects your business. For example, ours is @broadbandchoice. You should also create a profile of information about your business, and add an image to sit alongside your name.
When you’ve signed up, you can start creating content, and start looking for other Twitter users to follow. The type of content is up to you, but we’d recommend releasing interesting news about your business, linking to relevant news you’ve read or just saying something fun about your day. The important thing is that you come across as a human being. Nobody wants to read a stream of turgid corporate drivel. You should also start responding to people’s updates and sharing anything interesting.Jargon-busting
As it’s grown, Twitter has spawned its own language. Here are some common terms you might have heard, and what the jargon means in plain English:
- Tweet - A post on Twitter is called a tweet.
- Follow - Choosing to follow another user means their tweets will appear on your feed.
- Retweet - To share another user’s post, you “retweet” it. Hovering your mouse over the update shows a link to retweet automatically, but you can also manually write it out as a post, starting with RT @[USERNAME].
- Reply - If someone refers to your user name on Twitter, this is known as a reply, and should show up in your feed. You can see who’s talking about you, and respond / follow if necessary.
- Direct message - Users who follow each other can send private messages. These won’t show up in the public feed. To write a direct message to a user, simply put “d @[USERNAME]” at the start of a tweet.
Who should I follow?
It’s tempting to rush out and follow as many people as possible, but exercise a little haste. You’ll get more out of Twitter if you pick accounts that have relevance or interest to you, otherwise you risk interesting content becoming lost in all the noise. Start with people you know, known customers, media figures and accounts that are relevant to your business.
To find others in your business sector, use a Twitter directory like Twello, which lists users according to industry. Remember that Twitter is a social tool. The more people you follow, retweet and respond to, the more activity your account will see. Just be careful - the constant stream of information is oddly addictive and can eat hours of time if you’re not careful.Keep things organised
A Twitter client, such as HootSuite or TweetDeck, can help you organise your Twitter activity. They will show all mentions, retweets and direct messages alongside your main feed, and enable you to schedule tweets for publication later in the day. When you start seeing lots of activity, these can make it a lot easier to keep track of the conversations you’re having.
LinkedIn is a social network devoted entirely to business. No posting hilarious videos of singing dogs here - it’s all about making connections. The value of LinkedIn is that you can see who knows who, and find people that can introduce you to useful contacts.
It’s also a great research tool. LinkedIn can help you find potential customers, employees and business partners. It’s a useful source of guidance from peers and experts too, and people on LinkedIn are often happy to share knowledge with people inside their network.Your profile is everything
Your profile is important on LinkedIn. It should be kept up to date at all times, link to information about your product or services and comprehensively describe your business history. You should also make sure you post a respectable picture of yourself as the director - many people are turned off by users that don’t bother to do this.
Like Facebook and Twitter, you need to keep LinkedIn updated as much as possible. People might not respond as much, but a lively account will attract more people than something that appears neglected.Get recommendations
Recommendations count for a lot on LinkedIn. You want people to recommend you and your business but how do you get someone to do it? Well, give and thy shall receive. The best way to get someone to recommend you is to recommend them. Pick people you genuinely would recommend, and be honest when you write it. With a bit of luck, you’ll get one back in return.
It’s a good idea to check each website’s user agreement before creating profiles for your business. There may be certain rules that if broken result in all your hard work being destroyed. Use the following links to read the terms of service for Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.