Social media. Its implications have gravitated from the fringe to the mainstream, from kids’ cellphones to the hallowed halls of Wall Street. “Tweeting” is now a companion activity to everything from football games, to the presidential debates, to Glee Episodes. On the financial front we’ve seen the awesome trajectory of LinkedIn stock, as well as the dramatic belly-flop of Facebook. Hype notwithstanding, social media is a phenomenon with undoubted staying power.
I am continually amazed by the distrustful eye in which many of my fellow business owners hold social media. These sentiments are owed in many cases to misinformation and paranoia. An “errant tweet” may be misconstrued by clients, business partners and potential employees. Despite the fact that many CEOs and thought leaders use Twitter, some feel that tweeting in and of itself conveys frivolity that is at cross purposes with their corporate image. Then there is the Law of Large Numbers: business owners feel that they have limited clout (or Klout) without thousands of followers or fans. Finally, there is the time commitment: business owners already invest every last minute keeping their operations humming and drumming up new business at SBAC events, that a robust social media presence does not seem to be in the cards.
These larger issues notwithstanding, entrepreneurs should make concerted efforts to put the “social” back in social media. While the list is seemingly endless, business owners of all industries should tap into at least three outlets to maximize engagement with customers, prospects, and other members of the value chain.
Linkedin. The benefits of face-to-face networking cannot be overstated or replaced; combined with a well-thought out LinkedIn strategy, it is a powerful one-two punch. Some LinkedIn users employ the scattershot approach, connecting indiscriminately with everyone they encounter at a networking event, conference, or other social setting. To quote Seinfeld, â€œnot that thereâ€™s anything wrong with that,â€ but we prefer a more targeted approach.
Business owners should understand that LinkedIn follows the “give a little to get a little” adage that applies to all social media channels, and choose their connections wisely. The “Groups” feature allows LinkedIn users to demonstrate subject matter expertise to clients, prospects, and business partners. Similar to “listening” to hashtags and lists, we suggest that business owners join groups related to their line of business. By holding regular discussions, and posting insightful updates to other forums, business owners can be listed as “top influencer of the week” in a given area. This designation provides credibility that serves as a powerful lead generation tool, given that people tend to do business chiefly with those that they Know, Like and Trust.
Twitter. As we’ve noted before, Twitter is truly a Swiss army-knife, serving a number of needs and markets all in one platform. Looking to get (or share) breaking news as it happens, and before the leading news outlets? Film at 11 (and 1, and 2, and 3), on Twitter. Want to interact with a columnist / celebrity / someone you met at that awesome SBAC Wine Tasting Event? Dial 867-twitter. Finally, with a well-constructed tweet (trending hashtags, popular usernames), one can engage with virtually anyone of like-minded interests across the globe.
Nowhere is the “quality over quantity” adage more apropos than Twitter: while thousands of followers may seem like a proxy for success, the reality is that these linkages are of little import without some type of meaningful connection. We encourage business owners to follow tweets related to their area by using hashtags, lists, and saved searches, and interact with fellow members of the “Twitterverse.” Related tips on Twitter and related services such as paper.li are available at our Website.
Instagram. The math behind the “a picture says a thousand words” aphorism seems exponentially low when you add the photo-enhancing software known as Instagram to the equation. Thanks to this app, captivating photography is no longer the exclusive domain of sharp-shooters willing to shell out tons of cash for a Nikon SLR or photography lesson Groupons. The explosion of Instagram is owed in large part to the dramatic evolution of SmartPhone capabilities: with 10 gorgeous megapixels, most leading phones can capture breath-taking photos previously possible only with high-end cameras.
There are a few caveats, however. As of writing, access to Instagram is largely limited to the iPhone platform; fortunately, Chicagoâ€™s own Pek Pongpaet devised a snappy desktop version called Pinstagram that augments Instagram with Pinterest. And then there’s the pesky privacy issue. As with Twitter, unless one explicitly selects the “Photos are Private” option, everything is public domain; as with Twitter, Instagram is a medium whose main benefit is the freedom of interactivity and discovery; so protecting your updates seems a bit silly. Hence, I suggest using Instagram for snapping and sharing breathtaking photos of foliage. That pic of precious little Jasper smiling, with ice cream all over his face? Head on over to Facebook instead.
All business owners should become “igers,” as it offers a virtuously effortless method to show a more creative, spiritual side that cannot be captured in words. Entrepreneur magazine offers a few highly innovative ways to leverage Instagram for business benefit.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step (or tweet). There are plenty of services out there that will help you buy followers, or automate the process of publishing content. If getting a higher Klout score than Kim Kardashian is your goal, more power to you. Our approach, however, is to focus on engagement and connections in your social media efforts, regardless of the medium. Additionally, make sure to be authentic, professional, and consistent in your presence. As one New York congressman found out the hard way, social media identity and actual personality do not always lend themselves to neat compartmentalization.
As this infographic indicates, a powerful social media strategy should be one of many tools in your marketing arsenal, along with Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Pay-Per-Click (PPC), and Analytics.
Shelly Torsekar has 10+ years of consulting experience, managing projects for leading organizations including SONY, Accenture, and Kraft. She earned a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Rochester and an M.A. in Information Systems from DePaul University. Shelly and her husband Nikhil established WSI Velocity, a digital marketing company, in 2010. Contact Shelly at firstname.lastname@example.org.