Despite the fact that personalized or face-to-face networking with people at conferences or events is still powerful in creating your personal brand, social networking has emerged as an equally vital resource to build relationships with prospects and business stakeholders. Even as you carry on with your offline networking activities, it has now become mandatory to turn to innovative online tools, as they facilitate networking and make relationship building that much easier.
Broadly speaking, the highly popular social networks, such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter are greatly harnessing technology to decisively influence the customers’ decision-making process. They make this possible by, for instance, alerting a person’s friends and colleagues automatically whenever he or she signs up and opt to become the follower of a particular product or brand site.
In essence, the social media users are more likely to engage and identify with brands than skeptics would like to believe. The networks lead to a highly effective viral marketing effect because people are now known to use them to inform others about products and services they have used. They share their experiences and expectations about a brand. Such recommendations and interactions are extremely vital in influencing purchase decisions.
In this context, a successful social media foray for small businesses demands specific action plan and its meticulous implementation. I shall provide a few useful pointers:
- First and foremost, keep in mind the fact that a halfhearted and half-baked social media strategy will invariably fail to deliver. It will rarely yield success.
- Remember, instead of creating multiple accounts on each possible network, try and build a realistic and holistic marketing plan. Put an added emphasis on exploring domain-specific niche avenues to ensure maximum returns.
- Make it a point to look for industry-specific, popular platforms that address a specific audience. They enable users with similar interests to connect and to interact. Also, niche sites users are more influential in comparison to those of a generic social networking site. So chalk out a comprehensive plan to target them.
- Don’t shill, brag or bombard users with hollow messages. Instead push your fledgling social media initiative towards engaging people. Be patient and sales will follow.
- Do respect proprietary information provided. Maintain confidentiality of personal content. Be gracious in your responses. Show promptness and alertness while responding to users. This will instill confidence in users’ mind about your brand.
- It has become possible to amalgamate text, video, microblog and podcasts thanks to social media. Try to leverage its capabilities to reach as many as prospective customers as possible. It’s clearly a cost effective medium if employed judiciously.
Smaller businesses can also employ several effective strategies to counter negative publicity online. There is a wide array of options to deal with criticism and pacify aggrieved customers available via forums, blogs, review sites, and generic as well as niche social media sites.