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Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Sustainability

5 Steps to Begin Using Social Media For Business

Most businesses have embraced social media as part of their marketing toolbox. It's clear through market research, as well as multiple case studies, that social media creates a unique way for companies to communicate with customers. As more companies jumped on the bandwagon, more social media tools were created. These new tools can focus on a niche audience that may have been difficult to target with traditional marketing methods. However, some businesses dive into social media before understanding how or which tool to use. Here are five steps a business should follow to ease into social media:

1. Know who you want to reach

Knowing your audience is definitely the most important part of any marketing plan. Market research needs to be the first step in order to adequately conduct a successful marketing plan. You need to learn everything about your audience so that you can directly connect to them. Through market research, find what demographic current marketing plans are not being reached, and you reach them. This step, although first in line, is an ongoing process. Attitudes can change in the blink of an eye, therefore, always keep an eye on the trends and topics that affect your audience.

2. Monitor several platforms to see where your audience is

After figuring out your audience, you need to be able to know how to find them. It's not necessary to disregard traditional marketing tools to generate buzz. However, finding a fresh way of connecting with consumers can only benefit you. Unfortunately, the world of social media is huge. In fact, you probably don't even know how incredibly huge it is. So, how do you find your specific audience? My suggestion is to choose from a few social network platforms and monitor the amount of traffic, the type of audience that uses each particular platform, and how they communicate. Most have trouble with this step because our first reaction is to start participating immediately. It's important not to dive in before you completely understand your audience, the best platform to reach them, and how to use it.

3. Monitor and learn the proper etiquette of that platform

Once you've narrowed your search to one social network platform, it's okay to create a profile, but still too early to get your hands dirty. Every platform has a different set of social rules that equate to their 10 commandments. If you break a commandment, most likely you will be branded as a salesman and considered spam, the ultimate insult. For example, on some platforms, such as Facebook, it's perfectly normal for there to be advertising. However, platforms like Twitter will excommunicate you if they feel you're only there to sell something. Watch how intimate users are with each other and monitor some of the top influencers to get a good idea of the "Best Practices" to follow.

4. Begin building relationships by commenting and adding relevant info

At this point, you're ready to start communicating. The important thing to remember about social media is that everything is wide open. Everyone is allowed to voice their opinion and the majority can see exactly how involved, and how interesting, you really are. There's also a bit of role reversal. While in these networks, your agenda comes second to the opinions and comments of your audience. It's crucial that you build trust and relationships with your audience before any hint of a pitch can take place. See what they're saying and add useful and relevant insight. Be confident to prove that you should be there, and they will accept you with open arms.

5. Maintain relationships while adding your own agenda

The final step is to keep a steady level of participation. This type of tool is not a one-time deal, it's continual, but the benefits are worth the time you put into it. Stay in contact with the relationships you have made and, hopefully, build a larger network of followers. Also, it's important to remember that social media is social. Don't be afraid to let loose every now and then to talk about non-business-related things.

Social media has become one of the most important tools in many companys' marketing toolbox. However, it has also become the downfall of some who did not utilize it properly. It may take longer than you'd expected, but the rewards will prove that it was worth the wait.

What would you add to this list?

What would you do differently?

Views: 60

Comment by Diana Dambrosio on August 23, 2012 at 8:58am

Great post and thanks for this information.  I would say that this also applies to finding Talent for your company.  Many recruiters use social media to "post jobs" but lack the relationship building that is required for someone to actually want to learn more.  Using social media is like being an investigative reporter, and you have to dig to "find the dirt" or "gold" so to speak.  Also, as Gabe states, research what social media your targeted group is actually using actively (not just has a profile created).  Linked In is huge, but many people don't actively use it.  Same for facebook and twitter.  I still think that relationship building is the key to growing both customers and new employees.  We have lost some of this with our "fast paced" society.

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