Twitter logoOver the last few years there’s been a quantum leap by large companies and brands in how they connect with their audiences. Traditionally, huge budgets would be thrown at marketing and advertising campaigns to communicate services and product messages, but all this has changed and it’s largely due to the Internet and the exponential growth of social media sites.

Nowadays, having a presence on the leading social media sites is more effective in reaching out to your audience than say buying traditional advertising. What’s really interesting is that it creates a much more level playing field on which large corporates and small business alike have the ability to connect with the same audiences. And it’s completely free! Which means that, as a small business, you can really punch above your weight – now how exciting is that!

There’s absolutely no doubt whatsoever that using social media sites as a marketing channel is effective, but with so many available it’s important to choose the right one(s) for your particular business. You also need to take into consideration the investment in time required to maintain and develop a site in order to engage with your audience and ensure an ongoing dialogue. Once started you have to be consistent and continue with your chosen social media marketing approach.

If you want to use social media to communicate with the world at large I would suggest you consider any or all of the following:

Facebook – no longer the domain of friends keeping in touch and posting personal messages and photos, businesses have harnessed the power of Facebook’s 700 million users to connect directly with consumers. Facebook works brilliantly for consumer communications, but if you are trying to connect with other businesses it isn’t always the best channel Facebook is essentially about fun, leisure and lifestyles, and business messaging often gets lost or overlooked. It has worked for some business to business (B2B) brands, but most are struggling to make it as effective as other channels like LinkedIn and blogging.

LinkedIn – the site for expanding your professional network. Currently with over 100 million members. Here you can link with people throughout your business world and get introduced to new contacts along the way. Totally business oriented, LinkedIn is an essential marketing channel for any B2B business. Joining groups specific to your business will give you extra exposure, and participating in posing and responding to questions can be really effective in raising your profile and demonstrating your expertise or services in a way that will give value to other users. Avoid the hard sell approach some users try to take.

Twitter – since its launch in 2006, Twitter has gained some 200 million users worldwide. Essentially a microblogging service, you can post tweets of up to 140 characters to raise awareness of your business and drive traffic to your website. It is great as an extra tool to amplify your various marketing messages from your website, blog, webinars, white papers and LinkedIn activity, for example.

Blogging – publishing a blog through a publishing tool such as Blogger or WordPress is probably one of the best ways to build your brand personality. Blogging is a much more informal way of communicating and it also encourages a two-way dialogue. Updating the content regularly and focusing on keywords will also help to strengthen your position in search engine rankings. I’ve doubled the traffic to my own website since I started blogging.

YouTube – in amongst all the amateur bands and ‘You’ve Been Framed’-style home videos, more and more businesses are uploading video segments to showcase products and services. Think carefully about your keywords and you’ll find that traffic to your website increases. The most popular business content is top tips and ‘how to’ style videos.

A final piece of advice – don’t rush in and start trying to build a presence on all the social media sites. Prioritise and join one at a time, giving yourself time to become competent and familiar with what needs to be done to maintain it before you join another. Updating content regularly is key to making all of these social media marketing tools work for you and trying to do too much will be overwhelming, not to mention disappointing if they don’t generate the results you’re hoping for. I always advise clients to TEST, REVIEW and REFINE! With social media marketing it’s definitely evolution not revolution!

What social media platforms do you use for your business? Which ones work best for you? Why not use my Poll on the right to share your views!