Many businesses and organizations are not yet convinced that social media has anything to offer them. If that’s you, please stick around to hear what I have to say. In future posts, I’ll address some of the misperceptions about social media and whether social media is right for your company, because there are issues to consider before you dive in.

Before we look at some of the advantages that social media can bring to your business or organization, let me point out that if you are a small business, you bring an advantage to social media that your larger competitors may not have. Your business is built on good relationships with your customers. When a customer wants to talk, there aren’t layers of departments and hoops to jump through. It’s easier for you to react and respond; you’re more nimble than a larger business. Social media success is based on relationships and real-time engagement; it’s a more natural fit for you than it is for larger companies.

Associations have the advantage of existing relationships with a built-in community – your members. They have ‘opted-in’ to membership in your community and will be receptive to any knowledge or networking opportunities you provide.

You have an advantage. That’s great, but what can social media do for you?

Brand Awareness

If prospects search for you now, they’ll find your website. If you have social media outposts, for example, a blog, Facebook page, Twitter profile or YouTube channel, they’ll have more ways to get to know you, to see what you’re made of and to get a sense of what you can do for them. All these outposts are indexed by Google — that means when someone does a search, not only will your website come up, but all these other outposts will too. And you can use all these outposts to feed people back to your website.

When I’m choosing a service provider or product, the more I know about them, the better. Don’t lose out to competitors who have an active presence in social media. Make sure you level the playing field by being there too.

People are talking about companies on social networking platforms. Not only are they talking, they’re asking for and giving recommendations and warnings. If you are listening and participating in those conversations, you can help define and spread your reputation and brand.

You don’t need to know a whole lot about technology to succeed in social media because social media is not about tools, it’s about conversation and relationships. There are many who use social media solely to broadcast or promote their traditional marketing messages – this is not an effective use of social media. Don’t use social media only to promote — you have other tools to do that.

On social media platforms you have the opportunity to become part of people’s networks. Like any social gathering, you’ll have a better time (and others will too) if you concentrate on getting to know and listening to others, engaging in conversation and laying the base for future relationships. That’s the secret. Combine that social personality with valuable content and you have the recipe for success.

Good content is critical. You want to be known for content that is interesting, valuable and, hopefully, sharable. Your aim is to become a trusted source or expert. Your personality and responsiveness combined with good content will be how you differentiate yourself from competitors and will lead to referrals and leads.

That gives you a taste of what’s possible with social media but I’m not nearly done. In my next post, I’ll discuss some additional results of participating in social media. Stay tuned!

Update: Part 2 and Part 3

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