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5 Ways Social Media Can Benefit a Business, Without Socializing

Antisocial Media

I was recently talking with a small business owner about developing a social media presence for her design firm. She was already investing in search engine optimization services and had defined goals for increasing traffic to her website. When I mentioned creating company profiles on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, she visibly cringed. “I don’t understand how people find the time to Twitter all day,” she said, “We don’t want to get involved in social media. We’re too busy.”

It occurred to me that the term “social media” comes with a certain stigma attached to it. To those that haven’t embraced it yet, it conjures up visions of twenty-two year old interns posting cute cat videos to Facebook through their smart-phones. I had to explain that social media platforms, at their most rudimentary level, act as free advertising for businesses; a virtual storefront. When I received a skeptical eyebrow in return I realized that the most basic features social media outlets provide, the attributes users take for granted, are unknown to many small business owners.  Many businesses are still avoiding social media because they believe it’s either a time sink or just for kids. Here are 5 ways social media marketing can benefit a business, without socializing.

 

1. A profile is worth a thousand words (or at least 160 characters).

Every social media platform comes with a profile area where users can provide information about their business or themselves. This is the place where you can talk up your products or services, provide an image or logo, and most importantly, a place to provide contact information either as a link to your website or an address and phone number. Some social media platforms keep this simple. Twitter, for example, only allows 160 characters and one website link. Others are highly customizable, like Facebook and Google+ (G+), which allow users to provide lengthy text blocks, multiple website links, social media links, photo galleries, employment information, and more. Facebook alone has more than 800 million active users and more than 50% log in on any given day.  There is no question that people interested in your product or service are using these sites. If they don’t stumble across your profile page, they will stumble upon your competitors’ and that’s an opportunity lost.

 

2. Be as active as you want to be.

One of the most misleading aspect of social media is the perceived time commitment. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of people who spend a whole lot of time socializing online. (I’m still surprised by how much time some celebrates spend Tweeting. Honestly, aren’t there movies to be made?) The truth is, social media can be as big as you want it to be. Businesses that hire a host of expensive writers to blog daily are the exception, not the rule. Here are some time sensitive ways to share online without wasting a lot of time.

Blog Less
Blogs are hugely beneficial from an SEO (search engine optimization) standpoint. Google loves to launch content-rich blogs to the top of the search engine results. If you ask an SEO consultant how often you should blog, you’ll hear everything from weekly to multiple times per day. If you can find the time to post a blog article weekly, great. If you can’t, strive for twice per month or even monthly. Write well thought out articles about a specific subject (relevant to your product, service or industry) and pack them full of great information people are excited to read. At the end of the year, you’ll have somewhere between 12 and 24 great articles that establish you as an authority in your field. The bonus is that others will want to link to your site improving your ranking in the search results.

Utilize Real-life Social Events
So you don’t have time to go to meetings, bill clients, eat lunch, and Tweet? Who does? Instead of wracking your brain for information to share online, wait until something exciting is going on. Attending a conference, industry event or fund raiser? Post an update that you’ll be there, post another when you are there (between trips to the shrimp boat) and post an update of what you thought after you leave. Did you meet someone interesting at the event? Chances are they already have a Facebook, Twitter or G+ account that you can directly link to, increasing your visibility and establishing a new networking opportunity. You can also task trusted employees with posting updates when they attend industry events.

Good Old-fashioned P.R.
When you have very little time to engage online you can reserve online socializing to important announcements. This could be anything from winning a new client, launching a new product, hiring a new employee, giving a lecture, or posting a job opening. These simple announcements remind people that you are out there.

No Muss, No Fuss
If you have absolutely no time or interest in social media marketing you can still benefit by creating an account and filling out a profile page at the most current and popular social media sites. It’s important to remember that if you don’t claim your spot now, you may not have the chance to later. Facebook, for example, allows you to claim a custom URL. If you own Joe’s Crab Shack in California you’ll want to claim the Facebook URL before Joe’s Crab Shack in Florida gets to it. Some social media sites are now identifying businesses from online directories and including them in their listings. By creating a profile yourself, you can control the information provided about your company instead of relying on a generic listing robotically generated. Even if you never engage in social media, your business can benefit from having a profile and link to your website.

 

3. Backlinks – The currency of the internet.

Social media platforms are based on sharing information. They all have a place to provide a link to your website. This small but immensely valuable feature alone is worth establishing a social media presence. I won’t get into the difference between do-follow and no-follow links here, but I will say that backlinks (links from other websites to yours) do two major things. First, when a lot of important sites (like popular social media sites) link back to yours it tells the search engines, i.e. Google, that your site must be important too. This improves how your site ranks in the search engines and increases the number of potential clients/customers who find you. Secondly, it puts potential clients/customers in direct contact with you. If you specialize in baking strawberry-rhubarb pies and someone on Facebook is confessing their love for all things pie, you want them to find your profile and immediately click the link to your site where they can schedule a delivery.

To recap, social media profiles provide links to your site which, 1. Creates search engine link-juice and 2. Put customers in direct contact with you.

 

4. Satisfying expectations.

A few years ago, I would groan when I’d go online and find that my favorite (Chinese food restaurant, dry cleaner, chiropractor, etc.) didn’t have a website. I mean honestly, who did they think they were? Well now I groan when I visit their website an I can’t publicly declare my adoration for them via the Facebook “like” button. Ah, how times have changed. The fact is, a lot of people feel this way. Those who are engaged with social media expect others to be too. Seeing the social media icons on your website not only allows them to engage with you through those platforms, it reassures them that your business is fresh, your site is up to date, and you are up to speed with current technology and trends. It fosters trust and peace-of-mind.

 

5. Come on, everybody’s doing it.

Some people avoid social media simply because everyone else is doing it. I get it, you’re a rebel, a loner, you go against the grain, march to the beat of your own drum… need I go on?  I understand wanting to fly under the radar when it comes to personal social profiles but ignoring 800 million Facebook users, 300 million Twitter users, and 135 million LinkedIn users (Nov 2011 stats) is just reckless.  There are so many people using these sites, I can tell you without even knowing you, your customers are out there.

 

After clarifying the benefits of social media and dispelling some of the rumors, the business owner I spoke with decided to implement a social media marketing strategy after all. Within days she had follows on Twitter, friends on Facebook and connections on LinkedIn without doing anything but creating a few accounts and filling in the profile information. She may decide never to engage any of these platforms in a socially meaningful way but she is still benefiting. Social media does not have to be a time sink. Participating, even at the most basic level, can only help your business.

Can you think of some other ways social media sites are benefiting businesses? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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