5 social media must-haves for business
It’s out there and it’s free, but many people still aren’t taking full advantage of social media to benefit their business or develop their career. Not only is it another avenue for networking (a must for career development), it can be essential for promoting your business — if you’re smart about it.
You can’t be everywhere at once, but the good news is that you don’t have to “do it all” — or do it all the time. We asked social media strategist and trainer Heather Angus-Lee, president of PROsocialmedia and blogger for Century 21, for some help finding the sites where your time and energy will pay off. Here are her top picks and tips for getting started:
Forget the clutter of personal content you usually find on social media: it’s all business at professional networking site LinkedIn. LinkedIn allows you to highlight your work experience, skills and accomplishments as well as connect with colleagues — not to mention potential clients, partners and employers. If you have a small business, you can promote it with a company profile page as well.
“Many businesses and individuals overlook this valuable tool,” Angus-Lee reports. “But it’s one of the fastest growing social networks.”
How to start: Set up a profile for yourself — which will include your summary, work experience and education. If you have a small business, you’ll want a separate profile for your company (even if the information is nearly identical) so people will be able to find you in searches.
What’s next? “A lot of people make the mistake of posting their resume and then neglecting their account,” warns Angus-Lee. If you want to see the full benefits, you’ll need to keep your profile up-to-date and explore the other functions. For instance:
– Ask for recommendations from coworkers, and offer to recommend others.
– Ask and answer questions to demonstrate your expertise.
– Join niche groups to connect with others, and use the introduction feature to meet people in your field.
– Update your status at least once a week.
LinkedIn also plays well with others. Use it to link to your website, blog and other social media accounts, including Twitter. In the future, it will also be connected with Microsoft Access.
Your company blog
In addition to showing your expertise and promoting your products and services, a blog can play a big role in how people find your business.
“Most of the time, people will find your website through online searches,” reports Angus-Lee. “If you want to show up high on the list of search results, the number one thing you can do is blog and add new content on a regular basis.”
Why? Search engines like Google “crawl” your website looking for things like keywords and fresh content — information they use to rank websites.
How to start: Set up a blog on your own domain (i.e. your website). Many people are lured by free blogging applications — but you’ll see better results if the URL points to your company, not a widely-used publishing platform. Spend some time optimizing your blog, like including relevant keywords and linking to your other social media accounts and your website’s landing page. Set up an RSS feed or email newsletter to let people know when you’ve posted new content.
Once you’ve got a start, keep up the content. It doesn’t have to be a lot: Angus-Lee recommends two or three short posts (at least 250 words) of quality, relevant content each week.
Is it here to stay or a passing fad? Don’t worry about the future — right now it’s expected that your business will be on this popular micro-blogging service, notes Angus-Lee. These 140-character updates or “tweets” can provide a lot of information to your followers — like what projects you’re working on or links to new content on your website or blog.
How to start: Take the time to optimize your profile — again, that means including a short bio of yourself or your company and including keywords and links. Seek out and follow interesting people and companies — and use the “reply” and “retweet” functions strategically to add value to your own feed.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to be on Twitter all the time or let people know every little thing you’re doing. In fact, too many posts and too much personal information can be a turn-off. Leave personal details to your personal Twitter account, and have a separate account for your professional life.
How much is enough? It doesn’t have to be more than three tweets per week, Angus-Lee advises. Quality, not quantity, is what will benefit your career and your business.
Video and image sharing
If you’re in a creative profession or your business involves lots of visuals, your social media strategy should reflect the nature of your work. For instance, if you’re an artist or a real estate agent, a photostream on Flickr (the largest photo sharing website aside from Facebook) can show off your latest offerings.
Likewise, if you have relevant video content — be it commercials, how-to videos, product demonstrations, speeches or press coverage — consider setting up a channel on YouTube.
These media sharing websites also integrate into your other social media and your website. You can link to videos and images, or use the “embed” code to make them show up on your blog.
How to start: Make sure you’ve got some content on hand (and a content strategy) before you go public. Spend a little time planning what you’re going to publish and when, and start adding content to your account.
Approach with caution! This popular site has its benefits and pitfalls. Where it can help your small business is creating a company page (not a profile or a group).
Once you’ve got the page up and running, aim to add fresh content at least once a week — like a new article, video or image — or your latest promotion or sale. Your fans will automatically receive updates in their accounts.
If you’ve got room in your marketing budget, you can advertise within Facebook. However, many pages gain popularity through “viral” means. When people see their friends join up, they might want to join too. If people like your content, they can recommend it or share it — and thereby spread it to people in their network.
What about the pitfalls? Steer clear of your personal profile for business purposes, warns Angus-Lee.
When you link to Facebook, only point to your company page, and don’t link to your professional websites and social media from your personal Facebook profile.
Furthermore, use the privacy settings in your personal account to keep your profile and content hidden from people who don’t need to see it — like employers, partners and clients. Employers are checking out new hires, and checking up on current employees, so it pays to be cautious. (For more information, see 10 career-damaging online mistakes.)
Naturally, there are countless other social media websites where you can promote yourself and your business, including targeted niche sites that may offer additional value. However, if your time and energy are limited, these five places are a good place to start. Check out Social Media 101 for an overview of popular sites, and read Make social media work for your business for more tips for success (like developing a content strategy and setting goals).
Photo ©iStockphoto.com/ joshua blake