Social Media is changing the way businesses work. The need for businesses to be on social media networks is more of a necessity than a choice. You, as an owner and entrepreneur, need to stay one step ahead if you are to reap better and more qualitative profits and benefit competitors. There are many ways in which you can leverage these new age mediums and tools to stay ahead of your competition.Know your customers.When you start conversations on social media there is a huge opportunity for your brand to engage with customers and get to know them. The conversations can be one-on-one and you also have the chance to get to know your customers well. You can talk and promote deals; but keep in mind that you should also share content from other sources as long as it has to do with your brand and is of interest to your audience. Once you learn to speak the language of your customers, you will slowly be accepted as a brand. Once there is a connection they will be more likely to choose you over other options.Reach out to new peopleSocial media enables you to reach out to new people, resources, and opportunities. When you engage with a customer, you indirectly engage with the hundreds and thousands of people on their network. This new reach is not always possible with conventional marketing and advertising methods. It now depends on how you engage with them by asking better questions so that post-engagement you are more aware of the way your customers think, and if you are lucky, they can also provide you new ideas about the way you should conduct your business, design your product(s) or serving them better.Improve customer ServiceSocial media accounts are slowly becoming the most easily accessible first touch points for customers to reach out to brands. Ensure that your social media team is sensitive and is quick to respond to queries and complaints. There needs to be a system for free and accurate flow of information. If you have a talented and efficient team you can be on top of customer issues and there is nothing better than a satisfied customer. There are several tools too that can help you improve your customer service via social media.Use the power of the #HashtagHashtags are very powerful aggregators, use them to your advantage. Amazon has been using #AmazonCart to its great advantage. By putting ‘#’ and ‘AmazonCart’ together the customer is automatically able to put the goodies in his virtual shopping cart with the help of his account on amazon website. There can be similar uses. You can use it to create awareness about a new scheme or you can promote a product with its help.Use the right social media toolsIn order to be a step ahead of your competitors as an entrepreneur you would do well if you learn about the most useful tools that can help you in advertising and marketing. There are a lot of free social media tools like Hootsuite, Everypost etc. that can help you organise your business on social media better. You can schedule your tweets, manage different social media profiles from one platform, get real-time data on the effectiveness of your efforts etc.Be on a mobile platformYou need to develop good content to share on social media. While you are busy developing the world around your website do not forget that the world of tomorrow will revolve around smart phones and mobile applications. Most businesses today are luring the customers in with special discounts,promotional codes and direct purchase links if a customer shops through their apps. Ensure that your marketing plans too have a sound mobile platform strategy.Convey Value and Build Trust How do you build trust? How do you make customers believe that you are all about value? Start by communicating with them on a regular basis through social media. Build a rapport, attend to them sincerely, reduce the response time and solve their issues as soon as possible. Consistency and sincerity will help you create a valuable brand. Share your success stories with your followers and ask your customers and followers to share their experiences with your brand and business. Be ready to take criticism on the chin. Be ready to learn and improve.Every business has different requirements. Every entrepreneur has his own way of catering to those requirements. Social media throws up opportunities, the onus is on the entrepreneurs to make the most of the opportunities that will help them stay ahead of the competition.
I enjoy receiving questions and input from viewers and even though the two questions received below are regarding dentistry, they can apply to businesses as well. Here are the two very interesting questions:1)What are the top three rules for harnessing Social Media to the advantage of a dental practice?
2)What are three most effective things a dentist should do with his or her Facebook or Twitter account?Social media is still relatively new in the realm of using it for business and offers an incredible opportunity to get to know your target market. Social media is a bridge that gives you access to people, information, and even companies/businesses you didn’t have access to in the past.Word of mouth advertising is the best form of advertising and social media IS word of mouth advertising…on steroids!Used correctly, it isn’t something that can be done quickly, it does require strategy, a plan of action, and like anything else you are building…it takes – time.To a degree, because it is relatively new, the rules are still to be figured out. However, there are some rules that are already in place if you want to use SM correctly for building your business/practice. In answering your questions:What are the top three rules for harnessing Social Media to the advantage of a dental practice?1) Social media sites are NOT about making sales, they are about making contact, building (profitable) relationships, and establishing value, credibility, and trust.The above is first and foremost with social media. Gone are the days when the print medias (yellow page advertising, magazine ads, flyers) were leading or “selling” the consumers. Users (consumers) are in control now and it’s a total mind change. Today’s consumer is Internet savvy and is not going to be “sold”, they want to be educated first in order to make informed decisions.Today’s business owner gives the consumer the information they are seeking, helps solve their problems, and along the way, the business establishes themselves as the thought leader in their field. Having taken the time to establish credibility, given value, and developed a relationship between consumer and business, the consumer will naturally turn to you when it’s time to purchase.Enter Social Media sites…the most effective and most efficient way for business owners to get their information to savvy consumers and to develop those relationships.2) Authenticity and Transparency: Whatever is done must be done with quality. Be transparent and authentic, you are developing profitable relationships. Everything you do should have a strategic intent.These sites aren’t about making sales, they are about building relationships, credibility, value, and trust and that’s done using your two strategic keys: Being Authentic and Transparent. Then those contacts tell everyone they know, who tells everyone they know…about you, your business, product or service. This is viral word of mouth advertising, people telling LOTS of other people.3) Online Reputation Management. Social media makes it easy for you to share information as you network with your community. You have something to offer…remember? That’s why you went into business. Social media is conversation and makes it easy for you to engage in discussions about what you may be able to help them with. This is where you can establish yourself as a thought leader in your area of expertise.Social media also allows you to monitor and be more responsive to your target market. Paying attention to questions being asked and statements being made by your target market about you, your business/practice, your brand, your products and services…good and bad.With your community, being “visible” online can also bring out negative comments as well (there’s always one in the crowd). The reality is angry customers are already talking whether you are online or not. But at least when you are online, the person and comments are “in your space” and can be addressed.You can’t always “control” the conversation, but a lot of site applications allow you the option to post or not to post their comments. But even if posted, it can be addressed.Also, clients/patients genuinely appreciate seeing how businesses and practices respond to legitimate criticism and many times will come to the aid of the business/practice with their our positive responses. This is called Online Reputation Management.What are three most effective things a dentist should do with his or her Facebook or Twitter account?1) Repeat #1 and #2 above- These are first and foremost with Social Media. If you don’t understand this, you will miss the incredible opportunity with Social Media.2) Build a quality local network/community and build your brand. Target your local area, your clients/patients. Found out what their problems are, what you can help them with. You want to establish you not only have their solution, you are their solution. Establish yourself as the thought leader in your area of expertise.As you build your brand, you don’t have to be a McDonalds or a Starbucks. It can be as simple as your avatar (picture), your logo, a tag line, or even a specific color. Point is – when used (viewed) regularly, each impression strengthens peoples awareness of who you are, your practice, and what your services and products are about. You are being seen.3) Be consistent with your time, your content, and your marketing. Not every person on your social sites are going to be members of your target market, but by providing good solid content, helpful links and information, and regularly contributing something of value and useful to your community, the viral nature of social media will get the message to those who are looking for you.**Side Note: Make sure you have created your social media guidelines and policies (and possible training program) if someone else within your business/practice or outside your business/practice is creating/posting your information.In summary: Use social networking to add value, build your credibility, and develop trust. Value + credibility + trust turns an observer into a follower, a follower into a fan, a fan into a lead, and a lead into a patient/client!What are your thoughts? What do you think qualifies as a “top rule” for harnessing Social Media to the advantage of a business or dental practice?
Social Media Marketing is THE way that most savvy marketers convey their message to an insatiable, hungry audience. If you’re not using social media marketing platforms like Google, LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, iTunes, Twitter or WordPress, your prospects have virtually no way of finding you on the Internet. And how long can you let THAT go on?Social media marketing- one of the simpler ways to connect and become involved with your audience.When you listen to your audience, acknowledge them and their participation in your business, you’ll find that they become more loyal and champions for your business.Do you know that more than 95% of Internet users use online searches when they’re researching YOU? And 45 million Americans have cell phones with Internet capabilities. Facebook and Twitter have over 700 million members and they just keep on growing. Shouldn’t you be where these people are looking?Ask yourself these questions:Are you easy to find online? And not just by your name or company name. Can searchers find you by the keywords that best represent you and your business, service or product?When your audience visits their favorite online places, will they find YOU? Or will they more likely find your competition?Once they connect with you, do you already have a program in place which allows you to engage with them over and over again?Do you have a plan to start using cell phone (mobile) marketing?If the answer to any of these questions is “NO,” you’ve got to ask yourself “WHY NOT?” If you want to keep a viable business, marketing online is a must, because the majority of your competitors are, or will be shortly.Here are five ways that social media marketing can help improve your relationship with clients and to turn them into big fans, because NOTHING is more powerful than a client coming through a referral.1. Be SocialRemember, it’s called “SOCIAL MEDIA” for a reason. Never before in history has social media marketing made it so easy to communicate with your prospects, and clients, for such a tiny investment. You can, and should, communicate with them over and over again. That’s not to say you should email, text, or call them every day. You’ll find out soon enough what a good communication interval will be- believe me, your audience will tell you! The goal here is to become familiar to your prospects, because people buy from companies they know, like and trust.An effective Facebook, Twitter, blogging, and email campaign will give you numerous opportunities to let your audience get to know you, begin to like you, learn to trust you, and develop an on-going beneficial relationship.Consistent and frequent communication is key, as with any important relationship. Social media marketing makes this possible.2. You Simply Must Produce Your Own Videos For Social Media MarketingIn 2011, YouTube is the 2nd largest search engine. (YouTube gets over 1 BILLION views per day!) Viewers go to YouTube for solutions to their problems, looking for videos that’ll show them how to do something, and researching reviews on a product or service.You must develop a presence there. Create your own YouTube channel and begin posting videos with solutions, how-to’s, and training, etc. You can use a Digital Video Camcorder, or even easier is a Flip Video Camera, or Kodak ZI-10. (We prefer the ZI-10 because it has an external mic input which allows use of a lavalier mic to get better sound.) These cameras shoot in HD, and capture incredible-looking videos. Editing tools like Screenflow for the Mac, Sony Vegas Movie Studio, CyberLink’s PowerDirector and Windows Movie Maker help you make very cool-looking videos.3. Be creative with your Social Media Marketing platformsThis growing collection of Social Media marketing platforms offer numerous opportunities for growing your business through branding. Here are a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing:* Get pens made up with your Twitter username (@_______), or with a request to “Connect With Me On Facebook.” There’s a subtle, friendlier feel a person experiences when they get a pen with a Social Media aspect to it rather than a pen with just your company name on it. Have fun with this.* You could do the same with coffee cups or mugs, and the whole advertising specialty realm. Think about having a “social meeting” at your place of business and give attendees their coffee mug in person.* Produce a monthly video and at the end of it, ask viewers to follow you on Twitter or become your “friend” you on Facebook. Add the Facebook “Like” button to all your pages.* Include your social media contact information in the signature of all your emails and in the Resource Box at the bottom of the articles you write and distribute.4. Increase Your Brand Exposure And Build Customer LoyaltySocial media marketing, and the Internet as a whole, is probably the quickest way a company can build brand loyalty. (Conversely, one of the quickest ways to destroy it, too.) Because you have the potential to reach so many people so quickly, online word-of-mouth can spread your name, business, product and/or service around the world in a matter of minutes.If you’ve taken good care of your customers, they’re more likely to tell their friends through the social media network: Twitter, Facebook, their blogs, personal YouTube videos, articles, social bookmarking sites, podcasts, webinars and so on. Since these are the places your customers visit, shouldn’t you be there when they visit? Imagine the potential of having all those people in your corner singing your praises.When marketing on the Internet, it doesn’t matter if you’re local, regional, nation-wide or international- you can reach your audience for a fraction of what it would cost using “traditional” marketing. Certainly, it’s going to take a fair amount of work to develop these social media marketing campaigns, but you would have been doing similar work for traditional marketing. Except now, your reach is exponentially greater, with the most important added benefit- you’ll begin having a conversation with your audience. You’ll be establishing relationships that will hopefully continue for years to come. You can’t do that with postcards, magazine ads, catalogs, or radio and TV advertising.Social Media Marketing will not improve your bottom line overnight. But if used effectively, you’ll begin to see a momentum shift in your business, and who knows, maybe one of your videos, article or podcasts will go “viral.” Wouldn’t that be nice?5. Create Your Own Social Network SiteBelieve it or not, you can create your own Social Network site- in almost no time at all. Two of the better known platforms are Ning.com and SocialGo.com.Ning has a fast growing number of political groups, musicians, entertainers and well-known brands who find this social networking platform useful. Ellen Degeneres has her own site, as do Hershey’s Chocolate, Martha Stewart, the National Republican Congressional Committee and the Epilespy Foundation.SocialGO calls itself the “social network maker.” They’re based in the UK and offer free and premium plans for building your own social network. Some of their customers include: LEVI Strauss, The Apple Store, Walmart, and Random House Publishing.One nice feature that SocialGO offers is their “live video chat sidebar.” You can dial up a member and chat with them live directly through the site.