Two years ago, I had my hands tied behind my back telling the world, “I will not engage in this silly online networking.” Now, I have come to realize how important social media is in this changing world of business.
In the past year, I have grown my network from 50 people to 780 “real-world” connections on LinkedIn. With a sincere effort to update my statuses daily on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, I can account my social media efforts for a significant increase in brand recognition and business leads.
On March 22, 2011, USA Today reported that LinkedIn surpassed 100 million users, nationally and internationally. In 2010, Facebook beat out Google to become the most visited U.S. website, indicating a shift in how Americans are searching for content (CNNMoney.com).The statistics go on and on.
You can run but you can’t hide! Social media is changing the way businesses are communicating. Social media channels like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter already have a vast user base. And this user base is comprised of your key audiences—potential clients, potential employees, potential employers and more—searching for and sharing content, conducting research and looking to connect. They’re even looking for YOU. Will they find you there?
You MUST take the time to learn how social media can be used to build your personal and company brand. So, where do you start?
Prepare Your Road Map! Think about your product (may be YOU), audience and value proposition. Research what social media outlets would give you the biggest bang for your buck and most support your personal and business goals (i.e., LinkedIn, Twitter, blogging, etc.)
Take the Time! The biggest hurdle we hear is “it just takes too much time” or “how much time do you spend on it [LinkedIn, Twitter, etc]?” If you just take a day and devote it to setting up your social media outlets, it will accelerate your future marketing and job search efforts. The 2011 Social Media Marketing Industry Report noted that even those with minimal effort (time investment 1-3 hours a week) indicate that social media efforts increased exposure for their business.
Also, take time to analyze your current marketing efforts. Where are most of your time/dollars spent and the correlated value (i.e, networking groups, direct mailing, volunteer work, etc)? Stop doing what doesn’t bring you value and start using social media. Take those extra 20 minutes spent on printing and addressing direct mailing envelopes and focus on growing your connections on LinkedIn.
Listen! Your direct audience (customers, target companies, etc) are having public conversations every day online. Use your active listening skills to find where to start your social media efforts –where is your audience? Learn to speak the native tongue by listening to the key words being used by influencers in your industry or area of expertise. Manage your online reputation and get smart about the competition by listening to comments being made online.
Engage! You have identified the tools you will use and have listened to the conversation – now ENGAGE! Take one tool at a time, get your feet wet, then dive and start swimming. There is no cookie-cutter solution but through engagement and learning, you will follow your audience, they will follow you, and you will engage in a very new and different conversation.
At the end of the day, I am not recommending that social media replace good ol’ fashion personal, face-to-face connections, but think about the potential for your business or personal brand to reach 100 million users.
We are interested in hearing about your social media experience. How are you using social media to build your brand? What results have you seen? Or, if you are you hiding under a rock, what is your hesitancy to use social media?
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