While we Web professionals may assume that virtually everybody is using social media these days it’s far from the truth. People use social media but businesses don’t. A recent study shows that 94% of businesses actually do not use social media even for the most obvious task it’s good for: Getting feedback. That’s akin to not using cars, phones or electricity in the first half of the 20th century.
So of course another study shows that those businesses not using social media fail to compete.
Also getting feedback from your customers is a crucial benefit but it’s just the most obvious and must have use case for social media. Thus I compiled a list of 30 ways to use social media for business people.
- Get feedback: There is even software for that like Uservoice, GetSatisfaction or OpenMind. Or simply listen to what people say on Facebook, Twitter, blogs and forums. There are also tools for that.
- Create demand: Better than simply reacting is proactively informing about upcoming products, features or services. This way the demand is there before the actual product arrives. Apple is doing it all the time.
- Offer discounts: Once you have an account on Facebook or Twitter or even before you gain a significant following the best thing you can do is offering discounts. People will follow you then and they also will buy. Dell has been selling computers on Twitter for years.
- Get attention: Sounds simple doesn’t it? Say something of importance and then you migt get attention. Why? Well, on the Web not money is the most valuable good, it’s attention. It can be turned into money but you earn more money in the long term by trying to get attention repeatedly.
- Spread the word: Tell the people about you and your business once you have established a connection with your following by getting attention over and over again and again. Announce changes on your blog, promote your next appearance at a conference or like mentioned above present your new product.
- Build brand loyalty: Brand loyalty is self-explanatory isn’t it? People like your brand and then buy from it in the future again. How do you make them loyal customers? Either by providing formidable goods and services or you provide something for free, be it information or community.
- Establish a community: The Web is a great place for creating communities. Why? People from all over the world who are obsessed about the same weird hobby can virtually meet with other like-minded individuals. You can establish a community of fans of your brand right there on your blog, feedback site or Facebook group.
- Answer questions: People as questions all the time on the Web. That’s why start ups like Quora try to be next big thing while Yahoo Answers had more traffic that Twitter up to 2010. replay and answer questions, be helpful, whether you are dealing with your won products and services or the niche by and large.
- Provide support: sometimes people have more than questions. They are annoyed, angry or even desperate. Your product or service may have caused that suffering. A simple tweet can help. Just this week I tried to install open source analytics Piwik and failed miserably. I voiced it on Twitter and the official Piwik account replied with a very simple solution. It took them one short look at my installation to find out what’s wrong.
- Get clients: Of course you get clients or customers this way as well. When Yahoo announced that Delicious will be discontinued i and many other were scrambling to find an alternative to rescue their bookmarks. I got contacted by at least one other company.
- Improve CRM: Does your company use customer relationship management tools like Salesforce? Well, many CRM tools already support CRM features to manage relationships beyond customers or rather before they become customers. Even simple Twitter tools like CoTweet provide CRM features. You can view past conversation with each Twitter user you interact with.
- Empower staff: In Germany we have a drugstore chain infamous for being stingy. Their shops are small, look shabby and they don’t even have a phone to prevent staff for private conversations. Thus these drugstores get robbed regularly as staff can’t even call the police. Likewise many companies forbid Facebook, Twitter etc. on the job and isolate their workforce. other companies empower their staff and win customers or clients on social media.
- Monitor trends: You can find out more on social media than just who is talking or complaining about you. Many tools allow to watch trends unfold. You determine what’s cool and where the demand is almost instantly by scanning Facebook and Twitter with simple tools like Topsy.
- Identify influencers: Topsy also allows you to find out who actually tweets about your business. You can check how many clicks these people brought to your site via bit.ly or Twitter’s own stats. Indeed Topsy even marks important users “influential” or “highly influential” based on their activity.
- Reach out: Once you know who likes you you can reach out to these people. blogger outreach is even an established industry term by now. Contact them, simply express your gratitude, invite them to your next product presentation or sen them your products for testing purposes.
- Discuss features: Feedback is great but as long as it’s a monologue by disgruntled users complaining about you it isn’t very helpful. Often users can already suggest solutions. O you can try to explain how you’d like to change your product or service. A discussion will often yield far better results than just simple feedback.
- Facilitate testing: social sites are not only for talking aka conversation. Some sites like Clue e.g. offer user testing as a free service. Usability testing is not only a task for experts you always need real people do the testing as well. Approach them on social media and simply ask to perform a short test.
- Debunk myths: People are often complaining about you in public on social media in an exaggerated way. They may misunderstand your product or go way over board out of anger. These people will make look like the worst hotel in history or the most expensive car dealer in the country. Just counter these allegations with numbers, customer feedback etc. Often people complain about your brand even without trying it just beacuse someone else said “it sucks”.
- Market offerings: Yes, indeed, you can market your offerings as well. It’s not like marketing elsewhere though. You don’t appear on the social media scene and start shouting about you and your offers. All the actions mentioned above and below are part of the marketing. People like you when you do all of or at least part of it right and then nobody will mad at you for just mentioning your offer even without it being new or a bargain.
- Forge relationships: Did you know that people don’t want to talk with companies, they want to talk with people. So they really want to have a relationship with you. They want to know who you are, where you live and that you are a human being. People don’t want to talk to anonymous call canter agents they will never again talk to because there a hundred more any each time you get another one randomly. social media users want to follow a CEO, a public figure, a visible representative. Rad Fishkin, Matt Cutts and Lee Odden are perfect examples of this in the SEO industry.
- Develop authority: A real life person telling the truth, being helpful and sharing valuable information more than once is on her or his way to develop authority. Isn’t it logical? So having a recognizable representative over time can make your company exec or spokesperson become an industry authority important beyond the position s/he has in your company.
- Build links: That’s funny, I almost forgot that! As this here is an SEO blog: You can get links on social media and even likes and tweets counts as votes on search engines these days. So building links on social media is a wonderful side effect. You don’t want to submit your site to “10000 social bookmarking sites”. That’s spam. I mean building links doing all of the above.
- Raise funds: Your business model doesn’t have to be selling something. Maybe you don’t even have a product or you work for an NGO. Social media is an excellent fundraising tool. There are even sites that automate that process and promote your projects. It’s called crowdfunding: Kickstarter is quite well known by now but only open to hip elite projects. Other sites like Kapipal do not have such high hurdles. Also there is P2P credit where real people can lend you money for your business idea.
- Get publicity: What’s the difference between getting attention, spreading the word (I mentioned both above) and getting publicity? Well social media is used no only by bloggers but also by old school journalists. Social media press releases and giving away the news to bloggers can result in publicity beyond the social media sphere itself.
- Watch the competition: In case you are not on social media your competition probably already is. You can watch their steps and try to learn or mimic them. As long as they excel on social media you have to do that. Than you can just watch them like you watch your overall industry and mentions of your brand. Google Alerts is your first love to do it but plenty of other tools assist you here.
- Find talent: I don’t need or want a job, I value my freedom. A few years ago I still was open to job offers but nonetheless I get headhunters who are contacting me on LinkedIn and Xing. I got my writing gig here on SEOptimise via Twitter back in 2007. So looking for talent is one of the more evident ways to use social media sites.
- Organize: Do you know Anonymous? It’s a group of Internet activists who are really a pain in the back of the corrupt and powerful these days. You might not condone their methods or goals but their mode of organization is simple, it’s social media. You can organize your workforce all over the planet using social media.
- Create value: These days value is often ephemeral. Stocks and money are often virtual an traded at the speed of light. Real value as in gold or made of steel, brick and mortar are rare. Assets are often data and knowledge. It’s very easy to create value by sharing and thus multiplying information. Resources lists I often compile on SEOptimise are an example close to home.
- Locate markets: Do you know the idiom “big in Japan”? It refers to artists or musicians who have been overlooked in the US, UK or Europe but who are hugely popular in Japan. Likewise some products and services flop at home but are all the rage elsewhere. On social media you have people from all over the world listening. When your market is crowd you can discover another somewhere else.
- Meet peers: Watching your competition is not the best thing to deal with other in your niche or industry. They are your peers. Of course you compete with them a bit but at the end of the day hooking up with them will be more beneficial to you and them that solely competing. In the SEO industry we share our knowledge all the time. I haven’t seen anybody going bankrupt beacuse of that.
Do you want more? this list could easily go on forever. Add your ideas in the comment section. The best ones will be added to the list. After all we’re social, aren’t we?