…especially for local businesses
There's a lot of hubbub going on now about social media and social networking. When Facebook started getting more traffic than Google, displacing the world's #1 search engine, the fury over social media came to a boil.
But is social media overhyped? Does it deliver on its promise? And what is its promise, anyway?
These are a few questions we will explore in this post. First, a definition.
Wikipedia defines social media in the following way:
"Social media are media for social interaction, using highly accessible and scalable communication techniques. Social media is the use of web-based and mobile technologies to turn communication into interactive dialogue."
Social Media Primer
The web is not only a great place to find information; it is also a fantastic place from which to disseminate information and share knowledge.
Social media and all that such a term entails is about creating, building, and fostering relationships. Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn are but just a few social media and networking sites that help with these relationships.
They are also places where you can do “damage control” and manage your reputation or the reputation of your business. They are great for building your brand as well.
Additionally, there is another benefit to social networking and building out solid internet properties: Establishing expertise.
Finally, there is the nitty-gritty, nuts-and-bolts utility: Content syndication. You can use all of these web properties to take one piece of informational content and spread it–or syndicate it–over multiple channels, thereby casting a wide net across many very popular web properties. This content syndication not only delivers your message over a wide swath, it also performs an incredible SEO function by getting your main website dozens and dozens of backlinks.
Wrap it all up and the entirety of your content helps to establish your expertise in your field.
Obviously, strategic use of the web and all of its incredible “new technologies” has many benefits.
Signing up for all of these properties–while tedious–is a worthwhile endeavor. You need not, however, register for every “social media” or “social networking” site under the sun. Remember, too, that simply signing up to these websites is just the beginning: You have to constantly add content and make updates to keep the sites–and your information–current.
Having said all that, there are various “global” and “local” web properties that I recommend any business or business person use when trying to establish a solid social media and web presence. The global social sites are, in order of relative importance, the following:
- Your own website. If you are to be taken seriously as a business, you must have your own website.
- Facebook. It is an incredible social media platform that reaches–as of this writing–over 600 million people. For free.
- Google Places. Google is making a big push with Places by inserting Places business listings right within the “organic” Google search results. Location-based commerce is an emerging trend that will only get bigger, especially as mobile devices take over PCs (which has already happened, by the way).
- Twitter is an incredible “micro-blogging” web application that–in 140-character chunks–is powerful not only for selling your goods and services but also for syndicating your content.
- YouTube is a phenomenal social site that can make your content go viral. Savvy businesses use YouTube as a marketing and sales channel.
- LinkedIn, thought of as an employment site just a short while ago, has become the social network that Corporate America uses to make valuable B2B connections. A lot of profitable business alliances have been formed out of the relationships in LinkedIn.
There are, of course, local-specific social sites, too. They are:
- Merchant Circle. This is a phenomenal social-networking-based business directory. Founded by a pioneer in the social media space, Merchant Circle is on the cusp of local business social networking sites.
- Insider Pages is a more traditional-looking business search engine. If you want to dominate your local market, it behooves you to appear on this website.
- HotFrog is another high-value local search engine and business directory. This is another local-based social site you want to be on.
- Your local Chamber of Commerce. This is a surprisingly good source for getting your community to recognize your business.
The great thing about all of these sites is that you do not have to reinvent the wheel each time you set up a new profile on one of these pages. Much of the content, like names, addresses, and phone numbers, can be used over and over again. So, too, can pictures, office hours, and overall descriptions of what your business does.
There are literally dozens and dozens of “social media” and “web 2.0” sites on the ‘net. It would be foolhardy to try to sign up–much less use–each one. In most cases–especially for businesses concentrating on a specific location–taking advantage of the above-referenced web properties should be sufficient to establish a brand image, expertise, reputation, and other qualities that were brought up previously.