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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Social Media, Friend or Foe?

Twitter me this friends: is social media our friend or foe? We’ve got Facebook, Linked-in, Plaxo, Event Peeps, Twitter and the list goes on and on. It’s hard to keep up, but social media is all the rage and you’ve got to be in it to win it. Many small business owners are looking for more and more ways to market their companies at either a low or no cost value. However……spending a lot time on social media can take away quite a chunk of your day if you are determined to get your name out there. Unfortunately it can also take away precious time we spend with our families. For me, I would say I can easily spend a good three hours at day on social media sites which by the way, doesn’t sit so well with my husband! I often receive an “are you ever going to get off the computer” comment. In this way, I say that social media can sometimes be our foe---we just have to remember to make time for family, but in so many other ways for our businesses, social media can be our friend.

These days Twitter seems to be one of the most popular of all the social media outlets and when it comes to Twitter, there is only one person I reach out to for questions about it---the lovely and talented Elizabeth Beskin, President of 5th Avenue Digital, specializing in event photography. She uses social media to increase her brand awareness and thus, bring in business. She will be guest blogging on how to use social media for your business.

Elizabeth writes:

Twitter is about marketing. It’s important to understand that it’s all about engaging with your community, not advertising to them. The twitter community is a very friendly place as long as you understand the basic rules of the community.

The first thing to do on twitter once you sign up is to listen, listen, listen

Look up people to follow:
*People in your industry
*Your mentors
*Your competitors
*Your name
*See what people are talking about
And read all articles addressed to “newbies”(all those who are new to twitter)

There’s a bit of a learning curve- but listening and asking questions will provide the needed comfort before you engage

Here are a few pearls of wisdom to remember before engaging in a social media campaign for your brand.

1) R.O.I. With Twitter (and most Social Media strategies) R.O.I. doesn’t mean Return On Investment, it means Return On Influence. Twitter helps you build influence in a particular community and this influence can in turn lead to more business. But it doesn’t happen overnight - Social Media is a long term relationship, not a one night stand!

It is very difficult to calculate what the traditional Return on Investment can be from Twitter (some tools, such as Twitalyzer, are getting close). But, if you are building influence by having conversations with new people, leading people to your blog, and sending visitors to your web site who may even buying your products or services - then something significant is indeed happening.

2) Indentify a Community Sometimes it’s hard for a business to identify the perfect community of people to engage on Twitter. But, if you find a community that’s compatible with your business you can really tap into it. For example, RubbermaidTM is tweeting about “organizing” and engaging people with their brand that way. They assume that talking about plastic containers isn’t going to get too many people excited, but by engaging people who are interested in staying organized, they have found a compatible community for their brand. Use Twitter as a way to connect with customers people, not just as customers.

3) Twitter is Not like a Billboard! Twitter is not a billboard for your brand. A billboard doesn’t talk to people, people do! Twitter is a two-way conversation.

4) Create More Value than you Take Away It’s important on Twitter to create more value then you get. A good ratio for success:, Listen, share your knowledge, offer information, and answer questions 80% of the time. And tweet about yourself or your brand 20% of the time. The most successful users tweet 10 to 15 times per day.

5) Have a Plan Businesses should have a social media plan that includes Twitter and an integral part of this is deciding if your brand will be doing the talking or if a person who happens to represent the brand will be doing the talking. Either way, make sure your message is always consistent and be transparent about who you are. Twitter users sense lack of authenticity a mile away!

6) Tweet Important Messages More than Once Very few of your followers will be on Twitter from morning to night but you don’t want any of them to miss your tweets, especially if you have something very important to say or want to direct them to your latest blog post. So, it’s OK to tweet the same message more than once in the same day, as long as you vary the tweet slightly. Twitter users can get annoyed if they see the same tweet over and over again.

7) Think Before you Tweet Remember, tweets are forever! See Jeff Pulver’s insightful blog post: twitter: For Legacy and Family

8 ) Speak the Language of your Community When re-tweeting or mentioning someone, it’s a good idea to include your own explanation that will speak to your community of followers in the language that they understand. If you are retweeting something that has already been retweeted, than give credit to the original tweet by using the term “via” (example: RT @bevisible….and end with via @photobiz).

9) Twitter Killers? Most Twitter aficionados agree that the only thing that could kill Twitter is aggressive marketing and spam.

10) Twitter is Fun! Twitter is awesome fun and there are a lot of really smart people in the “Twittersphere” to meet and learn from. Watch and learn about how some of the big brands are using Twitter. WholeFoods (@wholefoods), Zappos (@zappos), and Dunkin Donuts (@dunkindonuts) are three companies who have embraced Twitter and are using it successfully and with full disclosure. I love what Marla Erwin from WholeFoods is doing and Tony Hsieh, Zappos’ CEO, wants his company to be loved for its customer service, not just for their shoes and he uses Twitter to facilitate that goal.”

You can follow Elizabeth on Twitter @photobiz and I highly recommend you check out some of her other blogs on Twitter Basics and on social media at http://www.fifthavenuedigital.com/photography-blog/

You can follow me on Twitter @BrowerPower but admittedly I’m only on it about once every couple of weeks. Guilty as charged! I’m a Facebook junkie at heart (you can find us on Facebook at C. Brower & Co Creative Events and become a fan!) but after learning so much about Twitter from Elizabeth, I may be headed over to the other side really soon!

So with all this great tips on how to use Twitter to market your brand, I ask you again to Twitter me this friends: Social Media, Friend or Foe? You decide.

Until next time---see you on the social media blitz!

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