Search engines are putting more emphasis on shares and likes from social media networks than ever before. Some people will disagree with that statement because it is difficult to quantify at the time of writing. That is because growing your business and brand on search engines through social media networks is still a new concept and is working its way to the surface.
But if you don’t believe me, ask Ken Krobes at Forbes — he says the same thing. Or at least his mate, Adam Torkildson does. And it’s not just leading SEO agents and commentators that envisage which direction search engines are heading, major corporations do too. In April, Vodafone announced an online strategy to use social media as a brand-building tool that will involve developing communications and engaging prospects to determine what their customers actually want.
And therein is the key. Social media networks allow you to connect directly with your customers and engage them on a personal level. It beats traditional cold-calling PR. Brands are bringing their social media activity in-house to keep in constant touch with the customer base and to build on the number of followers. Of course, this level of social media activity is not accessible to everybody, but just because you own a small business doesn’t mean you cannot interact with your customers on social media networks.
Linking with Linkedin
Linkedin is designed to connect executives, small businesses and creative professionals so if you are a consumer-based businesses, Linkedin is not the best social media network for you. The idea with Linkedin is to share business ideas, experience, stories, news and anecdotes. It’s not designed to make sales and promote your products so steer away from making hard sells.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t put yourself out there. On the contrary, to get noticed on Linkedin you have to actively engage with discussion forums and say things that make people sit up and take notice. The thing to remember about social media is that people are not going to come to you — they are drawn to users who share their voice and talking a lot of sense.
So, bottom line — be active. Join communities that relate to your business, start conversations, respond to threads, answer e-mails. Show your contacts that you are professional, talented, reliable, knowledgeable about your industry and have your finger on the pulse.
Branding on Google+
Some commentators on social media networks have flagged Google+ up as the one to watch. Could it be the fastest growing and biggest social media site in times to come? It doesn’t look that way at the minute to be honest, but when people get tired of fickle followers on Facebook, they will start taking advantage of Google+.
In a similar vein to LinkedIn, Google+ is mostly used by professionals, but does get a lot of interest from the general public — or if you prefer to call them “consumers” so be it. But at the moment Google+ is a social media space to share thoughts, comments and ideas. It’s actually not that far removed from a news site —– depending on who you follow — albeit gives you more details than Twitter.
Similar to LinkedIn again, you have to be active and engage your circles and your hangouts as well as post content with a link back to your own site. It goes without saying that the content you post must have a title and opening paragraph that makes people want to click through to your post. Also, join as many groups as you can that relate to your business.
You need a compelling profile that tells visitors what you do and what you have done. Don’t write a life story; keep it brief and interesting — just pick your highlights which show you are an expert in your field. If you can name drop big companies you have worked for, all the better. It also helps to update your profile or posts with useful information about your industry.
One of the unique tools you will find on Google+ is the circles. Although you can join group circles which is OK for posting content, by creating micro-circles aimed at specific industries or individuals you feel you can work with on a business to business bases, you can narrow your targets and connect with prospects on a personal level. This relationship has more potential of blossoming into a business transaction than sending generic comments and messages for everybody to read.
Facebook and Twitter
Many things have already been written and said about Facebook and Twitter, both pros and cons. The fact of the matter is that what works for one business doesn’t always work for another, even if they are following the same rules. Twitter can be infuriating for some users who invest hours a week following tweets to respond to, researching interesting tweets to post and eventually getting nowhere. The problem for most people is there is not enough space to say what you want and make it interesting. If that is the case use another social media network. There are plenty around.
Facebook gives you more scope to connect with consumers, but most users are really only bothered about chatting with their friends. That’s not to say that businesses haven’t had any success on Facebook because they have — the key is to come up with an exciting advertising campaign.
To get people sharing your links and liking your profile you need to actively engage them — challenge your audience and get them involved. For example, a couple of months ago, Facebook launched video for Instagram which allows users to film something on their mobile phone and post it to Instagram to share with their friends — oh wait, here’s an idea for you … I think you can guess.
Social media marketing may not be the powerhouse it promises to be just yet, but it is only a matter of time before users can really start to take advantage of the opportunities these types of networks present. Of course, it takes some creativity and some trial and error to work out what works and what doesn’t work, but the more exploration and practice you have with social media networks the more success you will have in the long run.
Richard Oldale is a freelance writer and SEO expert. With a vision for the future of online marketing he founded johnaudreyjones_productions to provide SMEs with proven SEO and social marketing strategies that will improve their online reputation in the short-term and retain it in the long-term. To find out more visit his website.