Social media can boost business

In these challenging economic times, every company is looking for ways to gain market share and increase sales. But connecting with new customers requires more than a glossy brochure.

One way is to leverage the power of social media – a new marketspace available for those organizations able to capitalize on the opportunity.

Social MediaSocial media is an unstoppable revolution in the way people connect, communicate and build communities online. But how can you take advantage of social media to build real world revenue?

Here are a few social media marketing tips to consider.

Facebook – It seems as if everyone is on Facebook these days. Indeed, research shows that nearly 1.2 billion people visit Facebook each month. Starting a Facebook page is free and easy, so it makes sense to become part of the growing excitement.

Here you can demonstrate what your company does, communicate what makes you different and build a following of “fans” who will, in turn, spread the word to their friends.

Facebook also allows you to target online advertising by running ads that attract specific groups of users based on what information they include in their profiles.

YouTube – If a picture is worth a thousand words, then video can be priceless.

YouTube is another free and easy-to-use social media site that has grown to rival traditional broadcast and cable TV in popularity. Here you can post video clips of your products in action, upload content featuring your in-house experts or tell the story of happy customers. Your videos don’t need to be expensive productions, and don’t be afraid to be creative. If your clip “goes viral,” a simple camcorder can go a long way toward boosting your brand.

Twitter – While a relative newcomer to the scene, Twitter has become the fastest growing social media vehicle and has over 54 million hits each month.

Users post short messages, known as “tweets,” and interact in an environment akin to a global party line. Use Twitter to send out daily tips on using your products, informational links to related Web pages or targeted promotional offers to all of your followers. One company recently asked customers to tweet a “password” to receive free products and the company drew more than 17,000 followers as a result.

Flickr – Bolster the profile of your business by offering a peek behind the scenes. Post photos of new products, services or features on Flickr and invite comments from customers and visitors.

Offering a sneak preview online can help build demand among potential customers and provide you with critical feedback to help strengthen the launch of new products and services.

LinkedIn – If Facebook is like a backyard BBQ, and Twitter is like a soapbox, then LinkedIn represents the proverbial office water cooler. Here you can find and connect with influential people in your industry and reach out to professionals, customers and consumer groups.

For service providers, establishing yourself as an expert in the field can bring in a steady stream of business. LinkedIn’s “Answers” feature enables business owners to do just that.

Digg – You’ve spent money and time to put up a company website, now it’s time to put your website’s content to work. Digg is a social news website made for people to discover and share content from anywhere on the Internet and an effective tool to draw more traffic to your website. Its cornerstone function consists of letting visitors vote on submissions (e.g., “thumbs up” or “thumbs down”). By submitting links, blog posts and other Web content, you encourage visitors to share and promote the information they enjoy or find interesting.

The rise of social media has given birth to an entirely new forum in which to promote your business. It gives you an avenue to run promotions more frequently than when using coupons or direct mail advertising. And by its very nature, you are free to devise more whimsical and engaging campaigns. Best of all, you don’t need to have a degree in computer science to use these social media techniques. Other than some relatively painless time and effort, the cost is essentially “free.” As a result, social media marketing is an attractive alternative to other traditional outlets.

Use social media to bolster your brand and promote your products and services to a worldwide customer base.

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