You know that old saying the more you give, the more you will receive? Truer words were never spoken when it comes to understanding how Web 2.0 and social media marketing can benefit your business. In fact, I was invited to write this article via social media tool Twitter!
It’s perfect for small business owners, it doesn’t cost a cent to use and—most importantly—it can raise awareness, create a following of loyal customers and give you instant feedback allowing you to shape your business around your customer’s needs; a win-win situation.
If Web 2.0 sounds like a mystery to you, or you’re not sure if or how your business can benefit, rest assured if you’ve used the internet in the past couple of years you’ve already been exposed to it. It’s even likely you have participated in it. Have you watched a video on a website? Read a news article and noticed some comments below? Found a service using a search engine and read reviews about the business? All of these activities can be classified as Web 2.0.
Essentially, the term Web 2.0 can be used to describe the evolution of how people interact with content on the internet. It’s all about interactivity: with content, within personal networks and with businesses. And it’s not just for teenagers. Social media is a result of this new interaction.
Within social media you’ll find the traditional types of media: text, video, images, audio and the new platforms internet users can use to publish and share that media. Social media is all about connection, contribution and conversation. It’s about participating, engaging and adding value to the people you connect with.
Popular social media platforms include Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, LinkedIn, Digg, Flickr and YouTube and their usage is growing quickly, month by month. If you want to reach and engage with the new evolution of internet users—including your customers and potential customers—it’s time to get your head around social media.
Marketing using social media
Sound complicated? It’s not. Essentially, social media marketing is a modern day method of word-of-mouth marketing, using rich media, social networking, social news and bookmarking as a way of spreading that word via the internet. Here’s what you need to know: your internet audience (therefore your potential and existing customers) is learning to ignore passive messages like banner advertising and opting for interaction instead. They’ll talk amongst themselves about your business, products or services and, if you want to attract new customers on the internet, you need to add value to this conversation.
How do businesses benefit?
So how do you succeed in the Web 2.0 environment? Your audience expects transparency, honesty and engagement. Your approach needs to be one of relationship building, not the hard sell. While it may be difficult to measure the direct effect it has on the bottom line of your business, the opportunities and rewards will appear if you present yourself authentically. The two greatest benefits of engaging your business in social media are that you can build reputation and trust, two crucial factors when doing business anywhere.
Like anything, seeing the results of your interaction with social media can take time but if you embrace it, you can build a following of loyal customers who will act as brand ambassadors for your businesses. In this word of mouth environment, where advertising is not trusted and trust is gold, that’s priceless. The best news about participating in this new environment is that it costs nothing to use, is incredibly targeted (you can build yourself an audience of people receptive to purchasing your products and services) and is highly effective, making it a perfect internet toolset for business owners.
Using social media to ‘callout’
1. Create a network of your potential and existing customers using Twitter, Facebook, Linked in, Flickr and You Tube.
2. Receive immediate feedback to help shape your products and service offerings.
3. Engage in genuine conversation. Add value to your network and you’ll receive opportunities through building your reputation as an expert.
4. Build loyalty to create priceless word of mouth marketing between social networks to promote your business.