Making Time For Social Media in Business

Last April, I received an e-mail from a friend of mine in New York requesting to “friend” me on Facebook. I ignored it.

Many similar requests followed. I ignored them, too. As a business owner who is involved in her local community, I have limited time to indulge in activities just for “fun.” I found myself saying things like, “I don’t have time for this,” and “I can’t put another thing to do on my plate.” I just didn’t get it.

After getting a bazillion of these “friend” requests, I decided that maybe I should look into it. When an opportunity came up to attend a free seminar put on by Sue Peppers and Stephanie Chandler on social networking, it sounded interesting. It promised to explain the ins and outs of using social media, and it turned out to be a very informative seminar. So, I decided to give it a try.

I went home and set up my Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts and started to devote some of my time to these social media efforts. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, it turned out to be a smart move on my part.
Fast forward to January 2010, nine months later. No, I didn’t have a baby. But close.

Connecting and Reconnecting

We have always stayed in touch with our clients, but having Facebook as a way to interact in a non-intrusive way on a regular basis has been the most amazing thing that has ever happened to our business. We have been posting short video clips of our remodeling projects in progress, letting people know about events we are speaking at and sharing information that is of interest to them. We even share some of our successes when we get published in the media and win awards.

As a result, many of my old clients are on Facebook and fans of my business Facebook page. We stay in touch regularly. Because I am staying in the forefront of their minds, personally and as a business, they are now starting to refer more of their friends to my company and our fan page. Some of my clients have even contacted me for additional projects in their own homes.

On the social media network of LinkedIn, we got a real bonus. One of the friends in my photographer Dave Adam’s network in LinkedIn saw a link to our Web site and fell in love with a project we did. This friend turned out to be Joan Waters, a journalist who wrote a feature article on our project in the January, 2010 issue of Sacramento Magazine. This has generated some great exposure and a great deal of interest in our company.

Perhaps one of the best parts about using social media is that it is free. In this economy, where the marketing dollar does not stretch as far as we’d like it to, we can use all the help we can get. While social media is not a substitute for other marketing activities that are working for us, it is definitely a communication tool for what we’re already doing.

For example, when we do home shows, we invite potential customers to become a Facebook fan. When we advertise, we let readers know that we have a Facebook page. While a customer may not be ready to buy from us today, it’s important to understand that a Facebook fan can be converted into a customer in the future with consistent, non-intrusive interaction.

Taking the Social Plunge

If you’re considering the possibility of taking the plunge into the world of social media, there are some things you should know. One of the most important things to grasp about social media is that it is not like any other type of marketing that you’ve ever done. And the rules are different. Here are a few things that I’ve learned:

  1. Don’t expect immediate results. Treat it like exercise and working out. To begin with, set aside 30 minutes each day to interact with your Facebook or social media audience. It will pay off over time, just like working out does.
  2. Don’t go sales pitchy on your audience. Talk to your audience as you would a good friend. Share good content. Be informative, entertaining and intriguing. Don’t go on endlessly about how great your company is, yada, yada, yada.
  3. Your goal is to get people interacting with you on a regular basis. This consistent interaction is what builds relationships. You will learn what types of content and posting work best for you by the interactions you get.
  4. If someone makes a comment on your post, thank them or respond back if appropriate. If you ignore them, they will stop commenting.
  5. A picture speaks a thousand words. And so do short video clips. You will get a lot of interaction when you post photos and video content.
  6. When building your fan page, only invite the people you know to become friends or fans of your page. Don’t invite people you don’t know. This is a big turn off and invasive to people. Your fans will grow as your existing fans and friends tell other people about your page.
  7. You can advertise your fan page with Facebook’s ad clicks program. However, this is not free. You pay per click. This feature is for more advanced users and not advised until you have more experience with social media and the goals you wish to generate.
  8. Save time by setting up your social media to feed to each other. This way, you only have to do one entry when you post on a particular topic.
  9. Link your social media to your Web site and vice versa. This will help feed traffic in both directions.
  10. If you have a blog, you can feed your blog to your social media sites as well.

Now here’s the most important part of my message: Facebook and social networking venues should not be viewed as something extra to do. Rather, they are additional tools available to us for communicating with people in our social and business network.

As business people, we would never say, “I don’t have time for my cell phone,” or “I don’t have time for my e-mail.” This would mean the death of our business. These days, social media is becoming as vital as using the cell phone or e-mail. If we don’t use it, we will miss out on valuable opportunities to grow and expand our business.

Can any of us really afford to lose this kind of opportunity?