Make social networking sites work for youBy Nick James
October 28, 2009
The loss of community spirit is cited as one of the main reasons for social isolation in today’s hectic world.
But even though most of us hardly say more than a cursory ‘hello’ to our neighbours, out there in Cyberspace there is an ever increasing amount of online communities ready to engage with us.
Social networking sites have become an Internet phenomenon. At the last count there were over 300 million active users of Facebook, all keeping up to date with their friends and contacts by exchanging news and lifestyle information.
Whether or not you personally view these sites as a positive development, no-one can deny that they are extremely popular.
While psychologists may argue about their effects on the human psychic, the sheer volume of users they attract makes it clear to the astute business person that they have enormous business potential.
Sites such as Facebook, and more recently, Twitter, are free for users who do not want to buy specific advertising space, so they are very well suited indeed to the needs of small business.
For those businesses that serve the younger generation they are an absolute godsend.
The best sort of business presence on a social networking site is one that acts like a continually updated, interactive press release; keeping customers involved with the latest company news and inviting their response to new ideas.
However, creating an online business persona that suits such a fast paced medium requires very careful thought.
Before starting messaging it’s important to know exactly how this type of online presence will help promote your business and to be fully aware that any comments you post will be open to instant public criticism and debate.
This is something that can severely disrupt your marketing message if taken lightly.
So, if you are thinking of creating a company presence on Facebook or Twitter anytime soon it’s well worth noting the following points:
Firstly, make sure you know how to use these sites properly before posting anything on them and be thoroughly conversant with the facilities they provide.
Know exactly what your objectives are and be sure that they fit with your company branding.
Create, and practise using, a suitable style and tone of company ‘voice’ before communicating through it online.
Make sure that this voice is clear, concise and, very importantly, consistent
Keep the tone of your postings friendly, but always sound professional and don’t lapse into jargon.
Be careful not to be lulled into a sense of false security by posting spontaneous thoughts and comments related to your business, no matter how exited you are at the time.
Twitter particular can tempt you into this. What is okay for personal postings doesn’t usually work for company messaging.
Before posting comments think of any possible legal implications your message may hold and if in doubt, don’t post until you’ve checked it out thoroughly.
Read everything through twice before you post it, checking for quality of content, grammar and spelling.
If you make the business decision to ‘tweet’ on Twitter then make sure you do it regularly.
Use social networking sites in an informal, but informative way. Be friendly and open about your company and share your company news with your audience.
Always remain firmly aware of the Internet’s power to mobilise and sway public opinion. Literally everyone who can log on has the opportunity to put forward their views on every conceivable subject and this can backfire spectacularly.
Social networking sites can be a real boon to small businesses, but they must not be used haphazardly.
Make sure that any message you put out there has the right content, style and tone to suit your customer base and, most importantly, be sure that everything you say is genuine and not simply attention seeking.