Social networks offer an excellent way to connect with business customers - but you must present a professional, credible face. Here's how to make the right impression.
- Identify which social media platforms your target customers are using - these are likely to be business networking sites such as SunZu (previously Ecademy) and LinkedIn and could also include social networking sites such as Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.
- Use search engines and search functions within different social media to target specific business people and locate their social media profiles.
- Research how your customers are using social media - consider if they use them to make contacts, find out about industry developments, research products and services, or sell to their own customers.
- Devise a strategy for using social media in your business - set measurable and realistic objectives and goals for your marketing.
- Create a profile on your chosen platform/s, including brief essential details about who you are and what you do, and add a link to your website.
- Engage potential customers by stressing how your offer can help their business.
- Apply your branding guidelines to your profiles to maintain consistency and establish your visual identity quickly.
- Engage with customers in a way that is appropriate to the platform - for example, the way you engage on LinkedIn is likely to be more professional by comparison with Facebook. For businesses active across many social networking platforms, it's worth finding a consistent tone of voice that matches your own brand objectives and is appropriate for your audience on each site.
- Find out how you can use your chosen platform to make a connection with target individuals. With LinkedIn, for example, this is likely to mean researching their profile to find out which discussion groups they belong to and joining these.
- Use groups, forums and blogs to demonstrate relevant expertise and knowledge, and to pose and answer questions about your industry.
- Don't force your product or service on potential customers, but show them that you are a credible supplier by sharing your knowledge and helping others. Make it easy for people to find you - so when posting in forums or commenting on blogs include a link to your website, your blog, your social media profile/s, and so on.
- Use relevant keywords about your sector, product or service. These will be picked up by search engines and make it easier for potential customers to find you.
- Be active on your chosen platform - show customers you are engaged, so update your profile and check and respond to your messages regularly.
- Measure your progress against objectives - many social media platforms have tools that will tell you how you are
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