You know a business idea is genuinely bigger than Ben-Hur when they can make a Hollywood blockbuster movie about it. And you can find further evidence of its significance, as well as your need to understand that significance, when it’s valued at $50 billion!

In case you haven’t guessed what I’m talking about, it’s Facebook, and if you’re in this category and you’re running a business, then it’s time you opened your eyes to missed opportunities.

Get social

The penny dropped for me about how important social networking is when someone who appeared on my Grow Your Business program on Sky News Business Channel asked for a link for the program “so I can send it out to my social network”.

In old fashioned, pre-Facebook and pre-Twitter language, he was saying to me: “Let me tell all of the people I know and communicate with that you have a really good product!”

That’s enormous and it got me thinking that I will ask all of my friends, all of the people who I have helped over the years, all of my trusted clients who work with me – everyone that counts – to tell everyone they know about

Recommend me

Social networking is here to stay and is growing at a breakneck pace and it gives unbelievable legs to what we used to call referral selling. You know that if you were any good at business, you would ask your clients if they were happy with your service and also would they be happy to let friends and family know about the service? In a sense you’re asking people to introduce your business to the circle in which they have influence.

Well now that circle of influence via social networking – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube etc – is expanding and no business can afford to ignore it.

Be noticed

By the way, I’m not suggesting you simply ask your database to recommend you online, though it could work. I’m advising you to use content as a way into potential clients’ eyes, their hearts and hopefully their wallets and purses!

Social media is media designed to be disseminated through social interaction – social networking. An example could be a great YouTube video created by a business that leads to enormous interest and many who see it contact their friends, say on Facebook, and the marketing via social networking begins.

Start with a blog

Anne Bartlett-Bragg, general manager of Headshift, a social media consultancy, advises those entering the social media game to start with a blog.

Blogs not only allow you to engage with current and potential clients, says Bartlett-Bragg, they’re also great marketing and market research tools. Another advantage is blogs are fast and cheap to implement.

Bartlett-Bragg held a seminar where she discussed with businesses the power of using social media. One attendee, a gift buyer, said she would like to start a blog to build a profile and explain to customers what she does at trade fairs.

Bartlett-Bragg responded, “Why not say to your customers or the readers of your blog, ‘I’m going off to a trade fair, tell me what you’re interested in and I’ll report back and tell you if it’s there’. Get your customers to that engagement side of it. Talk to them as equals rather than at them”. 

Strike up a conversation

Allow the blog audience to post comments: asking questions, clarifying points and giving their input.

“Think of it as a conversation,” says Bartlett-Bragg. “Ask, ‘How can I engage and interact with customers and potential customers?’ Not all people who read your blog will be your direct customers, but they, or someone they know, may be in the future. That’s another way of setting yourself up as the expert.”

Are you trusted?

A major issue with the internet, however, is the credibility and authenticity of what is posted online.

The best thing for businesses would be to build up profiles of authenticity, credibility and respect. Then when someone asks you a question in a community, and you answer it, they will listen with that same respect.

“You should engage people as an equal. Authenticity is really important,” says Bartlett-Bragg.

Build customer loyalty

Another part of our business produces a women’s magazine called Russh and in the space of a year it has developed over 30,000 Facebook members, close to 8500 followers on Twitter and 9500 on MySpace. These are not only opportunities for us to give new content and info to loyal supporters, it’s an opportunity to show these supporters that we as a business want to relate to them and we want to go the extra mile for them.

These lines of communication are fantastic for building up customer loyalty.

Clearly, it’s time everyone got social and started networking the new age way!

If you’re looking to work on your business rather than being stuck in it, book in for a complimentary business assessment today with Switzer Business Coaching.

Important information: This content has been prepared without taking account of the objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular individual. It does not constitute formal advice. For this reason, any individual should, before acting, consider the appropriateness of the information, having regard to the individual’s objectives, financial situation and needs and, if necessary, seek appropriate professional advice.

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