“Social media” is a major buzz term in today’s highly technical, gadget and Internet-savvy world. While at first some may have thought it a passing fad, many social mediums are not only showing signs of staying power, but are proving themselves to be a valuable asset for small business owners. NCET, Nevada’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology, for example, has four websites and four Facebook pages, one for each of our major programs, along with LinkedIn, Flickr and Twitter accounts. Each has proved to be incredibly effective in communicating with the individuals, companies, agencies and organizations that are interested in our various programs. We are also able to cross-promote programs and events through effective management of these mediums. In short, even though we are a relatively small organization, we are competing on the same level as larger organizations by way of carefully managing our social mediums. In the next several months, I am going to show you how to do the same.
A few common questions beginners have about entering the social media age:
Is social media right for me?
In a word, yes. Even if you think your business is too small, too large, or “not right” for social media, think again. Ultimately, being involved with social media is simply about having a presence in online forums most often utilized by consumers today. It allows you to connect with consumers in a new way and expand your network exponentially.
Is social media expensive?
At the moment, social media is one of the most cost-effective marketing tools available for small businesses. The major investment you’ll make at first is your time.
How can social media bring me more business?
Participating in social media forums can help you:
* Expand your circle of business networks.
* Connect with customers in real time.
* Provide product demonstrations and customer reviews.
* Share industry news.
* Establish yourself as an expert in your field.
* Easily implement contests, promotions and sales.
* Drive new customer traffic by way of referrals.
What if I’m not I’m not tech-savvy?
You don’t have to be. Most popular social media tools are very easy to operate with “fill-in-the-blank” templates. The best part is, you can start small and build as you learn and grow. Start with a company profile, a few photos and a link to your company website. We’ll examine some of the most popular sites during the course of this column, but I’ll also encourage you to look into industry-specific social media opportunities as well.
Isn’t social media just for kids?
While teenagers and young adults have made sites like Facebook, My Space and YouTube popular the world over, social media isn’t just for kids any more. Even major high-profile corporations are getting into the game to stay competitive. Having this type of online presence also allows you to humanize your company, making you more approachable and real to your customers.
Will social media make my company look unprofessional?
Not as long as you follow some basic common sense principals. Using social media forums does not excuse you from following customary business etiquette. You can and should treat social media tools just as you would any other collateral you use to promote your business. Just as you carefully brand your company in the “real world,” you must brand your company online as well.
Will I have to spend a lot of time working my social networks?
Like any type of marketing, you get out of it what you put into it. Maintaining a social media presence does take some time and effort, but one you get the hang of it, it will become second nature. If you are serious about utilizing every advantage offered by social media networking and marketing, yet find it to be too time-consuming a task, there are plenty of consultants and marketing companies around that can help you take your social marketing presence to a new level.
What are some of the most popular social media forums?
* Blogging /E-mail marketing.
Dave Archer is chief executive officer of Nevada’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology. Contact him through http://www.NCET.org.
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