George Zeidan is an experienced Business Analyst, Development and Online Marketing Strategist.

Building business relationships using Social Media

Social media is becoming an integral part of our business communications today. Using social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn enhances your interaction with customers, suppliers and between the members of your team.

It is possible to use these platforms to you advantage but there are some pitfalls to remember when embracing this form of communication.

A Face to Your Business

While initially launched for social interaction, Facebook is now a key component of your business success. Providing an easy-to-use, accessible space for discussions, negotiations, sharing files, making comments and undertaking research, Facebook can become your business communication hub.

An excellent example of the opportunity provided by this platform is the Australian company, RB Bell. The company began as a micro home-based business and is now selling their innovative bike bell internationally – by using simple communication on Facebook.

Facebook revolutionised the way we use communication. Most people join under a personal profile and this becomes part of their personal brand. However many users are now seeing this platform as a way to combine their personal and professional life. It is crucial to remember how your personal brand can impact your business environment.

Be sure to set a Social Media Policy for all your team members outlining their expected online behaviour while representing the company. You might stipulate that during working hours, Facebook is for business usage only, with lunchtime and after hours for personal usage. You may also need to set down guidelines for the kind of communication between members inside and outside the workplace.

Linking Professionals

People find professional leads, share ideas, and pick up business opportunities through LinkedIn. You can choose to create “Invite only”, closed, or open groups to tailor to specific needs. You can keep tabs on the professional careers of people you have met, say fellow school graduates. This offers the potential to generate business opportunities with professionals you know and respect. This method of contact works. I know one business that doesn’t use anything but LinkedIn for their communication and they generate 60% of their business through the platform.

LinkedIn is also excellent for getting through gatekeepers who can sometimes stand in the way of small business connecting to decision-makers. You can access names and information about professionals through their LinkedIn profile. You then know who to call within the company and you know something about them to help generate conversation once you connect.

Gain access by sending a message to someone connected to you. You can use LinkedIn to see who is an employee of a company you want to connect with. See how they are connected to you, make contact and ask for an introduction.

In times of trouble

Being connected via multiple media platforms helps when things don’t go as planned. One web designer I know uses a hosting from the USA. When the server went down the designer’s website and emails went down as well. By communicating through Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, the hosting company kept in contact with him and other customers. It only took around six hours to get the server up again and the company was able to keep in touch with clients the whole time.

Likes and Dislikes

Social media provides a way for you to communicate with clients that is immediate, efficient cost-effective, and more personal. You can use it to:

  • Provide technical support
  • Make special offers
  • Launch events
  • Undertake product research
  • Receive customer feedback
  • Enhance customer service
  • Share company news
  • Present product promotions

You communications can be customised to your customers’ interests and allow them to give feedback about what they want, and what they like. They can also give you feedback on what they don’t like.

This feedback is valuable. Don’t miss your opportunity to interact with your customers and respond to their comments. This is especially true if you ignore their views when they tell you what they don’t like. A classic example is the Nestlé group who ignored comments on Facebook created by Green Peace members who were unhappy with the impact of the company’s production methods on the orang-utans’ habitat. Nestlé chose to ignore the comments then started deleting them. The backlash was harsh! The Green Peace members started posting even more and produced a damning video.

 Avoiding pitfalls

Some small businesses avoid using social media because they think it will take up too much of their time. This is only a problem if they fail to plan their promotions. By planning your communications and automating their delivery, you reduce the time needed to set them up; stay connected with your customers; and maintain consistency in your message. It is far more cost effective than doing it in a stop/start fashion.

Remember to:

  • Use automation wisely.
  • Automate events and announcements.
  • Plan your message.
  • Plan how often you want to send a message
  • Have a visual impact to your message by adding photos and videos
  • Utilise Scoopit and Google alerts to keeps tabs on what is happening around you and share relevant industry information
  • Track results using apps such as Hootsuite and Gremlin

If you expect others to read what you have to say, make sure you show the same level of respect when someone comments on a post. Plan to spend half an hour per day to look at comments and engage in communication with these people. You will soon see the value in social media communication and reap the benefits through expansion in your business.

George Zeidan is an experienced Business Analyst, Development and Online Marketing Strategist. He specialises in identifying, designing and implementing effective solutions to meet the current and future needs of the business. www.zeidan.com.au

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