Many businesses hear about the advantages of social media in terms of marketing their products or services, but some forget to look at other major benefits of social media beyond finding leads or making a sale.
Here are eight ways that businesses can use social media to learn more about themselves and their industry as well as get more involved with their clients and communities interested in what they have to offer.
1. Monitor Conversation About Themselves
There are many free ways to monitor what people are saying about your company through social media, including the following:
Google Alerts will send you a daily digest email anytime your search terms come up in blogs, news, or other websites.
Social Mention monitors 100+ social media properties directly including: Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed, YouTube, Digg, Google etc. You can have your mentions emailed to you daily.
If you want to know real time what people are saying, you can setup a Twitter search in HootSuite, Tweetdeck, or just keep a RSS feed in your feed reader using Twitter search results. Include searches for your company, business owner, or unique product name.
2. Keep Up to Date on Their Industry
Along with keeping up with what is being said about your brand, as anyone with a business administration degree would tell you, you should also keep up to date on current events and news that affects your industry as a whole.
While there have been good company reactions to industry issues, such as pet food brands that assured their customers that their food was tested and 100% safe during the recalls and Toyota continuing to address their recalls assuring customers they are working to resolve the problems, I have seen some other fails where there was obviously no attention by the companies given to current events such as:
- Auto warranty companies continuing their usual advertising while stories of auto warranty scams were on the rise.
- A hotel chain in Hawaii sending out “last minute deals” about an hour before the tsunami was supposed to hit the islands.
If you’re keeping up with how the public feels about your industry, you can reformulate your next announcements and advertising to boost the confidence in your company even in the midst of a negative wave. In the above examples:
- The auto warranty companies could add facts to their advertisements which would prove their authenticity above the scammers so people could trust them.
- The hotel chain could have simply sent out updates on the conditions and reassure the public once the threat was over that it was safe enough to take advantage of their special rates.
3. Give Great Customer Service
One great way to use social media is for customer service. For example, if you have a Facebook Page setup, your customers might ask specific product questions.
Answering them right on the page not only gives them the info they want right away, but shows other fans / potential clients that you are a readily available to help, as well as provide an answer to a question that other clients might want to ask.
You can also encourage phone calls from your social media channels and set up your small business phone service to turn all those calls into the leads!
4. Provide Emergency Updates
Lately, the way to find out if something is not working is to make a quick search on Twitter. The last time I couldn’t get into my Gmail, I went straight over to Twitter to see if others were having the same problem or if it was just me – it was the former, so I knew there wasn’t an account issue.
Customer service is never more important than during times of crisis.
Since many people now turn to Twitter to voice their complaints and concerns, those that respond through the same media show both their followers and others who are watching the events unfold that they are interested in helping their followers quickly. It helps add a positive light to a bad situation.
5. Gain Customer Feedback and Opinion
Social media can be a great research tool. If your company has unveiled a new product or service, maybe your customers will be talking about what they think about it in real time.
I’m sure that Coca-Cola monitors any comments on their latest drinks to see if people are enjoying it or hating it, which affects whether they will continue to produce a specific flavor or try out a new one. You can also query your followers to ask them their opinion on a future product to get their insight before it even goes into development so you can create something that you know others will be interested in.
It is also a good idea to create polls on Facebook regularly to gain insight into your audience.
6. Move Positive Information to the Top
Reputation management via social media can be a great way to boost positive information about your business to the top of search results in an attempt to get negative results off of the list.
So if your company had a negative review placed on sites such as Rip Off Report or individual blogs, the best way to counter it is to have your company website, blog, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social profiles ranking higher than that bad entry. It only takes ten strong, positive items to bump that bad one off of the first page.
7. Drive Traffic to Their Website
Social media can certainly help boost the traffic going to your website in a variety of ways. If you have a regularly updated corporate blog, you can post your blog articles on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and social bookmarking sites, which should help drive visitors to your post and then onward to your main site for products and services.
Also, you can monitor people talking about the products and services you offer and respond to them with your link if it helps answer their questions. Just recently, I mentioned migraines, and someone sent me an @mention with a link to learn more about natural homeopathic migraine remedies.
Social media is perfect for launching a new site as well as promoting an established one.
You just have to make sure that what you are sending will be absolutely helpful to the person you are replying to, and not look too much like a blatant advertisement (ie. maybe send a blog post link instead of a link to a product page unless some specifically says “I want to buy ___, where can I find it.”)
8. Create a Reference Library
Social bookmarking makes it easy to create a reference library of any news / press releases / mentions of your company.
Simply use your hashtag alerts to find the places online that talk about you, and use sites like Flipboard to bookmark them. This helps you keep track of all the talk about your company, as well as boost the article by giving it the bookmark.
More Tips on Social Media for Business
Looking for more ideas on how to use social networking for business? Check out this post on business social networking by a blogger whose focus is on helping small businesses use online marketing more efficiently and effectively.
Do you have a business that you use social media as an avenue to connect with clients? Or do you know of a business that does a great job using social media? Let us know in the comments!