Many of you now would have heard of or even use social media services such as Facebook and Twitter.
Over the past few months we have been doing extensive research into just how effective these two popular services can be to on-line businesses (especially ecommerce) and how best to utilise them to increase your exposure and attract new customers.
In this article, we explain the basics of what Facebook and Twitter are and then run through some exciting possibilities for utilising these systems in your business.
Facebook (www.facebook.com) is a free social networking site which was initially set up many years ago for college students to find out info about and communicate with fellow students. The site then expanded to the general public allowing people like you and I to find long lost friends and family and to allow us all to keep up to date with what each other is doing through the use of messages, photos and other forms of on-line communication.
Facebook has really taken off over the past few years and we are now finding a very large demographic of generation X and Y consumers using Facebook at least once a day.
One of the newer additions to Facebook are the Facebook 'pages'. This essentially lets you set up a profile page for a business, band, community group or some other form of organisation. Once you have set up a Facebook page for your business, you can then attract 'Fans' who are Facebook users that are notifying you they wish to be kept up to date with developments in your business.
For information on setting up Facebook Pages, visit http://www.facebook.com/advertising/?pages
Twitter is a very popular tool that has gained a massive boost in popularity over the past six months thanks to the high profile use by many leaders such as Barrack Obama and Kevin Rudd.
Twitter is basically a tool that allows people to post a message on the Internet (up to 140 characters) at any time. This is often used to post thoughts for the day, what the person is currently doing or links to interesting things on the Internet.
The way Twitter works is that you set up a Twitter account and then encourage other Twitter users to 'follow' you (by visiting your account page and clicking a button to start following you). Followers are automatically updated whenever you post a message and you are also automatically updated whenever someone you are following posts a message.
This relatively simple piece of technology is actually surprisingly powerful and effective. It allows individuals or businesses to keep up to date with news items, thoughts and other information from sources of interest.. all automatically without having to visit different websites or subscribe to email newsletters.
How Facebook can benefit your business
By setting up a Facebook page for your business, you can capture a segment of your market that are Facebook users. For example, say you have an on-line shop (ecommerce), you could set up a Facebook page with links back to your website, discussions on the products you sell and use Facebook to announce specials for Facebook users only.
This is a great way to build a community of Facebook users who are loyal to your business and are spreading the word of your business through the Facebook community which could attract more and more customers to you.
One of the great things about Facebook is that when someone makes a comment, posts a photo, etc. then all of the people in their network (it is quite common for people to have a couple of hundred people in their network) are automatically notified and therefore your brand is exposed to them.
How Twitter can benefit your business
Sign up for a Twitter account at http://www.twitter.com and it could be one of the smartest moves for your business. Once signed up you can search for other individuals and businesses and also advertise your Twitter address (such as http://www.twitter.com/mantistech) to people in order to get them to follow you.
You can then use Twitter to follow your competitors, suppliers and other people in the industry to be instantly notified of news, events and other information that you may not normally come across. You can also use Twitter to announce news, events and other information to your followers and customers.
For example, if you have an ecommerce store, you could announce that you are having a 20% off sale for the next 24 hours and all your followers will be notified instantly, encouraging them to quickly visit your site and take advantage of the special offer.
Using social media can be daunting at first but once you get into it, you will find that the possibilities for attracting new customers and building relationships, trust and brand awareness is huge. The utilisation of social media for your marketing is free and requires minimal effort once you are comfortable and used to the technology. This sort of marketing could be the key for your business in times like these where you are trying to cut costs while attracting more business.