May 3, 2013

How social media networking can help grow your business

Networking via social media can be a cheap, fast and effective way to grow your business or a complete waste of time if it’s done the wrong way. Here, business growth expert and mentor Mike Boorn Plener shares some simple strategies for success and flags the traps you need to avoid.

Social media can be the cheapest, fastest and most effective way to get your message across. Yet, while most business owners are aware of the benefits, few are making the most of them.

“It’s common for a business owner to join a site like LinkedIn or Facebook and start sending out random invitations to connect to complete strangers,” says Mike Boorn Plener, Chief Mentor at TREPcoach. “Then they’re disappointed because hardly anyone takes up the offer.”

Instead, he recommends posting material that relates to your area of expertise and then approaching people who move in similar circles. “When they check out your profile, they’ll see that you’re providing information that’s useful to them, so they’ll also see a benefit in making the connection,” he says.

When you’re creating a profile, it’s important to understand that social media is about building trust and that people trust a person, not a business. “To be successful, you need to set the brand aside and be yourself,” Boorn Plener continues. “That doesn’t mean sharing all of your personal information. I’d never recommend that. But you do need to speak in an authentic voice and give a genuine opinion.”

It’s also important to rein in the selling. “Obviously that’s the end game, and your followers do want to know about your special offers, but if that’s all there is they’ll soon lose interest,” he says. “You have to mix it up with links to relevant articles, blogs or videos on YouTube – things that people can interact with and click through to. But don’t go to the other extreme and only post stuff from other people. Again, that gets boring. They want to hear your voice too.”

Mike’s top five tips for using social media

  1. Target your audience – don’t approach random strangers
  2. Be authentic – don’t use ‘brand speak’
  3. Be consistent with your content across all media
  4. Share your best material first
  5. Define from the start what you want to achieve – awareness, leads, sales, community building

Consistency is vital but that doesn’t mean you have to upload new material every day. “I suggest setting aside one day a month to generate all of your content: write the articles, make the video, establish the links – whatever mix you’ve established that works well,” says Boorn Plener. “You can then use one of the many free or low-cost scheduling websites to post this content automatically.”

He recommends posting the same content across multiple media. For example, if you write a 500-word blog post you can extract four or five lines for Facebook and take out two lines for Twitter. You can also draw on different points raised in a single blog article to create as many as ten different social posts.

“As long as the posts are a few days apart and you’re posting different information in between it can act as a good reminder,” says Boorn Plener. “Points raised in the blog will motivate different people to click through. And, if some followers see the same message more than once, that’s great because it increases penetration. We live in a noisy world and that’s a meaningful way of being heard without being too pushy. In fact, if you want people to take action quickly – for example, getting them to sign up for an event or take up a special offer – you’re likely to get the best response rates from people who are on your mailing list and also who see you on social media.”

While generating new material needn’t be a daily task, monitoring social media for negative comments should be. Criticism can spread like wildfire through social media and has the potential to damage your brand. It’s vital to stay in touch with what your customers are thinking so you can respond quickly and effectively to any negativity. “Social media marketing isn’t difficult or expensive,” concludes Boorn Plener. “You just need to avoid the traps.”

More from NAB: