Everyone loves a good listener don’t they? Listening is one of those overlooked talents, sadly; it’s also a key component in conversation. These days the “conversation” has gone digital, it’s all happening on Twitter and Face book; but is anyone actually listening to all that digital noise? If you’re in business, listening is one conversational skill you should consider adding to your social networking presence. For start-ups, social networks offer a free service, one that many agencies would normally charge you an arm, a leg and any other body parts they could persuade you to hand over; it’s called market research. For start-ups, there is a lot of added value in your social networking presence; here are a few tips on how to use them to your advantage.
So that art of listening? This is where most social networks can be of huge advantage to small businesses. By asking questions, finding out what your friends or customers want, you’ll be able to establish a blue print for your product or services. It’s no good shouting from the rooftops about your product if everyone already has one, or knows where to get one cheaper. So who sells the cheapest of them all is a good place to start. Then you can undercut them, overheads allowing, of course.
Marketing yourself using social networking sites is a fine art. Not meaning to be harsh here, but many people won’t be enamoured by hard sell. The fact is that consumers aren’t as daft as they used to be, sadly, and know when you’re selling at them. Like blogging for business the old adage, “softly, softly, catchy wallet”, works here. Blog posts and tweets where the message is all about you won’t do much good, people need you to talk about them; that’s the only kind of conversation anyone’s really interested in. For social media marketing purposes, a competition here or there won’t go amiss; offering people the chance to get something out of this conversation is always going to get them interested. Comments on relevant areas of interest or links to useful articles are always a good way to get you noticed and to demonstrate your passion for your area of interest.
Time constraints are nearly always a big factor for small businesses. Apart from the day job, the chances are that you’ll have to do a number of additional jobs which can range from cleaning the office to accounting tasks. Finding time for social media marketing can be a tall order at the end of the day and can seem overwhelming. However, it’s an important part of your job, and as it’s all free marketing it shouldn’t be side-lined. Focussing your targets and aims and setting time aside daily for the task is essential – this is no different to any other part of business management and should be treated in the same way.
For small companies with the grand total of one employee there’s not a broken link in the chain when it comes to checking feedback on products via social networking sites. Once, however, there are a few people involved the feedback to implementation loop can become tangled. It’s important to ensure that those who could make changes are aware that they’re needed and to respond to ideas, requests or suggestions from social media channels. If you can’t find a way to implement a change or suggestion, let your fans know why. You never know, they might come up with a perfect solution without the need to employ an expensive consultant. Engagement and conversation are not always two way processes; sometimes businesses need to listen rather than speak. Social media campaigns that are “all about you” will soon fade into obscurity, those that let your customers do the talking, will be the ones that survive.
Simon Wilson blogs about small business, covering everything from payroll software to how small business can best use social media. When he’s not online Simon enjoys cycling swimming and visiting his local cinema.