4 Steps to Make Social Media Work for Your Business

Light_bulbs

I've spent quite a bit of time this month listening to business owners discuss the challenges and opportunities they see implementing social media into their businesses. A common thread through many of these discussions is a sense of burden. Another task. Another chore.

Interestingly, when I ask them if they plan on growing their revenue this year, the answer is unequivocally: YES.

There's obviously a disconnect between those two concepts – but when I'm able to start linking the leveraged opportunities that social media provides, with increased revenue, a lightbulb goes off.

In the spirit of sharing that 'light,' I thought I would share what I will be working on with clients in 2010. I call them the The Four "I's:"

  1. Integration
  2. Innovation
  3. Implementation
  4. Iteration

Integration
Social media works for your business when it is deeply integrated within your business. Slapping up a up a Facebook fan page or a Twitter account is not going to get it done. These are not ads that your purchase, run, and then discard. Social media is a process of engagement with your customers and your employees. If your front line customer service staff are able to publicly listen and respond in real time to customer concerns, then suddenly, what was once viewed as "damage control" is now reframed as "trust-building" – which I'm here to tell you is sales. If your sales and development staff are empowered to do the same thing, then you've developed a process by which customer feedback, opportunities, and ideas get immediately distributed throughout the business. Powerful stuff.

Innovation
You bring something special to your work. Passion. Expertise. Creativity. Energy. There is no reason why your social media efforts should lack any of these same qualities. Because social media tools enable a high degree a transparency, your best qualities have a chance to shine through. Quite a few businesses are content to simply broadcast information to their customers on platforms like Facebook. But if you are able to capture and share the same passion, expertise, creativity and energy you have with your customers – you have an opportunity to do something special. You don't have to spend a lot of money here. If you are a restaurant – make the Friday lunch special a dish voted on by your Facebook fans. If you are a retail clothes shop, invite your Twitter followers for a special Friday night VIP fashion show party. You get the idea.

Implementation
This is a huge. You have to actually do things in order to achieve success. Make a plan. Integrate into your business. Be innovative. And then do it. Listen. Post. Interact. Engage. Make changes. Communicate. Party. I think this stage is where some business owners get a little reflux. But look at it this way – would you ever just stop doing business once you sold one product? Of course not – you make a sale, and then you make another and another. In other words you do it…and…

Iteration
…and do it again. And again. The world is littered with dead Facebook and Twitter accounts. It's easy to understand why. People weren't interested in listening, in engaging, in communicating. They were hoping for the quick fix. The easy solution. But probably no part of your business is just snap-your-fingers easy. Anything worth having is worth working hard to achieve. So stick with it.  If you've having fun with your business, then you'll have fun engaging your customers. It is probably what you enjoy the most anyway. Social media allows you to leverage that fun work, and at the same time help your business grow.

Photo credit: Flickr: Thomas Hawk

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