The majority of consumers these days get information from social network sources. According to a January 2010 Forrester Research report titled Introducing the New Social Technographics, 70 percent of online consumers read or view social content from networks. This presents a significant opportunity for small businesses to use the social Web to spread the word about their companies and build relationships with customers. But many business owners hesitate, as they aren’t quite sure how to get started. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
1. Go where your customers are. Are they already using Facebook, Twitter, or Foursquare? To find out, ask your customers where they are online and ask how they found you. Try using TweepSearch or similar tools to search for your business name. You might be surprised to see how many existing customers comment on your business on Twitter or Facebook. These can be both positive and negative comments, so it is important to see what people are saying and react appropriately.
2. Start a blog and create a fan page. By sharing relevant information in a blog, you give your customers the chance to get to know you and learn valuable information. A blog on your Web site filled with interesting, useful information will give visitors a reason to return. An example is a running store in Boston that shares daily training tips on its blog, drawing customers back and keeping them engaged with new products that it profiles in the blog. As an added benefit, your blog and business page posts will serve as fresh content that will get your site more highly ranked by search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing.
3. Explicitly commit time to "being social" online. Just as you interact with your customers offline, engaging with them online is increasingly important. After all, that is where 70 percent of them are looking for you. Make an explicit commitment to update your blog and business page regularly, and check for comments and reviews there and elsewhere on the Web. Customers are happy to see you share helpful information and respond to their questions and suggestions. Potential customers will see the care you are taking and be more likely to buy from you in the future.
Vice-President and General Manager, Grow Your Business Division
Mountain View, Calif.
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