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How to grow your business using social networks

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Twitter
Twitter is the hottest social network currently. Twitter takes messages of up to 140 characters at a time and you can access it not just from the Internet, but also from your cellphone. The real power of Twitter is when you combine it with URL shorteners like bit.ly or tinyurl. They let you embed links within your tweet. Guy Kawasaki (@GuyKawasaki) former Apple fellow and now Managing Director of Garage Technology Ventures, is putting out hundreds of Tweets these days that embed interesting URLS from alltop.com, of which he is co-founder. One of the advantages of Twitter is that there are a number of tools out there that enhance your ability to use the platform. For example, Twitterfeed lets you automatically Tweet the update of, say, a blog on Twitter. Tweetlater, as the name indicates, lets you schedule Tweets, and so on. Yammer is the closed corporate version of Twitter. It lets you Tweet to closed user groups as identified by your corporate e-mail ID.

David Langton, Principal, Langton Cherubino Group, New York

We created a new game/app called MasterpieceYourself to market our services as a creative branding and interactive design firm. We used social networking services Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and e-mails to bloggers and Websites to build up interest in our work.

MasterpieceYourself.com allows users to insert their own photo into the face of a masterpiece portrait like the Mona Lisa. We put together this game as a self-promotion to emphasize our interactive capabilities. For our beta launch, we emailed an announcement to 1,000 people on our client/prospect e-mail list, and we received about 125 hits. Then we promoted the website to bloggers, publications, and media outlets, and we started getting hundreds of hits per day. We are very popular in Italy and Canada, where thousands of users have played the MasterpieceYourself game. We then beefed up the Website and added content about the artists.

How exactly did you promote the Website to bloggers?
We did four things:

1. Sent a PR-style e-mail out to editors, bloggers at magazines, newspapers, etc.

2. Sent a self-promotional HTML e-mail to all of our clients, prospects, and friends on our e-mailing list.

3. Sent targeted e-mails with messaging like “Check out this cool new game” to bloggers who cover design, tech, and news media.

4. Started discussions on LinkedIn Groups promoting the URL.

What tools do you use to track new blog recommendations?
We use Google Alerts to track when we are mentioned on blogs... and we Google “masterpieceyourself” regularly to see what comes up in the searches.

We have increased traffic to the site and recently had 5,000 hits in one day. More importantly, we have had over 10,000 engaged users who have made their own “masterpiece’ and shared them via e-mails and Facebook postings.

LinkedIn
LinkedIn is positioned as a professional network. One of its key features is its answers section where people ask questions on a variety of subjects and others can answer, as well as its profile section that is more like a professional resume.

Those who ask questions can also rate the answers, and those who gave the best answers gain “expertise” that shows up in their profile.

Orkut/Facebook/MySpace
Orkut is the most used social network in India according to Comscore, with almost 12.9 million unique visitors in December 2008, followed by Facebook with about 4 million unique visits. LinkedIn by comparison had 513,000 visitors from India. Thus, if you have a mass-based or a youth-based product, it is all the more necessary that you have a brand presence on Orkut and Facebook.

Derrick Hayes, derrickhayes.com

I was looking for a way to cost-effectively market my business. I have a gift to turn names into positive messages (each letter of the name converted into a word reading together as a message). I came across HARO in September 2008. The community has uplifted my talents and taken me to international status through my Gift Bag Requests service at derrickhayes.com. I have had tremendous success in a short amount of time. I have been blogged on, interviewed on a radio show, and will be quoted in a book this fall. Through HARO my work has been seen in the US, Canada, and next month will be in the UK.

Help a Reporter (helpareporter.com)
Help a Reporter (HARO) is a rather unique resource. It connects reporters looking for sources (people to talk to) with people willing to talk to them. While HARO is not used that much by Indian reporters and journalists, it is still a worthwhile resource that can maybe get you quoted in the US or Canada.

YouTube
Youtube is well-known as a video sharing service. It is a good place to host videos on your products and services, including product demos, ads, how-tos in video form, and so on. Many viral marketing campaigns have also included YouTube videos.

Our social networking program contributed first to holding traffic to our Website steady during the height of the recession, and then building traffic up to above previous levels, while reducing the cost of advertising.

Worldwidebrands.com developed free videos covering selling on Amazon, selling from Yahoo! Stores, improving SEO, etc. We also did some Webinars.

Each time we were in production with one of the major contributors, our president, director of operations, director of business development, and affiliate manager would Tweet interesting comments as teasers about the programs being developed. We linked each video on YouTube with links to our Website. Matching articles appeared in Squidoo, again with links to our site. Our affiliates were encouraged to post articles and comments in MySpace.

Each time a video was released on YouTube or an article in Squidoo, our team would Tweet comments about the content, value, and location of the videos and articles.

People now arrived on the site specifically looking for something that had attracted their interest in the Tweet. As a result, visitors started spending more time on the site and visited more pages. Traffic to the order page also increased, while the conversion percentage remained the same.

We were able to decrease our spend on PPC (pay per click) advertising.

Les Cowie
Director of Business Development, Worldwide brands.com

SlideShare is to presentations what YouTube is to videos. SlideShare lets you upload slide presentations and share them.

Wikipedia
One does not naturally think of Wikipedia when one thinks of social networks. But it has emerged as a more or less standard source of basic information on almost everything given its high ranking in any Google search.

Shel Horowitz, frugalmarketing.com

I’ve been social networking online since 1995, and since 1996, it’s been my single largest source of clients in my copywriting and marketing consulting business.

The social network that brings me the most work is an old-fashioned one: e-mail discussion groups. A major advantage they have over the newer networks is that they reach everyone on the list, rather than those who happen to be checking their network at that moment. Which means, over time, you can establish a very clear brand in the minds of those participants. E-mail discussion lists are the social media tool that changed my own business from a local to an international service provider.

I do use the modern communities as well. Usually, I start to see results within about six months of joining a new community. But I once got a client from my first post to a group – and I’ve also had the experience of participating for several years and then suddenly landing clients.

To my social media clients starting out, I advise concentrating first on Twitter. The user experience is easy, it provides two-way communication, and you don’t have to wade through junk like in Facebook or MySpace. I also suggest finding and participating actively on one or two Yahoo! Groups.

In all of it, I recommend being strategic: know your goals, let all your posts advance your goals (which doesn’t mean you only post business – that’s counterproductive), and avoid being sucked into reputation-destroying catfights. And the most strategic thing you can do is to be consistently helpful, friendly, and informative.

The question is: does your brand have a page on Wikipedia? In today’s search-centered world, a Wikipedia page may be as important as having your own Website

Flickr
One of the original sharing sites, Flickr is about posting photographs and sharing them. Now, how do you use Flickr if you’re not a photographer? Let’s say you are doing a new product launch. What about photographs on Flickr, an instructional or demo video on YouTube, a discussion on LinkedIn, and Tweets about all these on Twitter?

Deborah Madey, Peninsula Realty Group
I own a real estate brokerage firm in New Jersey. I have helped Indian professionals, among others, lease commercial space and sell residential homes, and I currently have Indian clients who are seeking to buy. These client relationships were first established on social media.

Which social media do you have an active presence in? In what way are you active?
I participate on may social media, some specific to the real estate industry, and many major social media sites. I divide social media into the following categories:

1. General social media: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter.

2. Secondary participation: Those sites where I comment, but do not generate posts, like NYTimes and Asbury Park Press.

3. Industry-specific sites: For real estate these include Trulia.com for connecting consumers with professionals, and AgentGenius.com that connects agents to agents.

Is it purely for business?
I have several objectives for my participation in social media.

1. Connect with consumers and talk about the real estate market. When I write on Trulia, my objective is to demonstrate proficiency in what I do professionally. I do not “solicit” any business. Consumers who read my answers may determine that they wish to contact me. I have noticed that many Indian professionals have contacted me as result of information about the industry that I have provided.

2. Connect with consumers and talk about the local community; not necessarily about real estate. The goal here is both for connections and fun. I don’t push that I am in the real estate biz, nor do I solicit business. People may meet me because we talk online about a community event, and at a later time they ask me about real estate.

3. Connect with real estate agents anywhere in the country. This helps my business in two ways: referrals and trade advice.

What is the closure rate of contacts initiated through social media and how does it compare with contacts initiated through other sources?

Contacts through social media are not necessarily all leads. The metrics of contacts made versus closing is not viable for social media. The metric that I utilize is the budget of time established against the value of contacts made for short-term analysis, and value of closed business over the long term. Currently, I budget 15 hours a week to spend on social media. Some weeks it works out to be less, other weeks more. My ROI is measured in terms of volume of engagements made for the month, and business tracked to social media YTD.

Any specific comments on the quality/nature of client contacts initiated through social media?
The quality and nature of the client is often related to the site. On a Q&A site, such as Trulia, clients tend to seek more fact and analysis. Engineers and techies tend to be more analytical. My ability to run an excel sheet and talk numbers establishes me as credible for them. On a site such as Facebook, a discussion about the local music festival may connect friends of friends, or reconnect friends who have lost touch. These clients tend to ask less tough questions, and also are not as loyal. When a client chooses me because they are looking for expertise and find what they believe they want in me, the loyalty increases.

Any advice for other small businesses trying to build up clientele through social media?
Don’t sell. Don’t solicit. Social media is about sharing information, NOT solicitation. If one solicits, they will quickly find themselves shut out. Demonstrate expertise in your area. Build relationships. Treat social media as you would participation in networks such as Chambers of Commerce, Rotary, NetIP, or volunteering on the board or committee of a local community or charity group. You first meet people, and later relationships evolve.

Establish a Twitter account. Use search.twitter.com to search keywords of relevance to you. Follow people with whom you share interests. The discussions on Twitter will take you to other relevant social media sites where you can build relationships and connections.

If you are really serious about exploring social media, find a local social media club.

Your best results will come from posting your original content, but posting links with valuable info can also be beneficial.

Networks for your industry
Finally, do not forget to find and become active in the social network for your own industry. Like with any industry meeting, that is a good way of not just keeping track of what is happening in your industry, but also for doing deals and swapping leads.



Comments (1)Add Comment
Social networking is now th basic tool for SEO like me
written by bond, November 24, 2009
Thanks for explaining the power of social networks. Most of our work(SEO) was made easy by social networking which in turn helped us to drive huge traffic thus resulting expected PRs.
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