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There's a lot of talk about social media for business - ranging from "it's a complete waste of time" to "I have no real idea what it's all about" to great case studies of how Twitter alone has turned around failing businesses.
One thing's for sure. It's worth investigating!
I spend much of my time with clients in the early days guiding them through the thought processes that underpin strategic marketing planning.
We use a communications model that shows how we move through different stages when moving towards a buying decision - when making up our minds whether or not to do business with someone.
The key is to understand how this works for you - for your business, in your industry, given the profile of your ideal customer or client.
What does your prospective customer need to hear from you, feel about you or experience in order to move ever closer to you? You do this first. Then you work which marketing tools or activities will work best for you.
You can in fact deploy any activity as long as you are clear about your purpose and what you want to achieve.
However, this process has been described as turning strangers into friends.
That's where social media comes in - because it's the ideal tool - if used well.
I have heard Anna Farmery of the Engaging Brand describing the skills of a successful Tweeter as being the same skills that go to make a great conversationalist.
And Penny Power, co-founder of Ecademy, sums it all up (albeit in 227 pages) in her book Know Me, Like Me, Follow Me.
Like any tool, social media works when you know how to use it - efficiently and effectively.
Yes, it's a whole new world for many of us - confusing, daunting. But surely also potentially very exciting!
- Find a few people who appear to be already using social media successfully - follow them and learn from them.
- Get yourself a social media mentor - someone at least a little ahead of you in the game who is willing to help you out and guide you.
- Educate yourself about those platforms that appeal to you - they're all a bit different.
- Invest in some specialist training from someone skilled and knowledgeable in the area as a whole - and who can give you specific and personal support if you want to get seriously engaged.
- Do your homework and, if you want to give it a go, get a strategy in place first, work out a realistic activity plan and stick to it for a pre-defined period of time.
- Set it all up so you are clear about what you want to achieve and how you will measure your success.
- Have fun and enjoy it!
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