In today’s “Social Web” environment (formally known as ‘the Internet’), a small business needs more than just a web site to create an awareness of their product or service. Today, you need a ‘presence’ on the Internet that far exceeds the capabilities of a static web site. You’ve heard of Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, but you’re not really sure how any of them can actually help you. You’re not alone.
I hear the same things from my clients over and over again in regards to Social Media.
“I started a Facebook account for my business, but I have no idea what to do with it.”
“My eyes glaze over every time I look at my Twitter page.”
“I don’t have time to check all these different sites every day!”
It’s overwhelming, isn’t it? You want to take advantage of all that social media has to offer, but how do you get started? How are you supposed to manage all these accounts and actually participate in them all?
You can’t be tied to your computer all day monitoring your social media accounts. It’s almost easier to write it off completely, justifying the absence of a social presence simply because you know that if you aren’t able to keep up with it you might actually hurt your business more than you’re helping it. (You did realize that, right?)
Relax. It’s not rocket science, but it will require a commitment on your part. I can supply you with the tools you’ll need to manage the social media activities required in order to promote your business and create brand recognition, but you have to be willing to devote some of your time and attention.
Today I’m going to focus on some of the tools I’ve used to help me manage my own social network. At the end of this post, I’m including some very informative blog posts by people I admire who happen to know a thing or two about making the most of whatever time you can devote to social marketing activities, bookmark this post so that you can come back and read them, there is a lot of very valuable information!
Managing your social Network – Tools of the trade
Before I send you off to check out some of the tools I use to manage all of my social networking accounts, I want you to think about your brand. Branding yourself and your business is a process, one that can be effected by something as simple as your username. Using the same username across all of your social networking sites provides a consistency to your branding that makes it easier to be found by your clients, and potential customers. When possible, include one of your keywords in your user name.
Finding the right fit when it comes to managing your social network can be a process of discovery and testing. There are desktop applications like TweetDeck, and Seesmic has both a desktop application and a web site interface. Most even have mobile apps so that you can manage your network while on the move.
Whether you prefer an application that runs on your desktop, or a web site interface is a personal preference. If you have the time to test them, doing so is the best way to figure out what will work best for you.
Personally, I prefer a web site interface that I can keep open in one of my browser tabs as I go about my business. I prefer HootSuite because I can manage my Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn accounts, all from one tab. (As you can see by the picture here, HootSuite includes a few other social sites you can manage with their one tool as well.)
The last thing I need while I’m working is yet another program running in the background, which is the main reason I prefer a web based interface. The HootSuite mobile app for my iPad is another reason I’ve chosen to remain with HootSuite, it’s a dedicated iPad app (I don’t like that apps originally meant for iPhones, they’re too small visually).
When HootSuite is open in one of my tabs, I’m free to surf, blog, and work in Photoshop without taxing my computer’s RAM. I can see how many “new Tweets” are in my stream as the number updates in my open tab. Once click over to my HootSuite tab, and I’m looking at my live stream, any mention of my Twitter name, my direct messages, AND my Facebook Page activity, as well as any LinkedIn activity. For me, HootSuite has consistently held my loyalty for managing multiple social media accounts.
HootSuite is free to use for up to 5 accounts. After that there is a $5.99/month fee.
HyperAlerts is a service that you can set to send you email notification whenever someone posts to your Facebook Page’s wall, or comments on one of your posts. Before the recent changes to Facebook’s Pages, this was a much needed service. Now that Facebook is sending Page owners these notification, you may not feel you need HyperAlerts, but I still use it because I don’t want to miss any activity on my Page, and I get to see the entire conversation in the HyperAlerts emails. If you find your Facebook Page activity notices from Facebook getting lost in your email, you may want to consider giving HyperAlerts a try.
HyperAlerts is a free email notification service for Facebook Pages.
You’ve probably heard me talk about how many of the Social Media activities can effect your reputation on the Internet. The power in your social network lies in the ‘influence’ you have. Klout is a web service that measures your social networking activity, and calculates your ‘influence’. Even if you’re not interested in building a powerhouse social network, you can gauge your activity here and use the statistics provided to devise an plan for improving your social media results.
Klout is a free web service that measures your influence on Twitter, Facebook, and soon LinkedIn.
Although it’s not a “Social Networking” site, per se, MailChimp is one of the most important ‘social’ tools in my arsenal. Email is, by definition, a social activity, right? Building lists that focus on specific interests is something I recommend to everyone with a web site. MailChimp is my preferred tool for building lists, tracking results, and presenting high quality HTML formatted emails. Sending out a newsletter or special offers can be one of the most important steps to creating a relationship with your visitors and client base.
Besides the fact that MailChimp offers all of the tools to make your email and newsletter activities easy and effective, they’ve got you covered as far as the legal requirements dictated by the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003.
MailChimp is an email marketing service. It’s free until you get 2,000 subscribers, with pay as you go, or monthly plans for larger lists.
Things To Consider When Contemplating Social Media Participation
Erika Napalitano shoots from the hip, which is why I like her blog. She’s absolutely right, not everyone will benefit from time spent on Twitter. See what this SEO copywriting, social media and branding Pro has to say, you might find that you don’t need to bother with Twitter.
The reality we all face is that there is only so much time in the day. You may want to take advantage of all the social networking possibilities out there, but if you’re realistic, you know that’s not possible. The best approach is to consider your market. Which social networking sites best ‘fit’ your reasons for using social media?
Yes, there have been changes to the Facebook Pages this week. *shock* Keeping up with all the changes being made on Facebook is a task in itself. Here’s a quick wrap up for you that brings you through the new layout, how the admin works, and how to use these features to further brand yourself using the tools on Facebook.
Have you heard the term “branding” enough lately? I’m guessing you’re probably sick of the term by now, but I want you to think about something for a minute. You now have the opportunity to gain recognition and create credibility just like the huge corporations do, because you’re using the same media outlets as they do. We’re all swimming in the same pool these days, so stop procrastinating. Set aside some thinking time, and define your plan to brand!
That’s enough for one day, don’tcha think? I realize there’s a ton of information here, so I suggest you bookmark this page for reference. Or, perhaps you should excersize some of the required “commitment to Social Media” by really considering the tools I’ve offered here.
Has this blog post helped you? How are you currently managing your Social Media activities? Please share your experiences in the comment section below, and let me know if I’ve missed something!
Remember, you could have received this blog post in your email, or in your RSS reader. If you’re interested in less text and more summary, consider signing up for my ‘occasional’ ShareLetter where I recap the info I share here on my blog and through my own social networks. I’m committed to sharing what I find useful, and I use today’s Social Web to do it!