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How SMEs can best target social networks

How SMEs can best target social networks

By Paul Stallard, account director, Berkeley PR.

Despite the press around brands getting social networking horribly wrong, it can present great opportunities for small businesses to effectively communicate with their audience.  The world is changing and with it so is the way that people communicate with each other.   

There’s no denying the publicity power of social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook which have given consumers a window into celebrities’ lives and provided public figures with another way of communicating with their fans.

SMEs too can take advantage of these free communication channels to boost the profile of their business, communicate with current customers and generate new business contacts in their industry. 

Take advantage of new communications tools

Businesses may be sceptical about adopting social networking and question whether the benefits outweigh the perceived negative effects, such as reduced staff productivity or internet security issues.

This apprehension towards social networking means that some companies are worried about whether it’s worth their while and how they will be perceived if they post anything that isn’t company news or product announcements.

SMEs should push these reservations to one side. By embracing these tools as part of their communications strategy, small businesses will be able to communicate and connect with new contacts and potential customers.

People tend to do business with companies they like, so these sites will give them a chance to get to know the personality behind the company.

That said, before a business sets up its profile and connects to potential contacts, it needs to ensure it has established social communications guidelines, advising employees on what areas of the business can and can’t be discussed publicly.  

A business should also ascertain who it would potentially like to be connected with and consider how social networking will be incorporated into working life. 

Once established, the business should designate an employee to monitor all activity on a regular basis, respond to relevant messages or news, update their profile with interesting developments in their industry and identify key contacts to build relationships with.

What do I tweet first?

So, where should a small business who’s interested in using social networking start?  There are hundreds of social networking websites to choose from, so it would be impossible for SMEs to have a presence on all of them.

Therefore, I would advise businesses to concentrate on the three main sites; LinkedIn, where companies can basically network online; Twitter; where companies can engage with interesting people and Facebook; where companies can showcase, to a point, their employees’ personalities.

It is also important to note by businesses joining sites like Twitter and Facebook, that anything a company posts online, stays on the internet.  There’s no turning back or retracting comments once published.

Therefore, companies should ensure that activity is closely monitored so that they don’t get into trouble for posting slanderous material online.

For instance, a corporate presence on Facebook would need to be heavily monitored as it could be very damaging to the company, particularly if anyone posted incriminating photos of existing employees.

Don’t be scared of social networking, but do respect it

Many businesses are more apprehensive towards social networking than they need to be, and, as a result, are missing out on connecting with potential customers and spreading the news about their business if they’re not present.

Businesses who fail to join social networking sites risk missing out on discussions with new business prospects that their competitors will have instead.

The communications opportunities for small businesses using social networking tools are endless, and organisations who decide to sign up should take it seriously.

For instance, make sure you keep one step ahead of your competitors by posting regular updates, as few contacts will notice your presence if you only post one update a month.

With more small businesses benefiting from joining the social networking circle, you’ll be surprised to see who’s already signed up and is using it.

Social Media Training - Find out how to use social media in your marketing

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