12 Reasons to Use Social Media to Grow Your Business

Social media is fast becoming an essential part part the marketing mix for brands. Companies are increasingly using social tools to monitor conversations about their products, competitors, and industry, and engaging with their customers to build strong relationships. According Forrester Research’s most recent Interactive Marketing Forecast, social media marketing will grow at an annual rate of 34% -– faster than any other form of online marketing and double the average growth rate of 17% for all online mediums:

And new research from Access Markets International Partners shows that almost 70% of small and medium businesses actively use social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to promote themselves. But simply posting what your CEO had for lunch isn’t going to help much with your branding efforts — it’s important to strategically use social media tools to increase exposure and reach your target audience.

Here are 12 compelling reasons to use social media to help grow your business:

1. Own your brand’s social presence: If you don’t create official channels online, it’s only a matter of time before your fans do it for you and create their own profiles and communities around your brand. It’s important to claim your brand name across all the major social media platforms. Here are two sites that will help you do this:

  • KnowEm: KnowEm has the highest number of sites (over 350) available for checking username availability. Simply by entering your desired username, you’ll be able to find out instantly if it’s still available. KnowEm also offers paid plans, from just signing up and registering you at 150 sites, to a full-featured plan which also fills in all profile details, complete with pictures, at 100 to 300 different networking sites.
  • namechk: Covering 72 major social networking sites, namechk is simple, fast, and easy to use. If your desired username or vanity URL is still available, you simply click through each one to claim it. If your brand isn’t consistent across the Web, namechk can help you by determining which usernames are still available on a number of the most popular sites.

2. Look like you “get it”: Your target audience is becoming more shrewd about leveraging social media sites as an integral part of their daily lives. If you want to appear relevant and in-step with the latest advances in technology, your potential customers will want to see you on these sites as well. If you don’t have a presence, you appear as if you’re not very savvy.

3. Brand recognition: You need to go where your customers are, and they are increasingly spending a great deal of time on social networking sites. Using social media enables your company to reach a huge number of potential customers. Getting your name out there is incredibly important — studies suggest that people need to hear a company’s name at least seven times before they trust and respect it enough to become a customer.

4. Take your message directly to consumers: Social media tools enable you to directly engage consumers in conversation. Be sure to build trust by adding value to the community consistently over time.

5. Increase your search engine rankings: Social media profiles (especially those on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn) frequently rank highly with major search engines. Creating keyword-rich profiles around your brand name can help generate traffic for your both your social-networking sites and your company’s Web site.

6. SEO benefits: Many social media bookmarking sites use NOFOLLOW tags that limit the outbound link value of posts made on their sites, but there are still many leading sites that allow DOFOLLOW tags — including Friendfeed, Digg, and Mixx. You can also benefit from posting to bookmarking sites that use NOFOLLOW tags if people read your posts and link back to your Web site.

7. Social media content is now integrated with search results: Search engines like Google and Bing are increasingly indexing and ranking posts and other information from social networks. Videos from popular sites like YouTube can also be optimized for indexing by the major search engines.

8. Brand monitoring: Having a social media presence gives you a better understanding of what current and potential customers are saying about your products and services. If you actively monitor social conversations, you have the opportunity to correct false or inaccurate information about your brand and address negative comments before they take on a life of their own.

9. Generate site traffic: You can create additional traffic if you regularly post updates on social networks that link back to your Web site. Social media bookmarking tools like Digg, Reddit, and Stumbleupon can also generate additional traffic to your site if you create frequent articles and blog posts.

10. Find new customers through your friends: You shouldn’t neglect your personal social media accounts as potential avenues to promote the activities of your business. Posting regular updates relating to your business and activities can remind your friends about what your company does and influence them to use your services or make referrals.

11. Find new customers through your company profile: Your company profile is a great opportunity for you to post regular updates on your activities and about important news and trends in your industry. This will attract the attention of new customers interested in your industry and increase your reputation as an expert in your field. It’s important to post regularly if you want to increase your followers or fans and convert them to potential leads.

12. Niche marketing: Social media enables you to reach very specific subsets of people based on their personal preferences and interests. You can create unique social media profiles to target these audiences or create strategies based on addressing individual interests.

Are you using social media to grow your business? Please share your experiences!

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Social Media Demographics: An Analysis of the Leading Sites

Social media sites have grown exponentially in the last several years, and each one attracts different types of users. Flowtown created this interesting infographic that breaks down user demographics for the leading social networks by age, gender, income, and education level. Curious about which site has the greatest percentage of female users? What about those with the highest income? Click on the graphic to see the full-sized version:

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How to Use LinkedIn to Market Your Business

More and more professionals are using social networks to build relationships, meet new contacts, and market themselves and their businesses. But diving into the virtual meet-and-greet can be daunting. Where to begin?

The answer is LinkedIn, a social network for professionals who are looking to promote both themselves and their companies. Developed specifically for business, you don’t run the risk of blurring your professional life with your private one. LinkedIn offers an amazing opportunity to generate new leads — you can find, be introduced to, and collaborate with qualified professionals who can help you accomplish your goals and grow your business.

LinkedIn has great tools for connecting you to customers, prospects, and industry thought leaders alike, and many marketers are under-utilizing its functionality due to simple lack of awareness — joining LinkedIn is simple, but turning it into a powerful networking tool takes a bit of know-how.

Some LinkedIn facts

  • The site has over 60 million members
  • A new member joins approximately every second
  • Executives from all Fortune 500 companies are members

Benefits of a complete and well-developed LinkedIn presence

  • Increased visibility for your company and products
  • The ability to research your competition, customers, or partners
  • Easy collaboration with colleagues, customers, and industry thought leaders
  • Excellent source of SEO-friendly links: LinkedIn has great authority in Google; and you can can create unique anchor text for your Web site links, which are given the dofollow attribute (LinkedIn’s PageRank is 9).

How to get going with LinkedIn

If you don’t already have a personal profile on LinkedIn, here are some simple steps you can follow to set one up:

1. Create a complete personal profile

When you interact with others on LinkedIn, your profile is the first thing they see so it needs to be complete. Make sure you fill in all relevant information about yourself, your areas of expertise, and your experience — visit the site’s main page to get started.

  • Upload a professional photo of yourself. Profiles with photos are more credible, so people are more likely to engage with you.
  • The more optimized your profile is, the more relevant it will be in search results. Use some basic SEO techniques, including hyperlinking targeted keywords. When you post the URLs for your company and your blog, make sure you customize them — for example, instead of using the default anchor text for linking to your blog (“My Blog”), change it to your blog’s actual title (“Pamorama” in my case).

  • Use keywords in descriptions. Make your profile more search-friendly by including your keywords in your summary, specialties, and experience.
  • Create a vanity URL. Doing so will solidify your professional brand:

2. Get recommended

Your profile is not complete if you don’t have some recommendations. You can ask for a recommendation from previous employers, your current employer, or other business contacts. Getting recommended is important because it adds to your credibility — it demonstrates that your expertise is valued by people who have actually worked with you.

3. Build a strong network of contacts

Now you need to start adding connections. Make sure you connect to friends and colleagues — LinkedIn makes this easy for you by looking in your e-mail address book to find contacts who are already on the network. You can also use the search box on the top right to look for people you know:

Encourage every employee to have a LinkedIn profile and to link to each other. Extending your network in this way increases your exposure outside your company.

Once you’re connected to colleagues and friends, you can browse their networks, find potential prospects and ask your connections for an introduction, or simply contact the decision-makers in these businesses directly. You can also find people who are considered authorities in your industry and try to get in touch with them.

4. Use third-party applications to make the most of your profile and promote your company

There are many third-party applications on LinkedIn that can help you effectively promote yourself, your company, your Web site, and your blog. You can use SlideShare so visitors can see your business presentations, Company Buzz to monitor what’s being said about your company on Twitter, or Box.net to upload and manage files. And the aptly named Tweets displays your most recent Twitter updates.

With the WordPress application, you can synchronize your blog with your profile and display your most recent posts with summaries — updates are automatically sent to your network when you write new content:

5. Promote your personal profile

You can promote your profile on LinkedIn itself and via other means. On LinkedIn, users see a link to your profile wherever you participate (in groups, discussions, etc.), so the more you interact the more exposure you’ll receive. You can also post your profile URL on your Web site, your blog, your business card, in your e-mail signature, on any other social networking sites you use — anywhere you provide information about yourself.

6. Engage with other users

The more you actively engage and provide valuable contributions, the more you’ll be appreciated in the community. Make sure you participate in discussions, ask and answer questions, and update your status on a regular basis.

7. Keep your profile up to date

It seems obvious, but many people create a profile and then let it languish. Updating relevant information on a regular basis is essential for credibility.

Establish your company’s presence

Now that you’ve created your own presence on LinkedIn, it’s time to do the same for your company:

1. Create your company’s profile

  • To get started, go to the “Companies” menu on LinkedIn. From there, select “Add Company”.

  • Follow LinkedIn’s wizard and enter basic information about your company, like its description, number of employees, and industry it operates in — you’ll be able to add a logo, locations, and a feed for your company blog. As with your personal profile, make your company profile more search-friendly by including your keywords in its description.

In addition to showing off the basic information you provided, LinkedIn will pull in data about your company from around the site. So, for example, all of your job listings will automatically show up on your profile, along with links to the profiles of all current employees, former employees, new hires, and recent promotions. LinkedIn also does analysis of your company and the connections that your employees have on the network. For example, it will automatically calculate your employees’ median age, top schools, and determine other companies that they are well-connected to.

All of this aggregate data about your company gives potential customers, partners, and anyone else who’s interested in your company a lot of information to dive into and help determine if it might be a good fit for them. And for you, once it’s set up, it all happens automatically as you and your employees use LinkedIn. Make it a point to edit your company’s basic profile information as necessary to keep it up to date.

If you’re interested in leveraging the network for recruiting, LinkedIn offers a premium product called Custom Company Profiles that lets you add more features, like videos about your company and positions, interactive polls, and other recruiting-specific customizations. These are worth considering for larger companies (they’re pricey), but for small businesses, a basic LinkedIn company profile should be enough to create a brand on the site.

2. Promote your company’s profile

Use the same methods to promote your company’s profile as you do for your personal one — on LinkedIn, point people to your company profile link when you participate in discussions and ask questions. In other places, post your company profile URL on your Web site, your blog, your business card, in your e-mail signature, etc.

3. Develop relationships with key business partners or media contacts

When you search for someone on LinkedIn, you can be very precise about who you want to reach. So, for example, if you know that your business needs to expand into the smartphone market, you can start targeting and reaching out to companies like Apple, Research In Motion, and HTC. If you want to increase your visibility, start reaching out to media members who cover your industry.

4. Start a group

Demonstrate your willingness to share information about your industry or niche by creating a group:

Here are some suggestions to get it started right:

  • Choose a relevant name. The name of your group should contain keywords so it can be found by people interested in your industry.
  • Add a logo. In the same sense that a photo is important for your personal profile, a good logo helps with branding.
  • Use the available option to display your group in the Group Directory and on member’s profile.

5. Promote and manage your group

Creating a group and then abandoning it won’t help you — you need to promote it and manage it. In order to get members, you need to promote your group — start by inviting your connections who might be interested in your industry, but don’t limit the group to your connections. And keep members engaged by starting discussions and posting interesting news, sending announcements, importing your blog’s RSS feed, etc.

Group promotion tips:

  • Send e-mail to your customers to introduce them to your group and invite them to participate
  • Add the group’s logo to your Web site or blog and link it back to the group itself
  • Promote the group on other social social networking sites

Do you use LinkedIn to market your business? Please share your experience!

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Use Google Analytics to Track Inbound Links From Social Media Profiles

You can track referrals from Facebook or Twitter in Google Analytics, but what if you want to track specific links within your social media profiles to measure their effectiveness? For example, what if I want to see how many people visit pamorama.net by clicking on my Twitter profile link? This tutorial will teach you the simple steps you need to take — and this method can be used in conjunction with any of your social profiles: Facebook, LinkedIn, or the legion of others.

1: Create a trackable link

Head over to Google’s URL Builder to create a URL that can be tracked separately in Google Analytics. Fill in the spaces as indicated in this screenshot with information about your social media profile:

2: Shorten your trackable link

Google’s URL Builder will create a very long URL, so it’s a good idea to shorten it with one of the many available online shorteners. For the example below, I used bit.ly, but any of them will do the trick:

3: Add your shortened trackable link to your social media profile

You’ve created a trackable link and shortened it — now you need to add it to the the social media profiles you want to track.

4: Track your URL in Google Analytics beginning the next day

Since you used Google’s URL Builder, the link will be tracked automatically in Google Analytics each time someone clicks on on it. You’ll be able to see your referrals by going to Google Analytics -> Traffic Sources -> Campaigns. Google Analytics takes about a day to begin reporting the referrals.

Have you used Google Analytics this way? What did you learn from the data?


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Social Media: A Cheat Sheet [Infographic]

Are you new to social media? Are you unsure about how to engage your audience via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and the rest? Here’s a handy infographic that doubles as a roadmap of the social Web. Created for CMO.com by 97th Floor, it analyzes the top social media sites in the U.S. and tells you how each one stacks up in terms of:

  • Customer communication
  • Brand exposure
  • Ability to drive traffic to your site
  • SEO

Overall, YouTube and Digg post the best results, although YouTube falters in the traffic area and Digg isn’t a great tool for customer communication. This guide doesn’t address the mechanics of how involved you need to be with each site when you launch a new campaign, or how aggressive — in general, it’s important to tread lightly with your messaging because over-marketing in the social sphere can backfire quickly.

The image below has been scaled. You can click on it to see a slightly larger version and download the full-screen PDF.

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Social Media: Everybody’s Doing It, But For Different Reasons [Charts]

While the demographics of the average social media user mirror the average U.S. adult (i.e., everyone’s socializing online in some way), a recent Retail Advertising and Marketing Association survey conducted by BIGresearch shows types of social media use vary greatly by age and gender. The survey, “Social Media: An Inside Look at the People Who Use It”, compares U.S. users on the social Web to the average American adult. But even with all the Twitter chitchat, Facebook fan groups, and blogs to be followed, consumers believe face-to-face communication is the most powerful.

Here are some interesting graphs from the report — mouse over them to see the underlying details:

View the full research report (PDF)

View the raw research data comparing social media users to U.S. adults 18+ (PDF)

View the raw research data comparing all social media user demographics (PDF)

Takeaways from the report:

  • 70% of social media users between the ages of 18-34 regularly use Facebook more than other sites such as MySpace, Twitter, and Classmates.com
  • 72% of social media users say that after an online search, they communicate with others about a product or service with face-to-face communication
  • More people who use social media prefer to give advice about a product or service rather than receive it
  • Social media users are more likely to use other new media compared to adults 18+
  • 71% of female social media users regularly use Facebook, compared to 61% of males
  • More men than women prefer to communicate with others via a cell phone conversation after searching for a product or service online

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What Social Network Should You Use to Grow Your Business?

Where should you go to reach your target market via social media? It depends on who your customers are.

Here are some recent demographics for Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. By tailoring your marketing strategies to dovetail with statistics like these, you can maximize the effectiveness of your social media efforts and focus on reaching your desired audience. And if your goal is to reach a wide variety of users of all ages, incomes, and education levels, you can do so by using all three. Compare your target audience with this data:

Facebook Users:

  • 116 million unique U.S. visitors in December 2009
  • follow the Internet average pretty closely in terms of affluence, education, and household size
  • are slightly more female
  • are mostly younger, aged 13-34

LinkedIn Users:

  • 24 million unique U.S. visitors in December 2009
  • are slightly more male
  • mostly have at least a college education
  • … and an astounding 33% have a graduate degree, as compared to the Internet average of 21%
  • are generally older, more educated, and more affluent

Twitter Users:

  • 23 million unique U.S. visitors in December 2009
  • reflect an even male/female ratio
  • peak at the 18-34 age group (16% of its total users, compared to 8% of the total Internet audience), with an even number of older and younger users.
  • are generally less wealthy than those on Facebook and LinkedIn

(Via Business Insider)
(Photo: Matt Hamm)

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