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What can social media do for your business?

Should it be social media is or social media are? The real question, says Pete Matthew, is what can social media do for your business?

Well the first thing to say is that my title is a grammatical dog’s dinner. Media is plural of course so it should read: “What ARE social media?” But more often these days I am hearing the term Social Media being used as a singular noun, as in: “Do you do social media?” But grammatical pedantry aside, what does it mean to ‘do’ social media?

I had a conversation recently with a couple of other advisers who are experienced in the whole online marketing and social networking thing. One adviser was adamant that the production of content, written blogs, podcasts and videos is not social media, whereas engaging on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn is. His premise was that content production is a one-way thing, whereas social is two way, a conversation.

This matters more than you might think, because humans are by nature social animals, and interaction is what most of us crave. That’s why solitary confinement is a punishment. Online social interaction is sometimes scoffed at as being a poor substitute for real-life conversations, but times are changing and as advisers we need to understand the power of social media and its use in our business.

Limitless access

If I had told you 20 years ago that you could have limitless access to your defined target market, no matter how narrow. That you could ask questions, gauge feelings and shape your response to them. And that it would all be free, you would have signed up in a heartbeat. But now that it is here and established, so many people scoff at its value for real-life business. Incredible.

I wrote last time about my client Mark who, despite living 350 miles from my office, watched my online videos and got in touch. That was the start of what became a flood of enquiries from my online efforts. I predict that, for the first time, in 2014 these will outstrip the enquiries we receive from personal recommendations.

Social Media are the most powerful method I know to:

• Answer questions from prospective clients and interested parties

• Get a sense of the public mood on financial and economic matters

• Get the word out about your company news, white papers, blog posts, videos, testimonials • Keep in regular contact with your existing clients.

The tools themselves are legion. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn probably have most use for business purposes, but don’t discount Pinterest or Google Plus, depending on your target market. Comments, forum posts and Q&A sites like LoveMoney are also a great place to connect and show your expertise.

Written blogs, podcasts and videos are your contribution to the wealth of online knowledge and act as triggers for people to begin a conversation. They’ll read your post, be inspired/ educated/entertained and will get in touch to find out more. Even if that is a short comment saying thanks for the post, this is your cue to engage and ask the most powerful question you can ask online: “What can I do for you?”

Social Media then, are about so much more than Facebook. They are the most powerful set of marketing tools you can imagine, enabling you to define and approach a target market with content they want to consume. Regular contact means you become part of your prospects’ routine; they follow you, like you, share you with their friends and eventually grow to love you. When they eventually need advice, they won’t think of going anywhere else. You have cemented your place in their consciousness by being fantastic online. And all this costs you is time.

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