It's important to remember that different businesses have different social media needs. Acquiring new customers may be a top priority for some, whereas others may want to use social media to solve customer issues or deepen customer relationships.
Regardless of the reason, social media can serve as an efficient, low-cost marketing tool for businesses seeking to generate measurable business results. Below are a few tips for putting social media to work for you.
1. Publicize your product or service
Social networking sites and microblogs are not merely for socializing. They can also help you get the word out about your product or services for free.
Create a full profile and use the right keywords to build your visibility in search engines and increase the likelihood that people will find you.
Daily interaction with others on social networks and on microblogs will help keep the pulse of your business going strong.
2. Create an custom online community
Creating a custom, privately branded online community enables a company to zero in on a highly targeted audience, engage in deeper conversations with them, and forge long-lasting customer relationships.
You can use the survey capabilities provided by an online custom community to get a detailed look at the behavioral and mindset trends in your community.
A bonus of creating such a community is the information you can glean from community members' Twitter, Facebook, etc. profiles and activity. When a member logs into your community to update her profile, prompt her to add links to her Twitter handle or her LinkedIn, Facebook, and MySpace profiles. If she chooses to enter this information, you will have gained at least some access to her profile data and her activity on those sites.
3. Stay on top of customer conversations in real time
Managing negative information about your company on reputation sites is essential for protecting your company's name, its executives, its product(s), and most importantly, its brand. Monitor reputation sites daily to obtain feedback—whether it's positive or negative—on the experiences your customers are having with your business.
Catch a harsh review about one of your products? Above all, don't react with defensiveness. Unless the customer is an obvious wingnut, view his comment as constructive criticism and thank him for drawing attention to a critical issue. Communicate your commitment to investigating the problem. You may find out that the unhappy customer has uncovered a real issue that needs addressing.
4. There's a caveat
Social media is fast becoming indispensable, but it's a complement to, rather than a replacement for, other online tools, such as ad management tools that can drive customer purchasing decisions.
Ad-management tools such as DoubleClick's DART program and Atlas Advanced Analytics can drive customer conversions in ways once unimaginable.
Ad-management tools enable companies to build robust customer profiles by following the online actions of a purchaser throughout the entire purchase lifecycle—including when and where they clicked on an ad, where they went on your site, and what they searched for once there.
For example, let's say Nike discovers that its ads on ESPN and similar sites drive the most conversions. As a result of such profile and behavioral data, Nike has a greater chance of generating desired business results elsewhere, among similar potential customers.