Posted by: lcowie | March 30, 2009

Can Facebook benefit your business?

John Marek discusses the pros and cons of social networking applications in the business world

By Lesley Cowie

STATESVILLE, N.C. – Once known as the social networking Web site limited to college students, Facebook has become widely accepted among many communities. From high school students to adults, Facebook has quickly become the most popular and most used social networking tool.

John Marek, the director of BRE and marketing for the Greater Statesville Development Corporation, spoke to a group of business leaders Thursday about social media marketing and how online tools, such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, can benefit local businesses.

“You must create a strategy in terms of how to use these applications to promote your business,” Marek said. “You must have a unified strategy. You can’t have a social media strategy, a print strategy, a web strategy and a telecommunications strategy. They must be seamless.”

Marek distributed a hand-out to the group with information about social networking communities, as well as tips for how to best utilize each application.

He also cited reasons to use social media, including increasing visibility of a business, improving Google page rank, tracking business startups and integrating into a new job.

“I don’t think you can use all three [Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter] effectively at one time,” Marek said. “It’d be a full-time job. You have to ask yourself a couple questions about your target audience. It’s best to pick one, maybe two, applications to use.”

Connecting to the corporate world

Marek began his discussion of social media marketing by explaining what LinkedIn is and how business owners may use it.

“It is probably the most ‘corporate’ of all the social media systems,” he said.

According to Marek, LinkedIn has two main components: a profile page and a home page. The profile page includes information about the user, and the home page includes updates from all the user’s friends, or connections.

“When people set up their LinkedIn accounts, they put their most recent job on their profile page,” Marek said. “What they lack is all they’ve done in their career. You should use your profile page as an executive biography. I have listed quite honestly every job I’ve ever had that can be considered professional.”

By creating an online resume in this format, Marek believes other users can easily be connected to one’s professional abilities and contacts.

Marek also noted the widgets, or applications, available on LinkedIn. A user may post slideshows using SlideShare, link to his or her blog or give and receive referrals to other users.

“The more complete your profile is, the better off you will be,” Marek said. “However, you are only supposed to connect to people you know and know well.”

Facing your customers

An important social media tool for small business owners is Facebook. One may create a personal profile as well as a professional page for his or her business.

“There is a different set-up for business pages,” Marek said. “Go into Pages. Facebook then asks you questions about your business that guides you and helps you create a page.”

The problem with Facebook, he said, is the issue of minimal control over what gets posted to a business’s page. Sometimes business owners do not get as much control as they would like.

“You can block people, but if you’re not paying attention, something can get out that you may not want your customers to see,” he said.

Tweeting your business deals

“Twitter is the fastest-growing social media platform,” Marek said. “There is Twitter backlash, though. There are a group of people who say, ‘This is ridiculous.’”

Twitter is an application that consists of status updates from a user and the people or businesses that the user has chosen to “follow.” Some utilize this tool for frivolous updates, such as “Eating a bagel,” while others provide pertinent information.

Marek said he follows 485Sucks and cltraffic, two users who post real-time traffic updates.

“What makes Twitter so popular is the fact that it is portable,” Marek said. “That’s why it’s been a quick, growing application. Twitter is largely text-based. Even old [cell] phones can send and receive updates.”

Marek said he uses Twitter to put out little press releases about new job openings, buildings and other issues relevant to Greater Statesville. We have received many responses on these posts, he said.

“Where I see Twitter useful in a money-making context is in a business that is very dynamic and very changing and needing to update all the time,” he said.

Marek went on to say that Web sites are static and social media tools are dynamic. With a social media application, business owners are building a community and updating their followers with the latest information about their business.

Whether making connections on LinkedIn, friends on Facebook or followers on Twitter, business owners should consider utilizing these free social media tools to promote their businesses.

Marek will be hosting another discussion about blogging and YouTube on April 2 at Mitchell Community College in the Technology and Workforce Development Center at 9 a.m.

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Responses

  1. A great blog article! I am totally agree with Web 2.0 social marketing approaches to retain and long term relationships with your customer at fraction cost of your monthly sales. Search Engine Optimization plays an important role for new customer acquisition. thanx


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