When sites like Facebook and Twitter arrived on the scene a few years ago, they were viewed solely as social networking tools - 21st century techno-vehicles for keeping in touch with friends and communicating quickly and easily at no cost.
However, it soon became apparent to savvy, forward-thinking businesses that these sites could be utilized as promotional tools for their products and services. And with this, social media marketing was born.
As a result of this realization, the manner in which businesses communicate and interact with their customers has been completely transformed. And if you're not following suit, your business is missing out on a huge amount of potential custom.
So if you have an online business (or an offline one for that matter), it's absolutely crucial that you sign up for both a Facebook and Twitter account at the very least. These are the most widely used social media sites available, and therefore the most powerful resources.
Get Friends and Followers!
By signing up to these sites, you'll be able to give your business greater exposure online, and post information about your products and services, such as discounts, 2-for-1 offers and new releases, to name just a few.
And if you post useful and good quality content that provides value for the reader, then more and more people will 'follow' you (in Twitter's case) or become a 'friend' (on Facebook), which will help you to build positive, long-term relationships with customers who might not have previously found you.
Naturally, the more friends and followers you have, the more potential customers you'll be able to promote to, and this is where social media marketing can be so profitable.
After all, you'll be able to search for people in YOUR niche who might be interested in YOUR products, and then look to befriend people who follow them, thus pulling in more and more targeted prospects that you might be able to promote to in the future.
Improve Public Relations
Another great advantage of using social media marketing is that it allows you to follow what's being said about your products and services, and react to any negative news flow. So if any complaints or negative comments appear on your pages (or your customers' pages), you can head them off and deal with them before they get out of hand, and before they begin to damage your company and its reputation.
This ability to monitor what's being said about you and your business, and respond positively, is absolutely crucial to your long-term success.
The fact is, the growth of the internet has made it incredibly easy for people to post derogatory remarks about individuals and companies, knowing that these comments will reach a huge audience, very quickly. So spotting these comments, and dealing with them in a professional and positive manner can be very beneficial in terms of PR.
And talking about monitoring what's being said about you, here are two fantastic tools that will enable you to do just that.
Google Alerts - All you need to do here is type in a relevant search phrase (such as your business name or the name of your product, for example) and whenever that phrase is mentioned online, you'll be sent an email telling you when and where it was found.
Social Mention - Similarly, this social media search and analysis tool will send you an email alert every time your chosen phrase is mentioned online, enabling you to keep up to speed with what's being said about you and your business! For both of these tools, I've requested an alert every time my business name, My Freelance Copywriter.com, is mentioned.
Again, this is great if someone has posted something uncomplimentary about one of your products, your business, or you personally, as it enables you to spot it quickly and deal with the issue before any negative press circulates and grows.
Being a lowly copywriter, I don't get much negative press or complaints, but I know of a lot of online businesses that do. And these tools are an absolute god-send for them.
So if you want to expand your business and reach more customers, make sure you sign up to some social media marketing sites like Facebook and Twitter, and use others like Google Alerts and Social Mention to keep track of what people are saying about you and your business.
If you do, you'll have more customers, better communication, an improved online PR machine, and ultimately more money in your bank account!
Author: Nick Cobb / Posted: 27-05-2011