Social media is important for businesses to remain viable, but most business owners overlook its benefits. Social media is not simply an advertising tool, it is also important for relationship building. Successful businesses use social media to address customer complaints and praises. Other businesses use social media to solicit ideas or reward loyal customers. Social media can even be used to find sales leads and entice new customers to buy products or services. Social media is emerging as a useful tool in all areas of business.
Why Social Media is Important
Twitter and Facebook are mostly commonly used for business. Google + is growing in popularity and currently has 90 million users. Facebook has 800 million users, and Twitter has a similar number. Millions of users represent millions of opportunities, potential sales leads or customers. Collaboration or suggestion generation is also easier with more “fans” or “followers.” If a majority of paying customers on Facebook or Twitter request a product, companies will probably become profitable from customer suggestions.
This form of free intelligence capital and free advertising is great for companies of all sizes. Some companies have become very successful using these forums for free advertising, public relations and customer relationship management. Many companies using social media successfully operate solely online, but some businesses also have store fronts. Every company should establish a presence through social media since the tool is cost effective and easy to use.
Let us explore how social media helps companies in financial terms. If the average customer is worth $800 in purchases and a company only spends $20 on advertising or marketing, companies receive a significant return on their $20 investment in a customer. Who can argue with $720 return on investment minus the cost of production? Most companies would not.
How to Use Social Media for Business
Use Social Media for Promotions and Marketing. Businesses most commonly use social media for promoting items. Many companies offer sweepstakes entries, discounts or free product giveaways in exchange for a “like” or a “follow” on Facebook or Twitter. Consumers who receive free product are happy if they are loyal customers. If they are new customers, they are elated to try a product for free. Consumers who receive free product think more highly of a company because they feel their business is valued.
Communicate with Customers Via Social Media. Companies on Facebook and other social media should also remain responsive to customers on the forum who prefer this mode of communication. One study showed that 27 out of 48 companies polled did not respond to customers’ replies on Facebook. Imagine calling a customer service line, but a company simply would not answer your phone call. How livid would a customer become? The customer would probably file complaints with the Better Business Bureau, call the media or withdraw their support from the company.
Even worse, customers may tell their friends about the company’s non-responsiveness. Depending upon the number of friends a customer has, this could be quite detrimental to a business. Customers who have thousands to millions of friends can cripple a business significantly. This is not a wise move.
Companies should not ignore customers’ Facebook replies since they would not ignore their phone calls. If phone calls are ignored, many businesses will lose ground fast. Facebook replies must be treated with the same level of urgency as a phone call. Businesses paying attention to these replies are typically more successful than businesses ignoring customer replies. Some companies hire full-time employees who only address social media replies on Twitter and Facebook.
How Twitter Can Help Businesses. Twitter can help businesses by acting as a microblogging tool. Customers appreciate constant updates from businesses about new products and promotions. Twitter is an excellent way to keep customers involved in the development process also.
How Facebook Can Help Businesses. Facebook helps businesses advertise to friends of their fans. Free advertising is great for businesses. Facebook can also serve as a customer service tool and a public relations tool.
How Foursquare Can Help Businesses. Foursquare attracts businesses by offering discounts to customers who check into certain locations. Promotional deals keep customers coming back to determine what new discounts they will be offered.
How Quora Can Help Businesses. This question and answer platform allows business owners to identify thought leaders in the field. This forum finds thinkers, firestarters and top conversationalists. Businesses use the intellectual capital to improve their businesses.
How Pintrest Can Help Businesses. Pintrest allows users to organize images found on the web to share and attract businesses. Whole Foods was at the forefront of the Facebook and Twitter movement, and now, they are at the forefront of using Pintrest to connect with their audience through images.
How Tumblr Can Help Businesses. Tumblr is a blogging platform to share photos, text and quotes. This can help businesses advertise when people share information virally.
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How is Google+ Helpful for Business?
New Business Profiles. Google+ is introducing new business profiles. This means businesses will be required to learn a new platform and create new profiles. Business owners view Google+ as having more potential than Facebook when subscribership increases.
Advanced Search Functionality. Google+ will offer customers live streaming and Google+ live feed into Search. This will give Google+ an advantage over Facebook. Facebook does not offer any advanced search functionality.
Access to Business Apps. Google+ also integrates or has plans to integrate with Apps for Business and Apps Marketplace. Nearly three million businesses currently use Apps and also Gmail. Both are integrated within Google+. Hangouts in Google+ integrate with video chatting through Apps. This feature is helpful for video conferencing.
Online Payment Processing through Google+. Google+ will also integrate the Google Checkout payment system. This service could potentially allow users of Google+ to search and access all products in the Google ecosystem and bypass payment centers such as PayPal and others.
Mobile Payment Processing. Mobile payments may be made with Near Field Communication (NFC) technology. This technology allows businesses to accept credit card payments from mobile phones through Google+ application. This technology should be introduced in May.
Public Business Websites. Facebook Pages allows small and medium businesses (SMBs) to build business websites. This costs $20 per month. Many other services similar to Facebook might charge thousands. Since this is not Facebook’s focus, the application remains centered around “friends” and “sharing” rather than these business-specific services.
Google+ uses Sites for public business websites. Instead of using Facebook’s FBML coding language or Shortstack, Google+ is considering allowing businesses to use HTML and CSS with drag-and-drop design templates. Blogger publishing may be an effective tool for updates. This tool will help users of Google+ business apps.
Advanced Advertising. Google AdWords, of course, would be the advertising tool of choice for Google+. It is more established, more profit-driven and more widely used than Facebook Ads. Facebook Ads was introduced four years after Google Adwords. Combined with Google Analytics for performance measurement, Google+ has the potential to be an all-inclusive powerhouse for businesses.
Google Places. Google Places is not yet integrated with Google+. Both Google+ is working on this functionality. The convenience of Google Places will allow business owners to ask questions and receive feedback in real time. This is a positive for businesses who want to attract customers in the area. Facebook is struggling with their version of this concept, but the company is making some progress.
How Will Social Media Help Businesses Overall?
Google is working on introducing and integrating applications into Google+ addressing: Accounting, project management, CRM and ERP applications. These applications will significantly improve productivity and make it easier to serve clients operating in Google+ Circles.
Google+ saves companies money. Most applications are free. Overall, three million businesses have migrated to Google Apps and away from other more expensive solutions. Business experts see this as an opportunity to expand Google+ and make it more attractive to SMBs. As Google+ evolves, it will easily become a system to allow owners to operate an entire business through a single platform.