Your business is using social media, but are you getting results?

Many businesses are using facebook and social media, but are they getting results?

Recently, MerchantCircle, which is an online network of local business owners, revealed that more local businesses are turning to Facebook and other social networking sites like Twitter, as a low-cost option for their marketing efforts.

The survey, conducted by MerchantCircle, with 8,500 random small and local business owners across the U.S, revealed that 70% of these business owners are actively marketing their business through Facebook. That’s a huge number! But the information unknown is, how is “actively marketing” defined? Also, the study is showing that 70% of businesses on MerchantCircle are using facebook. But MerchantCircle is a form of social media for business, so it would be interesting to know – what percentage of business owners on facebook, are not on MerchantCircle? Is it possible that users of MerchantCircle are more likely to be engaged in facebook?

Another study suggests that about 48% of businesses in the US are on Facebook. According to the BIA Kelsey’s 2010 Local Commerce Monitor, the use of social media by small and medium-sized businesses has risen dramatically over the past year.

Being “on facebook” and actually using facebook to it’s fullest potential, are two completely different things. Many business owners have heard that they, “Need to get their businesses on facebook”. So they open a facebook account, post a few pictures, connect with a few friends, and now they are “on facebook”. Unfortunately, most people stop shortly thereafter and then go around considering themselves to be “on facebook”. It’s a great start. But so far, useless. Social marketing is less about marketing and more about being social. The days of placing an ad in the paper have changed. Your ad is now interactive. People can ask it questions (and they expect a response). Your “interactive ad” can be shared by you and by others and it will be shared if it adds value. You can communicate with customers and clients like never before, but make no mistake, being “on facebook” will not bring anyone running to you. You have to engage them. Find a way to connect and add value. There is no way around this. In order to be successful in social media you must engage in a dialogue with your friends and costumers.

What makes social media so popular? For one thing it’s free to join the social media world. Another reason is the connection it brings with it. They are real connections with real people. Yet it seems that business owners are missing this point. It’s not advertising. It’s sharing. And it’s the only way to make social media work.

With around half of US businesses on facebook, there is still tremendous untapped potential in the world of social networking, both from businesses not on facebook, and from those businesses that are registered but are not getting the most out of their social networking. But how can businesses improve their social media? And how can they get started?

For business owners interested in getting started with facebook, the first place to start is facebook.com — open a free profile and start learning how to use the system. There is a learning curve. The best resource for learning about facebook on your own will be the whats called the “facebook help center”. The help center is filled with tremendous amounts of information and, at times, it may feel like information overload. But by using the search feature and lists of categories you will find the answers to all your questions. After you open your profile and start using facebook, you will want to create what’s called a facebook “page”. A page is an identity for your business on facebook. A profile is personal, and a page is for business. There are several differences between profiles and pages. The four major differences are illustrated in the passage below.

(Taken from “The insider’s guide to viral marketing” which is a free publication created by facebook.)

“After logging in to your user profile, you can create and administer a Facebook Page for your business——and you can easily invite colleagues to manage it with you. The differences between user profiles and Facebook Pages help you protect your own privacy as a user while maximizing publicity for your business:

1) Facebook Pages are visible to everyone
Even people who aren’’t logged in to Facebook can see Facebook Pages. A user
profile, on the other hand, can only be seen by the user’’s friends and others in her networks.

2) ␣Facebook Pages can have an unlimited number of fans
Regular users can have up to 5,000 friends.

3) Users can automatically support your Facebook Page without confirmation
User profiles have to approve all incoming friend requests.

4) ␣You can send Updates to all your fans
User profiles cannot message all their friends at once.”

Once you have your business page set up, its time to get to work. Start by downloading the free facebook marketing manuals.

Learn how to best engage your customers with social media and you can have tremendous results.

Darren Waddell, Vice President of marketing at MerchantCircle said:

“Online marketing continues to be a challenge for most local businesses, and many merchants are working with very small budgets and almost no marketing resources. The marketing methods we see gaining the most traction are therefore the ones that offer merchants simplicity, low costs and immediate results.”

Facebook is an attractive and cost-effective marketing tool for most local business owners.

With Facebook becoming more than just a social networking site, it has proven itself as the latest channel of online marketing and will continue to do so. its not too late to get started with social media marketing! Grow your business by engaging with your customers.

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