I’m often asked how social networks can be used for practical business purposes. While convincing people that LinkedIn is a good professional tool is not hard, many folks are not using Facebook for anything other than communicating with friends or playing games, and are not using Twitter at all; articulating the business value of Facebook and Twitter to those people can be challenging.
Are you looking to convince a colleague or a client of the value of social networks? Or perhaps you are still not quite convinced they are actually useful for work? Here’s a list of some basic ways you can use LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter for specific business activities. No bells, no whistles, just business.
LinkedIn is a business-oriented network. Useful networking and information gathering tools are built right into the tool that you can use immediately with good results.
1. Get answers. LinkedIn offers an integrated feature on its network, LinkedIn Answers, to help you ask questions of up to 200 of your immediate contacts. You get up to a seven days to gather answers to your question, then you rate the answers you’ve received.
2. Showcase your knowledge. The flipside of LinkedIn Answers is that you can respond to other people’s questions and get rated for the value of your answers. It’s good way to network with others while showing what you know.
3. Distribute polls. You can create and send a poll to your first degree contacts for free and feature it on your profile page using the LinkedIn Polls application. Do quick and dirty market research via your network. For a fee starting at $50, you can also send your poll to a targeted slice of the 75 million or so LinkedIn members.
4. Get (and give) recommendations. You can strengthen your network and expand your presence on LinkedIn by giving kudos to other members you know through the LinkedIn Recommendations feature. You can also solicit recommendations from colleagues and clients to add testimonials to your profile.
5. List your business. You can list your company in the LinkedIn company directory for free. You can connect your profile and the profiles of your team members to the listing and provide news updates. Other business professionals can then follow your business to get the latest updates.
Facebook isn’t the most straightforward business tool; it’s primarily focused on socializing. Still, you can’t beat its interconnected features and the potential reach you can have by creating a Page on the network.
6. Build a global — or local — presence. Your Facebook Page can actually be as global or as hyperlocal as you want it to be. It’s a matter of how you design it, market it and manage it. Using Facebook Social Ads, you can zero in on your ideal target audience from Facebook’s rich demographic and psychographic data. When set up strategically, you can get a lot of impact and results for a very affordable price.
7. Build a following. Understanding how to build value into your Facebook Page as well as the dynamics of building an online community are essential for building a targeted, engaged and evangelizing following. Once you hit a critical mass, your Facebook Page’s community will take off, but it will need constant guidance and strategic direction to translate into conversions to sales.
8. Identify and engage “superfans.” I’ve written before about identifying your superfans on Facebook and converting them into grassroots brand ambassadors. Actively engaging your customers in an open dialogue and providing them with the tools they can use to help you spread the word about what you do takes a great deal of thought and consideration but it’s tremendously useful when done appropriately and effectively.
Twitter can be a very effective business tool, but building the kind of following that is large enough and pays enough attention to what you say to be truly valuable takes time.
9. Build your brand. By tweeting relevant and useful information you can showcase your expertise, define your point of view and create a springboard for conversations. Compared to Facebook, it takes time to build a brand on Twitter, but it can prove to be just as valuable.
10. Broadcast timely information. When you have something you need to get out to the public, you can tweet it out. The response you get will be commensurate with the quality of your following, of course.
11. Drive traffic. Again, the usefulness of Twitter as a traffic driver depends on how engaged a following you’ve cultivated. It takes time, attention, and care to build real connections with your customers or potential customers. But once you have an avid following, you can include include links in your messaging to direct people to a website or blog; just make sure there is value for them when they get there.
What business uses are you finding for social media tools and channels?
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