Tips from the Trenches: Using Social Media in Business


Although many businesses know how to use social media to connect with others and build relationships, plenty still struggle to see how social media will benefit them, especially business-to-business companies. In this “Tips from the Trenches” post, some experts reveal how they incorporate social media in their businesses.

Brian Solis@briansolis — Brian Solis

“We tend to dive in to social networks based on either an ‘aha’ or ‘uh oh’ moment without really thinking through ‘why’ we’re supposed to be on social networks in the first place. It’s usually the same template. Get a Facebook fan page. Set up an account on Twitter. Listen to the conversations. Engage!

The reality is that we have to listen to more than the usual networks as represented by the Conversation Prism in order to understand: #1 what the social landscape really looks like; #2 what are we learning by listening to relevant conversations; and, #3 what distinct value could we bring to each and every community where our presence is warranted based on what we’ve learned and analyzed.

Successful engagement requires an empathetic approach that requires us to truly become the people we’re trying to reach.”

Aha! Some of us stumble into Twitter and other social media sites to see what they’re about, without having a goal or strategy in mind. As soon as we understand how the social media site works, wen need to explore how we want to use it from a business perspective rather than shooting blind. This ensures that we make the most of every touch point rather than flail our way through it. It’s also worth noting that you can never go wrong with listening and showing empathy.

Brett Petersel@brett — Brett Petersel

“Social media is a platform that provides a number of tools which allow me to showcase two personalities: Myself and the companies I represent online/offline (Mashable, NextWeb, etc). These personalities can also be merged together, where I can cross-pollinate my ideas and views (e.g. on Twitter, I can talk about my personal life and share information about a Mashable article or event).

For business-related purposes, I use tools such as Google Alerts and Facebook to monitor the activity of the many brands I represent. I enjoy reading what people may be writing about an event we had or article we had written (and writing a comment in response to theirs), or sharing photos and videos for others to see so that they may want to participate in the future. I focus upon the return on engagement (ROE) and see what areas are working and which need improvement.”

Where to draw the line between personal and professional lives on social media is a dilemma for everyone working online. Some folks combine the two knowing that they’re sharing their personalities and giving people exactly what they get when working with them. Others choose not to share their personal lives with colleagues and clients.

Aaron Brazell@technosailor — Aaron Brazell

“I use social media as a way to maintain trust. Most of my business is word-of-mouth, so trust is necessary if I’m going to continue to enjoy that benefit. By using social media and presenting an honest and open front, I am able to maintain the trust relationship between me, clients and potential clients.”

Being open and honest is important. A person can only fake it for so long before people figure it out.

Robin Kleban@hybridmom — Robin Kleban

“We use social media — mainly Twitter and Facebook (in addition to the existing ‘Hybrid Mom’ community) — to not only get to know our members better, but also to share more about the ‘Hybrid Mom’ team. We’re adamant about not just ‘pushing out’ messages, but more about having conversations. We ask questions. We share tips and information. But we also look to our social media community (fans, followers, members) for advice, support and information as well.”

“Hybrid Mom” is an online and print publication that reaches out to moms who work. Notice that Robin focuses on providing information and building relationships, not promoting the magazine itself.

Thomas Clifford@tommytrc — Thomas Clifford

“Social media can be this huge bottomless pit of web sites and terms that make people feel overwhelmed. I feel people are making this harder than it needs to be. Social media — as its name states — is supposed to be social, not ‘I’m so busy figuring this out I have no time to interact.’ The way I made it work for me is by doing this:

1. Pick a few tools and use them. I knew these those core tools well before branching out further. Social media is as easy as a blog on your web site, or an online comment area or even a YouTube video. The key is to give readers and users a way to respond in an open forum; that’s social media in action.

2. Just do it. I didn’t stand around and talk about it. I just signed up for Twitter, Facebook and so on without worrying about perfection. I knew I’d learn as I went and perfected the process on the fly. There was no right or wrong answer to this process. If it worked, I kept doing it’ if not, I changed it up a little till I found my secret sauce for success.

3. Be myself. My brand would never be successful if I wasn’t genuine and true to my followers. Once people fall in love with you as a person, they will want to know more about your product or service. This is how the process works. So I built myself personally, which led to finding success professionally.”

The mantra of “Be authentic” is a mantra for a good reason. Clifford makes an important point to select a few sites to use on a regular basis. Don’t drive yourself crazy trying to do it all.

Deb Ng@debng — Deb Ng

“I use social media tools to establish relationships and I take those relationships face to face to totally rock them to a whole other level.”

Building relationships online is one thing, but real-life “face time” can be important, too.

Kevin Eikenberry@KevinEikenberry — Kevin Eikenberry

“Social media helps brand my business; it won’t do it for you, but if you have a clear brand social media can accelerate progress. Social media allows me to express my personality, as an extension of my company — helping to further differentiate us. Social media generates leads and pre-frame people, making them more likely future buyers.”

A static web site can only reveal so much. Social media brings life to a brand and company in real-time, as the people behind the company respond to online chatter. This allows their customers and prospects to steer the conversation and see how the brand responds.

If you like to learn more about using social media in business, check out the report on GigaOM Pro, “Social Media in the Enterprise” (subscription required).

How do you use social media in your business?


Paul Chaney

To make the most effective use of the social media “toolset,” one needs to embrace the social media “mindset.” One without the other is incomplete. You need to understand the “why,” not just the “how.” But, it’s a chicken/egg, horse/cart thing.

Allen Mireles

I use social media for all of the reasons stated (above this comment) and for additional reasons:
•Social media helps keep me abreast of the latest trends in my industry
•Social media allows me to connect and engage with people and brands I might not otherwise know
•Social media keeps me youthful and excited
•Social media keeps me learning and growing and able to innovate my business
•Social media helps me provide value to my clients and prospects and to a wide range of people I have never yet met face to face

Thanks for allowing me the opportunity to list my answers to your question. (By the way, I have enjoyed meeting many of my social media contacts and Twittermates face to face and recommend it highly!)

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