The state of social media for business

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With all the recent changes to Facebook and introduction of Google’s social network, if you weren’t a bit overwhelmed before, you probably are now. So treat this article as your 4-month plan for getting your social media strategy up to speed for 2012 and beyond.

Month 1: Fish where the fish are.

What the heck does that have to do with social media? Well, where are your customers and potential customers hanging out online? If they are age 50 and above, chances are they are not on Twitter. So don’t worry about being there! There’s nothing more fun than removing things off of your plate and this is a great exercise for that. You don’t have to be on all social media sites. REPEAT: You don’t have to be on all social media sites.

Decide where your audience is spending time and plant your flag on those sites. If you’re typically targeting larger businesses, LinkedIn is probably the place you’ll want to spend the most time. If your client is, well, human, then Facebook might be the place for you.

Month 2: Be proud of your profiles.

If you’ve decided Facebook is where your audience is hanging out, then spend some time creating an attractive, professional Facebook business page.

If you’ve decided that you’ll connect with your customers on your personal Facebook profile, then spend some time removing photos or comments that you’re not 100% comfortable with. There are some great advantages to connect with clients on Facebook as you can really deepen the relationship. For example, one of my clients shared on her Facebook page that she was celebrating her one year anniversary of quitting smoking. I sent her a gift certificate to her favorite restaurant and shared how proud I was of her to beat such a difficult habit. This was something she probably would not have shared with me had we not been Facebook friends. So you’ll have to weigh the pros and cons of mixing business with your personal life.

Your LinkedIn profile should have at least 500 connections. 500??? Yes, 500. This is because once you hit that mark, LinkedIn starts to just show your connections as 500+. So you could have 501 or 5001, it will still say 500+ and it simply looks like you are a well connected business person. Or you have a lot of time on your hands. Either way, I want you to get there. I also want you to have at least 10 recommendations. And make sure they are good ones from clients or customers who love you. I get booked for speaking engagements all the time after an organizer reads the recommendations on my LinkedIn page. They are authentic and they are from the right people. That’s the key.

Month 3: Get control of your online reputation.

Typically, when someone uses Google to find a business, they will see the map on the right and a list of local businesses they can choose from. This listing also shows reviews. How many do you have? Don’t know? WHY? This is either helping or hindering your chance of winning their business. So go Google your business, city and state. Click on the link that says Reviews or Places Page. How are you doing? Do you have any reviews? Do you have any negative reviews?

If you haven’t claimed this page yet, claim it. Look at the right-hand side of the page toward the top. Does it say ‘Owner-verified Listing’ or ‘Business Owner?” If it says ‘Business Owner?” you need to claim the listing. Click on that link and proceed. Once claimed, you can respond to reviews, change your contact info and get reports from Google on how this page is performing.

But the most important step here is to remind your happy customers that this page is out there and that you’d love for them to write you a review. Don’t wait around for the negative Norm or Nancy to write a nasty review, be proactive and protect your reputation by getting good customers to tell the world why you’re the best in the biz.

Note: Yelp.com is a different animal. They discourage business owners from soliciting reviews from their customers and will attempt to filter them. I’m not a fan of this but it is what it is. So take note of it.

Month 4: Content is king.

If social media was easy, everyone would be doing it. Wait, everyone is doing it. But, very few are doing it well. So what can you do to actually see a result from social media? First, create engaging content that your customers and potential customers really care about. I live in Michigan and we’ve had a great sports run over the past few months. So what did I do? I talked about those teams! And our local fans, followers and connections loved it. They were totally engaged. As I write this, Halloween is right around the corner. Many people are thinking about what costume they will wear and what their kids will wear. Post an interesting article or funny picture around that theme and you’ll get a lot more engagement than a press release about your company.

So get some engagement. Then it’s OK to sprinkle in some things about your business. You’ve earned the right. Mention an event you have coming up, a special that you’re running just this week or a client that you had to talk about because they are such a rock star. These are great ways to ‘softly-promote’ your business instead of aggressively sell.

If you remember nothing else from this article, remember to Make It About Them. I don’t care if you’re using LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, blog or something else, think about what your audience cares about and talk about it. Engagement is your metric for how well you’re staying ‘top of mind’ with your network. Just last month I signed up for life insurance with a guy who’s been bugging me (I mean reminding me) to do it for over a year. I decided to pull the trigger because I saw a link he posted on LinkedIn about the dangers of not having life insurance when you have a family. He was on my radar when I was in buy mode and he earned my business.

About Corey Perlman

Corey Perlman is a professional speaker and the author of the social media and Internet marketing book, eBoot Camp, which became an Amazon.com bestseller and is in major bookstores worldwide. Corey's company, eBoot Camp, Inc., is a social media marketing company that builds and manages online marketing campaigns for businesses. In 2010, Corey conducted his critically acclaimed eBoot Camp Workshop at more than 25 conferences and events in cities across North America. Corey and his wife reside in beautiful Royal Oak, MI and recently welcomed their first child, Talia, into the world. In her first year, Talia has already tweeted, posted a youtube video, and has a facebook page. To learn more, visit www.eBootCamp.com or email us at info@ebootcamp.com. Connect with Corey: www.Facebook.com/eBootCamp www.Linkedin.com/in/coreyperlman www.Twitter.com/CoreyPerlman