How to use social media to build business
By Jim Kendall
This column originally appeared in the March 23, 2015 Daily Herald
If you want to catch fish, Sue Kirchner told an Itasca Bank & Trust Women’s Initiative seminar earlier this month, fish where the fish are. Put another way: If you want to build sales, put your effort where customers hang out.
Increasingly, she noted, customers are hanging out in the social media community.
“You certainly can get by without social media,” Kirchner said during a subsequent conversation, ”but you’d be ignoring one of the strong communication channels.”
Kirchner is president of Brand Strong Marketing Inc., Palatine. Where she really hits the mark is her assertion that although social media are important, they are just one part of business development.
“You need an overall marketing strategy,” Kirchner says. That strategy, she suggests as an example, might incorporate direct mail that is followed by a similar email and then a related social media message.
Additional points from Kirchner’s presentation and a later interview:
* Selling on social media doesn’t work. Instead, use the various options – from Pinterest to LinkedIn and stops in between – to establish an identity and build trust in the social media world. Your goal should be to get users comfortable with you, your knowledge and, especially, your willingness to be part of the social media community so they’ll buy when they ultimately see your sales message.
* There are more social media outlets than you and I have fingers. How do you find the one or two where you should concentrate? “Pick up the phone,” Kirchner says. “Call your 10 best customers. Ask them, ‘What social media are you on?’”
* Know what you want to accomplish. “What is success?” Kirschner asks. “You can’t evaluate your (social media) efforts if you don’t know what you want.”
* Know your market. Kirchner suggests creating a customer profile. “Know who you’re talking to,” she says. “What keeps them up at night? What solutions can you provide? Where do they hang out online?”
* Define your brand – and message. Your business has something that makes it unique. Know what that is. “What do you want (customers) to know and remember about you?” Kirchner asks.
* Craft content that brings people to your website (or blog). “Provide content people are looking for,” Kirchner says. “What would they type into Google to find an answer to a problem?”
Once you’ve created content – a blog, for example – your task is to assure that people notice. “Use email to say your blog is there,” Kirchner says. “Reach out to other bloggers. ‘If I tweak this post, will you put it on your site?’”
If the message is pertinent and well crafted, other bloggers will respond – as you should do when it’s your turn to post someone else’s content.
* Don’t expect instant success. It can take a year to build the social media relationships and trust that will lead to increased business, Kirchner says.