It seems like everyone wants to talk about social media. It’s still the “new thing,” a great buzzword and something that many small business owners just don’t understand yet.
After attending the Social Media for Business session, “Put Down the Megaphone, How to Talk Social,” led by Matt Riopelle and Jen Grant Tuesday at the Corvallis Chamber (see an overview at the ProWorks Blog), one thing resonated with us. There are a lot of small business owners out there who don’t want to use social media – or use it to its potential – because of a fear that they’ll be giving their competitors too much information.
This is a valid concern for a small business owner whose livelihood depends on the ebbs and flows of his or her business. But by being proactive with social media, you can do more to help your business than hurt it. Both Jen and Matt pointed out that while the medium may be new, the social part of business communications has been around forever. It’s natural to be a little intimidated or cautious of something new, but we need to stop thinking about social media as the big scary new kid who’s come to beat us up. Social media is the new kid who knows a lot of other people and wants us to all be friends.
Jen shared a great tip that she used with one of her Fortune 500 social media clients: Talk to customers or potential customers just like you would if you were taking them out to lunch with you. You won’t always talk business, the whole time won’t be a sales pitch, but it’s a great informal setting where we have the opportunity to create relationships – relationships we might not be able to create without it.
Use social media tools to give people insights about your business that they wouldn’t be able to get otherwise. Tell them about a new product you’re working on, a great experience with a client, a behind-the-scenes look at what you’re doing. It doesn’t have to be earth-shattering, intellectual-property-revealing news, but people love to see the raw inner-workings and like to feel like they’re getting inside information (why do you think reality TV shows are so popular?).
Both Matt and Jen encouraged us to embrace the transparency that social media gives us. Think about ways you can use it to create new relationships or strengthen existing ones. Like every other realistic tool for your business, it won’t make your sales double overnight, but you’ll almost certainly come away with more friends – friends who, after the relationships are built, could be great ambassadors for your brand or product or maybe even become a customer.