A lot of business owners in Adams County, PA are just beginning to get their feet wet in the social media whirlpool.  Locally, there is a lot of chatter today about the benefits of social media – but it’s all very generalized.  When I read web savvy blogs about social media I understand them, but few on the outside do.  Let’s face it, if you’re just getting your feet wet then terms like “hashmark” “RSS”  and “SEO” do not compute.   The first part of this blog post is for you.

Marketing Has Changed
Once upon a time, for a very long time, marketing your business meant buying TV commercials, newspaper ads, and radio ads. This was very expensive. But, if you could afford it, it was effective.  And then along came social media marketing.  “Social media marketing also known as social influence marketing is the act of using social influencers,  social media platforms, online communities for marketing, publication relations and customer service. Common social media marketing tools include Twitter, blogs, LinkedIn, Facebook, Flickr and YouTube.” ( from Wikipedia)  Suddenly, marketing is transformed.  Ads no longer tell people why they need to use your business; instead, people tell people why they do or do not recommend your business. Word of mouth marketing on the internet is the new wave in promoting businesses.

The Social Media Whirlpool
I’m going to warn you up front – it’s easy to get sucked into the glamor rather than the substance of the social media whirlpool.  There is a lot of fluffy, useless talk going on about social media right now because it’s the cool topic to discuss.  If you’re new to social media then immerse yourself slowly so you can digest one bit at a time.  I’m going to present a few social media basics here.  After all, you have a business to run and although social media marketing should be part of it, you need to understand what you’re getting into.  Oh, one more important fact: Each social media arena has its own culture – a topic I ‘ll cover in another post.  You’ll be most effective when you market within the norms of that culture.

LinkedIn
Here in Adams County, PA many businesses are not yet  LinkedIn.  LinkedIn is a social networking platform for professionals and every business professional should have a LinkedIn account.  Why?  A good LinkedIn profile, complete with robust contact list, blog posts, recommendations, and best answers in…gives you internet street cred. When I Google my name, the first entry I see is my LinkedIn profile.  Here, take a look:  http://www.linkedin.com/pub/catherine-lockey. A LinkedIn profile is a fast and easy way for the world to get to know you.  It’s like an online resume and yet so much more.  Once your LinkedIn profile is complete, who do you invite? I like to invite everyone I meet in person.  It’s a great way for others to get to know me better and to keep them posted on the latest happenings in my business.  Obviously, this is smart marketing for any business.  If you’re a social networking beginner, don’t read any further.  Take a little time each day and create your LinkedIn profile. Get to know LinkedIn and send me an invite! (cl@oz2designs.com)

Blogging
Do you like to write about your work? Are you passionate about it? As one of the few bloggers in Adams County right now and I can tell you from experience, blogging is not for everyone simply because it takes up a lot of time. If you have the time, then jump in – the water is great!  If you don’t have the time and can afford to hire me to blog for your business, then you have every reason to get your name and your brand out there on the blogosphere.

As I mentioned earlier, every social networking arena has its own culture. The blogosphere is definitely true to form here. So where do you start? Contact me through my web site and oz 2 designs llc will set up your blog the right way from the beginning. Along with a fully functioning, attractive looking blog, we also give you a list of do’s and don’ts created to help you join and become part of the blogging community.  The best blog posts come from the heart, are easy to understand, and offer up useful information. They can even be controversial in order to get attention. Like LinkedIn, blogging gives your business internet street cred.  Even better, every time you write a new post, you can notify all of your LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook followers who may choose to backlink to your site.  ( Do you see how social and SEO are intertwined here?)

Twitter
Now Twitter is a different animal altogether.  Who benefits most from Twitter?  Restaurants and stores who want tell their followers about specials, discounts, etc…  Got a new coupon on your web site – post it on  Twitter.  Who else benefits? Bloggers, artists, and any business who has a humorous, viral campaign. For example, my business created IHateCockatiels.  It’s a ridiculous (somewhat twisted) Twitter account which focuses on my art director’s near hatred of the cockatiel who is a permanent resident  in our office and is linked to an even more ridiculous web site he created for it.  This Twitter account has acquired over 4,400 followers since last March.  This sideways marketing strategy (otherwise known as a viral campaign) allows people to view my company’s design work. The most successful Twitter accounts interact with their followers. This takes time.

Facebook
Somewhat like LinkedIn although known for being much more casual, Facebook accounts allow you to acquire friends who want to know what is going on with your business. Publishing a new book or CD next month? Notify your friends and they will be awaiting its release.  Like all social media, interacting with your friends is what helps make the difference. Of course, the more popular and interesting you are, the more interested your friends are in you.  My art director just started our oz 2 designs llc Facebook account and I am grateful he is managing it for us.

You Can’t Turn Back Time

Marketing has changed forever thanks to social media.  If you aren’t participating now, it’s not too late to get involved.  Remember, take baby steps.  Scrutinize your options. Leave me a comment or send me an email and ask which social media platforms are the best choices for your business.  After you get your feet wet I’m sure you’ll agree social media has opened doors for small businesses which would have forever remained closed without it.