If your company’s not on Facebook, it’s falling behind.
In May 2008 Facebook had 123.9 million unique users. That’s a lot of potential customers roaming around that site. And that doesn’t count all the other social media sites you could be using for free, or low-cost, advertising.
Businesses are logging on and taking advantage of free social media platforms like Facebook. They’re also writing blogs and opening forums.
Is it a waste of time? Hardly.
Having a Facebook page, company blog or forum is free advertising. And it’s a way to have an open dialogue with current and potential customers. You can find out what they want, let them know about new products and they can ask questions — without the costliness of setting up surveys or having a manned call center.
There are a number of ways a business can get free advertising. Here’s a few of the most popular:
- LinkedIn: This is a site to make connections, answer questions, get to know other professionals and promote your business. Heavily populated with industry experts, it’s a great place to go for startup companies and just general advice and help. You can also use the advertising potential if you offer a professional service like consulting or b-2-b service. Click LinkedIn to check out the site.
- Facebook: Probably one of the most popular social media tools – visitors can create a free page, upload pictures and video, make friends and have discussions. There were 123.9 million unique users in May 2008 alone. Companies are taking advantage of the high traffic and free advertising. Not only are they creating a loyal customer base, they’re getting new customers through association. It’s also a great way to appeal to the X and Y generations. Twitter and MySpace are also popular, but business owners don’t seem to have the same positive result as those who use Facebook.
- Blogs and forums: Here’s a place to have an on-going dialogue with your customers. You can share knowledge or answer questions, which is especially handy if you’re a service company. You can either develop your own blog or forum that can be linked directly to your site, or peruse other places your customers might be going to ask questions. A blog allows you to write articles and have others comment on them. A forum allows anyone to create a discussion (or thread). If it’s your blog or forum, you’re always in control of what gets posted and what doesn’t. Get a free blog at: WordPress or Blogger. Check out 37Signals for a business blog example.
- Online video: Everyone’s heard of the phenomenon YouTube: upload a video, people see it and pass it around. Videos are free to upload and, while you can’t upload “advertisements” you can still post company related videos. Some companies who upload videos to YouTube also have the videos located on their own site. They usually include company picnics, parties and philanthropy.
- Online press releases: You can let people know about new products, company achievements and awards and philanthropic activities. And, as an added bonus, you get more positive exposure in search engines.
When utilizing social media, remember that people can detect advertising a mile away. So try to keep posts casual — not everything has to be about business and your products. Establish a team of people to update the site regularly and, if they’re not already familiar with blogging, have them start a personal blog until they’re comfortable with the feel of it. Also, make sure there’s a dedicated editor to proofread all entries before they’re posted.