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Strictly Business: Can Social Media Sites Get You Business?
Posted Nov 13, 2009 - November 2009 Issue Print Version     Page 1of 1

If you're one of the many people swept away by the social networking media craze, welcome to the frenzied world of pointless babble and mindless chatter, where our narcissistic natures can have a field day. This is all well and good—except when you're using social media as a business tool!

Pear Analytics, a data analytics provider, recently studied the content of Twitter to determine just how many posts contained intellectual musings and how many were purely pointless babble. The company captured 2,000 tweets (messages of 140 characters, max) from the public timeline over a 2-week time span and then categorized them into six types: News, Spam, Self-Promotion, Pointless Babble, Conversation, and Pass-Along Value. The results? 40.55% of tweets were deemed Pointless Babble, 37.55% were Conversational, and 8.7% (third place) contained some amount of Pass-Along Value.

I find this study interesting, and I can testify to its validity from my own experience with Twitter. Additionally, my own experiences with other social networking media would suggest the percentages are similar, no matter where you look. Even large companies know that trying to sell something on social networking media sites is truly an uphill battle.

According to research conducted by LinkShare, an affiliate network, in a survey of 2,000 U.K. consumers, "just four percent of those polled had ever clicked on an advert on a social network and only nine percent found them useful tools in assisting their purchasing decisions on the web." Liane Dietrich, vice president of LinkShare U.K., commented, "We don't think brands should walk away but rather need to evolve what message their ads are conveying. Online users are information shoppers-they are looking for buyer reviews-so ads need [to] relay more information to cater for this need."

Earlier this year, when I wrote about social networking media for this column, I stated, "Using social networking sites isn't so much about soliciting business as it is about establishing yourself as a real, live person with whom others may wish to do business." Recently, in his MarketWatch.com column, John C. Dvorak said, "For some reason, people always want to associate social networking with the ability to sell something when we should take all social networking at its face value. It's about socializing, not about selling stuff to your friends."

With that in mind, let's look at a few ways you can make social networking sites work for you.

First, don't be anonymous. Put a picture of yourself up there. I don't mean a baby photo or one in your best Halloween costume. You want people to be able to recognize (and empathize with) a fellow adult human.

Secondly, leave all conversation about religion and politics off the site. If I see a rant on about either of these topics, I'll hide your feed or hit the "ignore" button. I won't subject my prospects, friends, or clients to any proselytizing. You shouldn't either. Not everything you'd say face-to-face needs to be broadcast online.

For those of you who want to keep your personal and business sides separate, Facebook has made it much easier to establish a "fan" page for your company. This allows you to maintain your company's page separate from your personal profile page.

Once a week or so, I drop in a marketing tip on Facebook. The rest of the time I spend posting pictures of friends, video of my gigs, and smart-aleck remarks. Believe it or not, people keep coming back for more.

If you're a producer of special event videos and a venue or an organization you've shot for has a networking site, be sure to post a preview of your piece on that site. You can do this with wedding videos too. If you just shot the best darn rock-n-roll wedding ever, get the video up on the bride and groom's networking site. Put samples on your site as well, providing you have permission.

Additionally, provide links to websites you think will be of interest. Include your own website of course, join applicable groups, and "fan" relevant businesses. The more people who see your work, the merrier.

The main thing you want to do is interact with people and give them every opportunity to interact with you. For example, a Wendy's restaurant in Michigan recently sent a tweet to its followers one warm Tuesday that said if they came into a Michigan Wendy's and uttered "brrrr" between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. that very day, they'd receive a free Frosty milkshake. According to an article in The Grand Rapids Press, Wendy's followers were thrilled, and they retweeted the message to their friends. A spokesperson for the chain said, "We've been really overwhelmed!" Sounds like fun to me; and something you might want to try yourself, albeit with your own personal flair and in a way that's applicable to your own business.

While you're perfecting your social networking, don't forget the other tools you have available: your website, your literature, client testimonials, your blog, business cards, and the like. Each and every tool is an important part of your total marketing strategy. Get out there. Have fun. See what works best for you.

Steve Yankee (syankee at opinmarketing.com) has more than 35 years of video production and marketing experience and is the founder of The Video Business Advisor in East Lansing, Mich.

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