Getting Social About Your Business (Op-Ed)

This morning I asked my friend Michael Wolk the question one often asks entrepreneurs: “How’s business?”

“Business is good, getting better,” said Wolk, a designer who creates interiors, furniture and graphics, among other designs. And he credited a number of exciting new projects to his firm’s presence on social media.

Surprised? I was. You might wonder how a designer of iconic furniture and inspired interiors for homes and offices could find clients using the same tools that create engagement for companies such as Coca-Cola, Samsung, MTV and Target. Those buyers aren’t the people who commission condo lobby designs, are they?

It’s easy — but not smart — for some to dismiss social media. Seventy-two percent of online adults use social media, according to the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. Their most recent study reports that, “one of the more striking stories about the social networking population has been the growth among older internet users in recent years. Those ages 65 and older have roughly tripled their presence on social networking sites in the last four years — from 13 percent in the spring of 2009 to 43 percent now.”

If you have the time and resources to commit, any business can benefit from implementing social media in their marketing mix. It’s a cost-effective way to connect and engage with your target market, keep your target market informed about your brand, complement your entire marketing plan (including PR and events), improve search engine optimization (SEO) and collect data. But if you don’t have a strategy, don’t have the resources to do it, or don’t have the time to devote, think twice.

Frankly, many people dive into social media just because it’s the trendy thing to do. That’s the wrong reason. Aubrey Swanson, President and Social CEO of Auboom Media, tells us:

“First, you need to determine your goals and objectives. Then, you need to understand who your target market is and which sites they’re active on. Depending on your resources and your marketing budget, you’ll then determine how much time you can devote to social media. Social media is a timely activity that needs to be utilized on a daily basis.”

Ask yourself: Are my competitors using social media?

If they are, you better get there or get left behind. If they’re not, shouldn’t you be the one who stands out?

Make sure to set goals at the start

Retailers need traffic to their stores, so coupons can be helpful. New restaurants need to build awareness, so contests and videos that people will share can be useful. Professionals want to demonstrate expertise, and are prepared for a long sales cycle for a big-ticket purchase. In that case, content marketing using white papers, blogs or webinars could be the core of a social media strategy.

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Janet Altman is a Marketing Principal at Kaufman Rossin, one of the Top 100 CPA and advisory firms in the U.S.