5 Tips for Businesses New to Social Media // In which, I step on my Social Media Assumptions and give Small Business owners a bit of advice…

Every once in a while, I am reminded what an incredible geek I am.

When you swim in the geek every day, it is so easy to forget that terms like QR Code, Foursquare, G+, Podcasting, mp3,twitter,square, facebook page creation, blogging and video conferencing ( to name just a few) are either complete greek or else sound frighteningly technically hard to do.

I believe it is important for businesses to be involved in their neighborhood in ways that improve the neighborhood. Since part of what I do is IT and Social Media Consulting, my neighborhood is both digital and physical, so here is a little give back – 5 quick tips about using Social Media for Business.

1) Social Media – all digital interactions that involve people to people communication and conversation. This happens in many places (or platforms) on the internet- Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Picasa , Google+, Quora, Empire Avenue, Foursquare are just a few you might hear people talking about. In the digital world, this is the same as the beauty shop/barbershop chat, the back fence or front stoop chat, the “after church coffee” chat or a postcard from someone traveling that comes back home. The same sorts of things happen in both places- people share news, movie reviews, baby pictures,travel pictures, product and business recommendations,or insights and opinions on politics, economics, and philosophy ( to name just a few). Just like in real life, there are people you trust and love, people who gossip, people you respect, people who are blowhards and people you avoid. Remember- Social Media is conversation and engagement- it is the online way to spread word of mouth advertising.

2) Facebook– one of the current leading platforms ( or places) for social media exchanges, although it is not always loved by the people who use it ( ask me why and I can post more). Most of you probably have a Facebook Account. If you have a lively Facebook community near your brick and mortar, or you sell online and ship product, your Business should have a Facebook page as well. This is frighteningly easy to do. Simply go to your home page, click on “pages” in the left menu and then click on the “create a page” button that shows up on the top of the page. Warning- just having a page is no good at all, unless you post to it, check on it, respond to people on it and make connections with it. One of the easiest ways to do this is to go to your page, then click on the “use facebook as page” option on the right. Now go forth in Facebook land. Like other pages that are strategic connections, comment on other people’s things, be a lively and contributing presence and people will stumble across your page. [There is, obviously, tons more to be said about Facebook- you can contact me as a contractor if you want the full scoop or more hand holding]

3) Twitter– another social media platform, where the things you share are limited to 140 characters, but can be links to other things ( like youtube videos, pictures, blog posts, etc..). The nice thing about Twitter for businesses is that it is very easy to search and find people interested in the things you do, to “follow” them ( see the things they post) and respond back to start conversations. Twitter is all about conversations. This is NOT the place to broadcast only links to your press releases, details about your latest specials or your latest product releases. Those things are fine to include in the things you share, but remember this is a conversation- no onne likes listening to someone who only talks about themselves.

4) QR Codes. These are those funny looking square barcodes ( known as 2D or Matrix barcodes) that you are starting to see all around town. Big businesses and manufacturing have been using 2D barcodes for many years because they can hold more information than a regular barcode. Then someone got smart and turned them into a QR ( Quick Response)code that can used to show on the spot information. All phones that have a camera and run apps can get a free barcode scanner application ( most come already installed) that can be used to scan the QR Code and display the information. This information might be a link to a web page ( URL), some text( offer a discount or special sales promo), a link to other online services ( maps, Foursquare, youtube, yelp, etc..), contact information, a phone number, or to send an SMS (to your phone). If you have one of those phones, you can try this one and see what displays on your phone.    

5) FourSquare. ( also known as 4Square). As a personal service, it has lovers and haters. Some people love to “check in” and broadcast all over the internet where they are and what they are doing and some people hate it.  But as long as there are lovers, becoming a place that people can check into makes good sense.  When users check in, they share that information with all their friends online. This means lots of other people are seeing them come to your business.  You also have the ability to offer specials through Fourquare, and when users check in anywhere, they see a list of all the specials nearby, potentially reminding them to come to your address as well.  You do not have to personally use the service, but you do have to have an account and log in at your business to make it a place. You  want to create an account and search to see if anyone has already added your place. If not, go to the store, log into foursquare and add the venue. Then go to your computer, find your new place and “claim this venue”.  Foursquare requires verification, which can be done via phone or email and then does a lot of hand holding once you tell it you want to claim a venue and you are off and running.

Hopefully those first 5 tips give you something to think about and act on and let you get started in Social Media for your business.

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