Using social media for business

Using social media for business

So you're thinking of starting a business, but how do you get people to know all about it?

These days it's not enough to go down the traditional route of sending out press releases to the local or specialist media. You can connect directly to your market via social networking sites like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, but it's worth understanding which platform your market uses more if you want to target them effectively.

According to Naomi Timperley, who used social networking to build her Baby Loves Disco business up with a zero marketing budget, the secret to having success on Twitter is commitment, conversing and listening. She told an audience at this week's Workingmums LIVE event in Manchester that many people set up Twitter sites and then only tweeted once a month. “The thing about social media is you have to be social,” she said. Once a month was not nearly enough. You had to initiate and join in existing conversations, she said.

Being successful involved working strategically. This meant thinking carefully about your name on Twitter and how you describe yourself in your profile. If you are selling a particular product, you could put that in your name so that it comes up on searches.

You need to target people you want to follow as well as trying to get people to follow you, she said. Start following people in your niche market who you want to reach. For instance, if you are setting up a cafe and want to attract mums start following local mother and baby groups, NCT groups and mummy bloggers who do reviews. “It's important to build that word of mouth recommendation,” she said, “and to follow like-minded people.”

Once you have set up your profile and started following people who can help to promote you, she recommends spending at least 20 minutes a day joining in other conversations on Twitter, replying to people who have tweeted you, retweeting comments from others and generally participating in Twitter life. She said it was important to respond quickly if someone tweeted you, but to also be careful you don't say anything you later regret. If you do say something you come to regret, she said it was best to say sorry.

She counselled against the hard sell in your own tweets. It was better to “be real and human” and to show a sense of humour. You could tweet pictures of your new business, but ones that show its and your personality. Asking questions and adding contests and offers was also a good way of interacting with your followers as was telling people interesting information about something connected with your business.

Half an hour every day

Naomi recommended something called paper.li which allows you to form your own Twitter newspaper by allowing you to pick your top stories on Twitter every day. This gave you good content to pass on and also scored brownie points with the tweeters involved.

She said people tended to get hung up on the number of followers they had, but it was the quality rather than the quantity that mattered when you were promoting your business. You could try rewarding your followers, for instance, you could treat your 500th follower to lunch.

Naomi said it was a good idea to engage with celebrities, but by that she meant celebrities who could help your own business. She singled out Theo Paphetis from Dragon's Den who picks out six new businesses to promote every Sunday and businesswoman Jacqueline Gold who has a similar platform for promoting new businesses. Another way of promoting your business was to respond to media requests by following, for instance, #journorequest. She explained that putting a hash tag before some of the words in your tweet acted as a kind of meta tag and helped your tweet to get picked up on searches.

“It's all about being strategic and joining in conversations,” she said, recommending that for more information on how to use Twitter people should access a guide on smarta.com.

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