Some entrepreneurs are reluctant to use social networking to promote their business ventures. There are good reasons for feeling this way; social networking may be low cost, but it requires an immense amount of time to set up and maintain. In addition, it is just as easy to anger and alienate your audience as it is to win their hearts. Many entrepreneurs prefer to focus on more traditional marketing methods. However, there are a few good reasons to make social media a part of your business. The first and more important one is that social networking works.
A good example of entrepreneurial success through social networking is young businesswoman Shama Kabani. Kabani was recently covered in a story in Entrepreneur magazine and is considered one of the social media experts of our times. Although she is only 26 year old, Shama Kabani is a published author on the topic of social media marketing and hosts a web TV show on the topic. She is also the founder of The Marketing Zen Group, a two-year-old business that specializes in helping businesses find and implement the right social media marketing options for their companies.
Another factor that makes Kabani an expert is her education in the matter; her master’s thesis at the University of Texas was written on Twitter, back when the social networking website had only 2,000 users and not the hundreds of millions that we see today. It was a somewhat prophetic thesis that predicted the rise of tweets as a social force.
Kabani points out that we live in a world in which business has become ‘faceless’. People are shopping on the internet or at superstores. The brand interaction that used to be provided by face-to-face interaction is now absent, and customers long for it. Social media is one way of giving customers the face and the personality that they want when choosing a company with which to do business. However, the social networking approach that works best can vary according to the unique business and market. This is where consultancies such as The Marketing Zen Group come in.
One case study from the business is that of k9cuisine.com, an online dog food retailer. Under the guidance of Marketing Zen, the business established a blog and an active Twitter following, while also wooing some of the best known names in pet blogging. For other companies, the right approach might be to simply have a well-optimized blog. The right social networking approach depends on the business itself.
In order to be successful in the early days of the business, when many entrepreneurs flounder, Kabani is running a lean operation that will look familiar to many people. Most of her employees work virtually, and some of them are located in countries known for offering highly skilled and inexpensive labor. So far this has been an effective strategy; the business grew 400% last year and is predicted to be a multimillion company by 2014.
At a time when many young graduates are leaving college to find that there are no jobs even for motivated and educated people, Kabani has realized at a young age what most entrepreneurs know: in life, you must create your own opportunities. Social networking is a way of creating opportunities that entrepreneurs in previous generations never dreamed of.
Indeed, creating your own opportunities is what social media marketing is all about. You can reach out to customers and build a brand without a huge investment of money. The marketing that was once limited to multi-million dollar corporations is now completely available to every entrepreneur. The secret is to know how and when to use this tool.
As Kabani emphasizes, the social media approach that works best for your company will depend on your business and your market. However, there are a few general rules that can help you to make a plan.
- Optimize. Whatever you do on the internet, it needs to be optimized so that it shows up in search engine results. After all, a vast and comprehensive internet presence that is seen by no one is a complete waste of time. It is usually easy to optimize a website; it involves only moving around words and inserting tags. Not only does your website and blog need to be optimized, but your Facebook, Twitter and other social content as well.
- Consider your market. Where are your target customers hanging out? Are they tweeting, checking their Facebook status, surfing YouTube or simply typing random phrases into Google? You may need to think a little and get into your consumers’ minds in order to find this answer. However, it is important to know your market so you can tailor your approach specifically to their sensitivities.
- Have personality. This is not a business plan; you are interacting with customers and need to have a personality. Consider what tone and which persona will work best with your market. You may want to do a little research to see what works best.
- Allow two-way communication. Modern people don’t like being dictated to. You need to allow people to communicate with your business. Ask questions and post polls. This will make modern customers feel heard; it will also allow you to see new directions for your business.
- Watch the competition. What videos and posts are getting shared and going viral? Your goal is to take note of these and try to emulate them. Dissect what makes a social media message successful with your target audience and re-create it in your own social media marketing campaigns. Often, what works for one business may work just as well for another. Don’t be afraid or ashamed to copy a successful strategy.
Social media is one of the greatest opportunities for a business, as Kabani’s success and that of so many other entrepreneurs have shown. The major social media websites have hundreds of millions of regular users, and your target market is probably included in this number. Social networking is much cheaper than other types of marketing and also more effective, so what are you waiting for?