Since social media first started making waves, businesses have been hard at work trying to make sense of all the new data that flows in through social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and so many others.

The transition has been particularly challenging for marketing people, who woke up one day to realize that the business world had suddenly changed and traditional marketing methods were no longer effective in the new scheme of things.

In October 2011, IBM interviewed more than 1,700 Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) to obtain insights on how the marketing profession is responding to the forces changing business and markets today.

The study revealed that 71 percent of the CMOs see themselves as unprepared to manage the huge volumes of data generated by their businesses.

The most prominent challenges for these CMOs include:

  1. How to cope with data explosion;
  2. How to use social media;
  3. How to manage an increasing number of channel and device options; and
  4. How to exploit shifting consumer demographics.


Much has been said and written about using social media to promote companies and their products, and to facilitate sales. But, the power of social networks for businesses goes beyond merely making sales.

For businesses to truly harness social platforms and thrive within the new business landscape, they must seize and exploit every advantage social media has to offer.

Here are some ways your business can use social media.

Tell Your Story

Sure you can post business tips on Facebook and Twitter, and these will be of immense value to your audience, but showing people the real you, or showing what truly goes on behind the scenes in your company can be just as compelling.

 

People love good stories, and social media gives you the opportunity and the stage for you to do some storytelling. Share posts about your interests, and post lots of pictures about what you (or your company) are passionate about.

 

Focus Your Efforts

Find that one (or two) social network with the largest concentration of your target audiences, then focus your efforts and resources on that network.

 

Instead of stretching yourself and resources across too many social media accounts, devote your attention to your target audience and the sites they frequent most. Develop a content and engagement strategy that leverages the features and strengths of that particular social network.

 

Finding out where your audience is will take a little research. Use Google to find white papers or articles that might have research about social media and try to figure out the best fit for your social media marketing plan.

 

Ignite Social Media has posted their 2011 Social Network Analysis Report and I thought you might find it useful.

 

Create a Lead Generation Machine

Turn your social media account into a lead generating system. Use the social media platform’s features and mechanisms to promote your profile page. Encourage people to become active contacts, friends or followers, and get them to “Like” your profile or posts. In exchange, offer them valuable freebies in exchange for contact information.

 

For instance, you could offer a free white paper or ebook in exchange for a follow/re-tweet, like, connection etc. Another thing some companies offer is a great coupon offer. This seems to work very well for e-commerce Websites. Reciprocity goes a long way and people don't mind helping you in exchange for a free gift – especially if it's not really costing them anything.


Maintain Your Brand Image

Invest in a consistent brand design for your social media accounts. Most social media platforms have a default look which you can often customize. Take advantage of these options and change the look to carry the same brand image across multiple social media sites.

 

Sites like YouTube and Twitter allow you to change backgrounds and logos to achieve a look that is more inline with your corporate ID. LinkedIn however, is a little less flexible.

 

Facebook offers some customization options like pages/tabs, you can upload your logo and even though they don't allow you to change your page's background, you can customize it enough to match the theme you are incorporating into the other social media sites.

 

Use Video

If a picture paints a thousand words, then video projects a million. People simply love to watch moving pictures, and you can take advantage of this fact to promote your company and its products. It's just easier (and for many more fun) to watch a video than it is to read an article. There is also the added advantage of possibly making it to the top of the search engine results pages with properly tagged video content.

 

Make sure you optimize your video's page AND the meta information within the video itself. Embed your keywords and search engines will find your videos easier. YouTube, Daily Motion and and other video site you submit to will be able to scan this meta information to determine what your video is about. With the right combination of optimization and quality content you can create a viral video that drives thousands (if not millions) of new visitors to your Web site.

 

Keep Your Eyes and Ears Open

Social media gives you special ringside seats to the lives of your customers and prospects, providing you with infinite opportunities to learn their desires and preferences. Once you know what your audience is looking for you can become a great resource for them.

 

Be Valuable

With social media, you have the opportunity to share valuable information with your audiences. This helps you position yourself as a subject matter resource and compels audiences to keep coming back for more.

 

Try to write something helpful and offer it to the public for free. Become an authority within your space and people will respond to your offers in a more favorable way.