7 Ways Social Media Can Take Your Business from Good to GreatIn the early days of the internet, the extent of digital marketing for most businesses was deciding whether to bother setting up a company website or not. These days it’s rare to find a business of any size without its own website and the rise of the social media has brought with it a new way to engage with existing and potential new customers. Make social work for you by using these 7 tips to take your business from a good online presence to a great one!

1. Spread brand awareness

According to research from the Pew Research Center, 73% of online adults now use at least one social media site. Facebook remains the undisputed leader with almost one and a quarter billion monthly users – more than 1 in 6 of the global population. Other sites like Twitter and Instagram are also huge and 42% of adults online now use multiple social networking platforms. A social media marketing campaign or presence offers the potential customer to reach a vast new audience across a range of demographics and expand your customer base.

2. Engage with customers

Social media offers a unique opportunity to engage directly with your customers in real time. This can take a wide variety of forms. You can engage in conversation and respond to questions and comments, share information, make announcements and offer thanks. This kind of engagement can have a number of important benefits including fostering a stronger relationship with your customers and providing valuable insights into what you are doing right and wrong through your customers’ eyes.

3. Network

Social media is not only useful for engaging with customers but also for establishing valuable contacts with other professionals and key players within your field. As the leading business social networking service with more than 300 million members worldwide, LinkedIn can help you to make connections with people whose business or opinions could be useful. You can use it to find new employees and, of course, you can also use social media to keep an eye on what your competition is doing. Businesses can also use social media internally, as a way to promote events or communicate with colleagues and employees in an informal manner.

Employee Facebook groups can be a good way to foster inter-departmental relationships and a sense of togetherness. Here employees can share ideas – in the form of posts, documents, photos or all three – use Facebook chat to conduct virtual brainstorming sessions and much more. It’s even been suggested that Employee Facebook groups could replace the intranet for small firms.

4. Monitor the conversation

The internet and social media in particular is a two way street. You are not simply delivering your own message; if you are having any sort of an impact then people will be talking about you as well. Hopefully the bulk of what people are saying will be good but criticism, misinformation and rumors can all have a negative effect on your brand. Use tools such as Google Alerts or Boardtracker to enter keywords (such as your brand name) and find out who is talking about you and where. You can then reply appropriately, whether by correcting misinformation or responding to genuine complaints and grievances.

5. Boost SEO and traffic

Your main website should act as a central hub for your social activities, with your social presences all linked together. Anyone who wants to find out more about you and what you do should be able to easily follow links to your website. You can also use social media to earn backlinks naturally as other people respond to the content you post. This can help boost your SEO, making it more likely for even more people to find you through Google and other search engines.

6. Reach across borders

You can also use social media to reach out across cultural and linguistic divides. All the main social platforms have established international audiences – Facebook is available in more than 70 languages while 67% of LinkedIn users live outside the site’s US home market1. Some local competitors can also be useful if you are looking to expand your target markets. VK, for example, is the biggest social media site in Russia and many Eastern European markets while Qzone claims to have a whopping 712 million users in China, where Facebook and Twitter are officially banned.

7. Make direct sales

Many of the benefits of social include raising brand awareness and perception. Marketers can be sceptical about the effects of these things and it can be difficult to produce accurate ROI figures. In fact research has revealed that just 5% of organizations feel ‘very confident’ in measuring social ROI.

This may be because marketers often analyse a number of easy-to-count social media metrics ranging from the number of Facebook fans to the number of Twitter followers, and it is not always possible to correlate these directly with increases/decreases in revenue or brand awareness.

One great benefit that social media provides is making direct sales, as this infographic from Pshoshul shows. As stated in the infographic, independent Texan coffee house The Coffee Groundz saw sales and market share increase by 25% after it started using Twitter as a direct ordering channel. Worldwide boutique hotel chain Joie De Vivre, meanwhile, offered exclusive $79 a night deals at 33 luxury hotels via their social platforms. The campaign filled 1,000 rooms that would otherwise have been vacant.

Lee Jackson is a social media consultant and founder of Webpresence Ltd, a Cheshire based digital marketing agency.  When he isn’t engaging on social he enjoys walking his dog Banjo, playing football and watching his favorite bands.