I’ve just returned from a visit to my home state of Florida to surprise my father on his 60th birthday. While not a lot has changed in the six months since my last visit–it was still very hot in May, the mosquitoes weren’t any smaller, and the beaches were as nice as ever–I couldn’t help but notice the increased popularity of social media for businesses.
Granted, social media is popular in the UK, but it seems that far more businesses and organisations are using Twitter and Facebook in the US when compared to the companies over here. From the independent coffee shop, to the huge department store, it seems that every American business is connecting with fans and customers via social networking. Now, I didn’t find this out by trolling Twitter and Facebook to see which of my favourite businesses had their own pages. No, these companies seemed to take every opportunity to let me know they were using social networking sites.
The restaurants I ate at had Twitter and Facebook icons and URLs on their menus, accompanied by urges to follow them. I bought some new clothing while I was there, and one of the tags on a shirt featured the URLs of the designer’s Twitter and Facebook pages. While driving, I noticed the URLs of Facebook and Twitter pages proudly displayed on signs outside of a number of different businesses and organisations, including veterinarian offices, churches, and auto repair shops. Store windows were plastered with decals featuring domain names and social networking icons, and local and national businesses mentioned their Facebook and Twitter pages in tv adverts.
Facebook has over 500 million active users, and Twitter has approximately 200 million users (although the number of active users is anyone’s guess); these social networking sites provide businesses with access to a huge number of individuals and organisations, so it’s no wonder American companies are trying everything they can think of to get more followers. Plus, smart phones are hugely popular in the US, as well as the UK; over 250 million active users access Facebook from their smart phones, so customers can become followers in just a matter of seconds while at a table in a cafe or a fitting room in a store.
If your company doesn’t have a Facebook or Twitter account, now is the time to create one. If you’re not sure where to start, here are some suggestions to help you along:
- Read the help topics for Facebook pages for businesses to learn a lot of what you need to know.
- Check out Twitter for Business to find out more about how to use Twitter for your company.
- Decide who will be in charge of your business’s social networking. Ideally, this person should have some experience with social media, familiarity with your company’s brand and practices, and the time and creativity needed to successfully gain followers and interact with the public.
- Determine how you want to use your Facebook and Twitter accounts. Do you want to use them to provide customer support? Will you be asking for feedback on Twitter and Facebook? Figure out how you want social networking to work for company.
- Prepare yourself and your employees for negative feedback in a public forum. The person in charge of your Facebook and Twitter account will inevitably be on the receiving end of criticism, and it’s important for them to know how to handle it.
- Create a Facebook page and Twitter account for your company (try to make your account name the same as your company’s name).
- After entering your contact and company information, spend time branding your Facebook and Twitter pages with your company’s logo and colours. Your social networking accounts are extensions of your business’s website, so make them look polished and professional.
- When your Facebook and Twitter accounts are ready for the public, encourage people to follow you on Facebook. Make sure you put icons linking to your Facebook and Twitter accounts in a prominent place on your website (don’t put them in the footer of your homepage–most users won’t bother looking there).
- Find more places to put the icons and URLs for your social networking accounts. If you’re an online retailer, can you include them in your invoices (both digital and tangible) or on your packing material? If you have a cafe or restaurant, consider putting Twitter and Facebook icons and links on your menus and windows. If you sell digital goods, you can easily include these icons and URLs in any emails or communications you send to your customers. Regardless of the industry you’re in, if you pass out a lot of business cards, they should include the links for your company’s Twitter and Facebook accounts.