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What's the first to think about when starting social media?
For now, forget Twitter and Facebook. Forget YouTube and LinkedIn. Forget Google Plus and Pinterest. Forget Slideshare. The absolute first thing you need to succeed in social media is a good website. Your website is where you want people to end up. The social networks are feeders, like spokes on a wheel, with your website as the hub.
Okay, so what’s the big deal with the website?
The website is where you have all the valuable information your prospective customers want to read or see. By putting valuable information on your website you get people in the habit of visiting often. A term that is trendy right now is “content.” And that’s all content is: Information you think would be valuable to a prospective customer.
What’s so valuable about content? The content you offer helps the readers with their jobs. And this is a critical distinction. Most companies will immediately stick a sales pitch on the website and meet with indifference. The content has to truly help someone with their job. If I am a designer looking for help with the nuances of blind and buried vias and I am come to your website only to be confronted with a limited time 10% off offer, I’m not staying, and I know not to come back either. Okay, so I put some content on my website. Now what?
Keep it up. The more information you have the better. And if you're continually adding information, people are going to continually come back. You don’t want to have people come once and never come back. That is likely where you are now.
How do I get started?
The first thing a company has to do is change their mindset about what their website does. Most companies treat their website as a glorified brochure. The website advertises capabilities and lists contact information. Instead of a brochure, you need to start thinking of your website as a news magazine. If you're adding new and interesting content people will come back. An easy way to start is to list upcoming trade shows, new hires, and company milestones. These things aren’t critical additions in and of themselves, but they get the company in the habit of adding things to the website.
How do I write the content?
There are two parts to writing: Coming up with ideas and finding the time to do the writing. Coming up with ideas is much, much easier than most people think. You are an expert at what you do. Things you consider tricky, but old hat is considered voodoo by your customers. You probably could come up with 15 topics to write about every day, you just don’t realize it: A customer comes to you with a problem, a board is hard to build because the designer did this or that, you are catching more of a certain type of error in engineering. These are all legitimate topics that your customers would be really interested to hear about.
The second part of writing is finding the time. The best way to find the time is to spread the responsibility around the company. Five people writing is a better than just one.
How does all this fit in with social media?
Your social networks--Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube, Facebook and others--serve as your feeders. You may post a status update on your LinkedIn Company Page that talks about a blog post or piece of content with a link to your website. And 1,000 people may see it on LinkedIn, with some of them finding it interesting enough to click on, sending them to your website.And here is a wonderful side benefit to this whole exercise: All those links from your social networks back to your website, and all your new content on the website makes you look more relevant to search engines and you climb the search rankings. Search engines used to just base your ranking on key words and phrases. Now, they also look for lots of links and recent additions. This strategy of putting continually updated content on your website and using social networks as feeders to it plays to the way search engines work right now.
What are the benefits of all this work for a small company?
With relevant content that helps your prospective customers with problems they have in their jobs, a manufacturer doesn’t look like a tiny regional player, they look like a leader. And here’s the best benefit of all: Industry leaders don’t sell on price.Bruce Johnston is a sales consultant specializing in social media and especially LinkedIn. He has over 25 years experience in high-tech sales and management. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or through his profile on LinkedIn.