Social media sites are more than just tweeting to friends about your weekend plans -- they're being used more and more by businesses to build customer connections. When asked about their social media habits in a SNEWS Mini Survey, more than 65 percent of respondents said they found social networking sites to be beneficial to their business -- with 50 percent saying they use Facebook for their businesses.
Considering a social media strategy for your company? Here are a few tools to get you started:
• Do your research: You should first scan blogs, YouTube and various social networking sites to see where your company is being discussed and what’s being said. Companies such as New Media Strategies (www.newmediastrategies.net) and Nielsen Online (www.nielsenonline.com) can scan the web for you and help you put together a game plan.
• Look in your own backyard: Before G&G Fitness launched its own social media sites, its employees contributed to blogs for local sports and exercise clubs. Find out what groups already exist that you can tap into. You might even find that a group has already formed an online community centered on your brand, and you can build off that. Last summer, the folks at Keen (www.keenfootwear.com), a footwear manufacturer for outdoor specialty stores, discovered a Flickr site where about 200 people were posting photos of themselves wearing Keen shoes during outdoor adventures. Keen responded by adding to its website a networking portal called Hybridlife Community. Here, people build personal profiles in which they relay details of their trips, provide links to their other social sites, and promote causes important to them.
•Internal vs. external networks: Opinions differ on whether a business should only use outside networks, such as Facebook, or create a networking space within the company website. An external site casts a wider net. But Bobbi Parisi, Keen’s vice president of marketing, said that Hybridlife lives on the Keen site to develop a closer connection between consumers and the brand. Some companies use a variety of networks so that traffic flows in many directions. But the important point is that social networks are now considered important pathways to link consumers and businesses.
Top 10 Social Networking Sites
Top 10 Social Networking and Blog Sites Ranked by Total Minutes for April 2009 and Their Year-over-Year Percent Growth (U.S., Home and Work)
SiteApr-08 Total MinutesApr-09 Total MinutesYear-over-Year Percent Growth
Facebook.com 1,735,698 13,872,640 699
Myspace.com 7,254,645 4,973,919 -31
Blogger 448,710 582,683 30
Tagged.com 28,858 327,871 998
Twitter.com 7,865 299,836 3,712
MyYearbook 131,105 268,565 105
LiveJournal 54,671 204,121 273
LinkedIn 119,636 202,407 69
SlashKey N/A 187,687 N/A
Gaia Online 173,115 143,909 -17
Source: Nielsen NetView
To read more about social media strategies, check out the Oct. 16, 2009, SNEWS article, "What role can social media play in the fitness industry? More than you think…" and the "Social Work" article in the summer 2009 SNEWS Outdoor magazine.