Socializing for businesses is becoming at least as important as it is for individuals. What I refer to as "socializing" is effective usage of the available social media and online tools.
In order to make the most of social media, a company must have clear goals. A goal will help you to keep your focus and to use the available tools efficiently to work for your particular requirements. Without focus and a clear definition of what you are aiming for, you can easily lose a lot of time jumping from one link to another and getting nowhere. It is a good idea to limit the amount of time you spend promoting your business online so that you spend your time effectively with the right balance.
I am a big follower of LinkedIn and currently participate in tens of networks on various topics from books to embedded hardware and software development. The benefits of LinkedIn go well beyond expanding your existing networks of people. Recently, I was sent a complimentary copy of a technical book that a fellow LinkedIn user did not need anymore. In order to receive that book, all I needed to do was write a couple of lines to indicate my interest. From a business perspective, besides expanding your existing network, you can use LinkedIn to create groups for your particular niche interest.
Forums are great places to exchange ideas on specific topics where you can get expert opinion. You should remember that making a contribution is at least as important as getting information in any forum. Therefore, try to answer questions from others to provide assistance where you can, and share your knowledge and experience as much as possible. Active contributions made by the users are the cornerstones of a popular forum. The more popular a forum is, the better it can help your business. Provision of feedback and making contributions also increase your exposure on the forums and allow you to establish a base of followers.
From personal experience, I found forums also give a great opportunity to read about alternative solutions to a particular problem. I see forums as "organic" sources of information that expand and evolve. Therefore, it is beneficial to pay a visit to your selected forums every so often to see what is new. Also, getting automatic email notifications on topics that you are interested in will save you time while keeping you up-to-date.
The Internet provides access to a global market at our fingertips. This factor alone is a huge benefit for businesses. When combined with tools such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, marketing a product, an idea, or a solution becomes much easier with the increased exposure online. In layman terms, the key idea is to increase the exposure of what you are trying to sell by mentioning it in different places and getting other people to talk about it as much as possible.
When you add Search Engine Optimization (SEO) into the mix, you can further increase your chances of selling your product by improving your ranking on popular search engines such as Google. I must highlight that putting a lot of effort into SEO is far less important than actually creating solid content that provides useful information. At the end of the day, a solid content will always be better appreciated by the target audience.
Creating blogs about your business and products is a great way to do marketing and to get feedback from potential clients. Most comments you receive from interested parties will actually provide you with at least one tip to improve your business or product in some way. Depending on how your blogs are structured, it may be possible to attract the attention of investors and potential partners. It is also important to create links between your blogs and other social media tools such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
Most online businesses ask you to register in order to collect your email address. A collection of email addresses provides a great way to reach out to many potential clients with a single email. If you plan to use this method, always respect the privacy of your registered users and do not disclose their emails to third parties or bombard them with spam. Too much of anything is bad for you, and this also applies to frequent promotional emails. If you fail to strike a healthy balance with the volume and the frequency of your promotional emails, this can do more harm than good to your business.
Conveying information visually is always more effective than providing a piece of text. That is why we often see video content on almost any topic these days. This strategy is particularly effective if you are describing the features of a product you want to sell. When people actually see a product in action, they usually have more confidence in it than when you are just talking or writing about it. Video content gives you this edge. I often visit YouTube in order to watch technical tutorials on research topics as well as new products. If you have never prepared a video content for your business before, I strongly recommend that you watch a few sample videos on YouTube first for insight into how to do it right.
As with most things in life, persistence, patience, and commitment are the key prerequisites to success in improving your business with online tools. Although most people will agree to the usefulness of social media and online tools for businesses, not many will actually be doing it. My suggestions here are not exhaustive. If you have creative ways to use social media and online tools for business purposes, please share them in the comments below.