1. Offer a peek behind the scenes. Offering a sneak preview of new products, services, or features online can help build demand and provide critical feedback to help smooth the launch. For instance, John Doyle, founder of chocolate company John and Kira’s in Philadelphia, posts photos of new products on Flickr and invites comments from customers.2. Harness your expertise. Chances are your company’s white paper won’t go viral. But sharing knowledge you’ve gathered through your trade can go a long way toward boosting your brand. Ford Models, for instance, became a YouTube sensation through a series of videos that featured its models giving beauty and fashion tips.
3. Demonstrate what your company does. Because multimedia is so integral to social media, getting connected allows you to express your company’s value proposition beyond words. To show just how powerful his company’s blenders were, Blendtec’s head of marketing, George Wright, created a series of videos showing the appliances churning up such diverse items as a rotisserie chicken, a Rubik’s Cube, and an iPhone. The series’ 100 million combined views helped boost Blendtec’s sales by 700 percent.
4. Put your website’s content to work. Want to draw more traffic to your website? Help spread the word by encouraging visitors to share content they enjoy. GotCast, a website that connects television casting directors with aspiring actors, draws new visitors by posting audition videos on Digg and allowing others to share video links on the site. One way to promote the sharing of your site’s content is to install a widget, such as AddThis, that automates linking to popular sites.
5. Be candid. In unsure economic times, transparency goes a long way toward retaining and attracting customers. Giving readers the scoop on your company blog is an easy way to keep the lines of communication open. Giacomo Guilizzoni, the founder of San Francisco software company Balsamiq, even posts sales and profit figures to show that his company is on solid financial footing.
6. But be careful what you say about others. When Leslie Richard, owner of a North Carolina clothing company, described Vision Media Television as a “scam,” she was slapped with a $20 million lawsuit. While recounting negative experiences with others won’t necessarily lead to a court battle, it’s best to steer clear of name-calling.
7. Interact with visitorsâ€”really. Just putting up a blog or a Facebook fan page won’t do much good if visitors sense the flow of conversation only goes one way. In fact, Matt Mullenweg, founder of blogging platform WordPress, lists not participating in comments as a surefire way to kill a community. Mullenweg and his team field the many suggestions users have for WordPress through his blog.
8. Don’t try to create a stand-in for yourself. With all the other tasks required within your company, it’s tempting to outsource managing your social media or even to try automating the process. That can easily backfire, as Joe Pulizzi, founder of Cleveland marketing firm Junta42, learned when he tried sending automated welcome messages to new followers on Twitter. His online contacts quickly called him out for sending out what they perceived to be spam.
9. Don’t pretend to be someone else. Thanks to IP address tracking, observers can also quickly tell when company figureheads adopt fake identities for the sake of fluffing up their reputation. Not only can the practice hurt your company’s reputation, it could also land you in legal trouble. The plastic surgery Lifestyle Lift had to pay $300,000 in settlement costs to the state of New York for having its employees post flattering reviews of the company without disclosing their affiliation.
10. Help employees bond. Corporations such as IBM have built in-house networksâ€”even virtual worlds reminiscent of Second Lifeâ€”to link employees working in different locations. Small and medium-sized businesses can take advantage of readily available tools to facilitate collaboration. The Hoffman Agency, a public relations firm, uses Ning, which enables users to build custom social networks, to connect its U.S. staff with employees in Europe and Asia.
30 Tips for Using Social Media in Your Business