TagSocial Networking

Getting Started with Social Networking for your Business, Part II

Author’s Note: This article is part of a Tech Topics column I write for a small print publication focused on helping small business owners become more comfortable with technical topics.

In this second part of our article on social networking, I answer several questions about how to establish your prescence on Facebook and Twitter.

I understand that you need a personal Facebook account before you can set up a business account. The business account is in some way linked to the personal. Is that correct?

If you have a personal Facebook account, you can use that account to create your business page. If you set up the business account from your personal account, you will be able to interact with friends and family through the personal account and still have the ability to maintain your business page. There is a procedure for creating an account for business use only, but you will not have the usual level of interaction with others that a Facebook account provides. It is probably best to create a personal account, and then set up your business account from there.

Keep in mind that your personal page and the business page are separate from each other. If you decide, after creating a business Facebook account, that you’d like to interact with people on Facebook, there is a “Create your profile” link on the top of the business account. After clicking, Facebook will ask you for additional information beyond the email address and birth date required for the business account creation. Facebook does not allow one person to maintain multiple accounts.

To create a business account, go to this page, which will walk you through the process. Facebook has created a Frequently Asked Questions page, to assist with initial setup and getting started questions. Scroll to the bottom of the page for Business Account specific information.

Someone mentioned that if a business has 25 or more friends/followers (or whatever the terminology is) they can get a shortened Facebook address (username) with the business name. Any ideas on this?

When a business account is first setup the URL will be http://facebook.com/pages/YourBusinessName. Once your page has 25 fans you can claim a username for your page. The username becomes your new URL. In Facebook terms, a fan is a person who goes to your page and clicks the “like” button. For instance, if you to go http://facebook.com/coke you will be redirected to Coca-Cola’s page. On the very top of the page it says Coca-Cola with a Like button. Click that button to become a fan of Coke. The same applies to your business page. Once 25 people have become fans, head over to http://facebook.com/username and select a name for your page. If you get an error saying you’re ineligible, it most likely means you do not have 25 fans yet. Be advised, it is possible to change your username but you can only do so once so choose wisely.

Once I have a page setup, how can I get people to visit my page? Mashable (a site offering news and information about social and digital media) offers a good, basic guide to getting people to visit your page here.

I’ve read that Twitter has put out a helpful guide for business users. Where can I find this guide?

Facebook is pretty straight forward for anyone who remembers their old high school or college face books. Twitter, on the other hand, can be a confusing and scary world of short messages and weird symbols. Thankfully, Twitter has put together a comprehensive guide for businesses that want to use Twitter. It is located at http://business.twitter.com/twitter101. This guide will walk you through everything from getting started and learning the lingo to best practices and case studies. This will help you determine if Twitter is right for you. While in most cases, Facebook is right for just about anyone, Twitter is a little trickier. This guide will help you decide if Twitter can help your business, and will help you decode the jargon on Twitter.

Getting Started with Social Networking for your Business, Part I

Author’s Note: This article is part of a Tech Topics column I write for a small print publication focused on helping small business owners become more comfortable with technical topics.

You can’t walk down the street or visit a web page without seeing Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace or some other site calling for your attention. Like it or not, social networking is here to stay. The World Wide Web is evolving; it started out similar to traditional media with a broadcast style. Someone would post information on a website; others would read it with limited interaction.

Now, the web is evolving into a far greater social experience. The social web is a two-way street. When you talk to your customers, they can talk back, for better or for worse. The old broadcast style is losing out to conversations. This can be great for your business. Instead of talking at your customers and hoping they hear you, you can now talk to them and the feedback you’ll get will tell you whether your message is working.

Social Networking is not hard. In most cases, it requires an email address and five minutes of your day. The real difficulty is how you use your social networking presence. Just as everyone can put up a web page, everyone can set up a Facebook account or Twitter feed. Driving your customers to them is the challenge.

How do you get people there? You engage them. Remember, the web is a conversation. Have a friendly tone. Remember yo’re talking to people, not at them. Run offers and specials for those who see your page. Give people a reason to keep coming back. You have an opportunity to capture their attention like never before. In the case of Twitter and Facebook, if a customer chooses to “Like” or “Follow” your page, every time you post they will see it in their stream of other updates.

The effectiveness of your social media marketing depends entirely on how well it’s planned. Creating a Facebook page or a Twitter account doesn’t guarantee results. You have to put a public face on your company. Make yourself likeable. Provide value to your customers. For instance, if you’ve recently had a large job canceled with an odd color or size of paper, let your customers know. “50% off all prints on lime green paper. Supply limited, get it until it’s gone!” Demoing a new machine? Tell them about it! “See our new XYZ 1000 demo, save 20% on color prints using the new machine. One week only!”

Just as you would in traditional advertising, you should give people a call to action. Get them into the store and keep your current customers up to date with new savings or machinery announcements. Where you’d never run a print or radio ad about having 5,000 sheets of lime green stock from a canceled job, you can post to Facebook about it for free, and a bargain-hunting customer could take it off your hands quickly. Social networking gives you the freedom to reach out to your customers in ways they may not have previously expected, and the connections you build with it can benefit you both.