I do not think that anyone would argue the fact that social media is changing how we interact and do business online. Last week there was a great show on BlogTalkRadio hosted by Tim Dollmeyer of “Coach Tim.” It highlighted how social media can help a small business market more efficiently and effectively. The show’s featured guest, Erik Qualman, shared some interesting perspectives on the space and helpful tips from his recently published book called Socialnomics.
In this hyper-connected world we live in, we increasingly turn online to do research and make decisions on products and services. With the advent of social media, the online search has gone well beyond just searching and finding product listings on a company’s website. We can now read what other people think about products in a wide range of online forums and easily reach out to our networks with tools like Twitter or Facebook to get suggestions. Positive (and negative) feedback now spreads much more quickly. And according to Qualman, the influence of an individual’s social graph is continuing to grow in importance with the release of services such Google Wave, Google Sidewiki and others.
That is why it is so important for businesses of any size to understand and leverage social media as they build relationships with their customers and prospects. In Coach Tim’s show, Qualman referenced that businesses are having to shift their sales and marketing strategies and take a more Dale Carnegie-like approach, “Listen first, sell later.” And social media provides an excellent way to listen.
Qualman shared a simple four step plan for small businesses looking to get started with social media marketing.
1) Listen to what people are saying about your company (and your competitors.) Qualman suggested that this is the best place to start. He also provided some great suggestions on FREE listening tools: Twitter Search, Google Blog Search, and Yahoo Site Explorer. You can also find a great list of other social media listening tools in this Marketing Profs article.
2) Interact and join the conversation. Find a way to participate in the conversation in a way that makes sense for your business. This is an area where BlogTalkRadio helps a large number of small businesses by empowering them to join the social media conversation with a live, interactive radio show. We also have a cool new service called Cinch that helps business join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook with engaging audio, text and photo updates.
3) React to the conversation. One of the best ways to build relationships with your customers is to show them you value their feedback. Make sure that you are taking action on and acknowledging the feedback you receive.
4) Soft selling. If you take care of the first three steps, Qualman suggested the process of selling will be much easier, because you have been listening to what they want and have showed them that you value the relationship.
If you run a small business and are looking to find out how you can start to experiment with social media, this is a great show to listen to. You can listen to the full episode below.