Connecting and Selling – Social Networking For Product Based Companies
Social networking is the big concept that companies seem to either struggling with or getting into without a sweat. For companies that provide services, this is an incredible boon, as it lets a company interact with its customers and potential customers far quicker and easier than before. It lets people who have already interacted with the company spread word about what it’s like to communicate with them for better or worse.
For companies that sell products, social networking is a little tougher, especially if you’re not an established brand, or dominate a certain market or niche.
Create a plan
Don’t try to just get into social networking one day, especially because it seems like everyone else is doing it. Research which of the networks is right for you. Twitter may be counter-productive, but Facebook may be just what the Internet doctor ordered. Develop a plan that encompasses how often you’ll update, what sort of data you’ll provide, how available you’ll make yourself to the audience and how to manage it (especially if it gets big).
After you’ve figured out which sites you’ll be using, the next step is to register a profile with your chosen networks. Make sure to choose a username that’s as close to your business name as possible, if the login is the same as your presentable name. It’s obviously important to maintain a consistent naming scheme across all of your social networks. Also make sure you pick a password that is not only memorable, but also secure. It’s best to choose a long password with numbers and letters in it, plus something unique to the site where you’re registered.
Now that you’re registered, it’s time to fill out the information fields in your profile. It’s important to make these as comprehensive as possible. The more information someone can glean from your profile the better. It makes users feel in touch the more they can find out about your company. Essential details are creating a succinct company description, a mission statement, and what sort of products and services you can offer.
A key point here is also to not fabricate anything. While this seems obvious- I’m essentially telling you not to lie- it can have disastrous results if the web community catches wind of disingenuousness. Users will turn on you in an instant should they feel slighted. While you are selling a product, they are there primarily for information. If you’re lucky, a small percentage of your visitors will buy something. If they feel the information you provide is deceitful or lacking, at best they’ll stop frequenting your profile.
Now that your profiles are ready for public viewing, you must visit them at least as often as you want other users to visit them. The purpose of this is to get you into the habit of having some of the experience as the user. If you see your page on a consistent basis you get a sense for what needs to change.
Offer service with your product
This is the key difference between product-based companies and service based companies. You’re going to have to start offering a service with your social network. At the very least you should be on hand for your Twitter or Facebook to answer questions that pop up almost immediately. Offer expertise on your products, whether it is which ones are best for a particular user’s situation, installation advice, instructions or the best uses for a product. If a customer is buying from you, they’ll want to also come to you for other information regarding the products you sell them. Use your industry specific experience to help them find the best customer service through your social networks.
Tell people about your networks
If you setup these networks, it won’t do you any good if no one uses them. You can create picture links on your site linking to each of your social networks. If you have a newsletter, tell your subscribers that you have these new resources. Include links in your future newsletters and keep them prominent on your home page.
As people start to visit your networks, it’s important to keep an eye on how many are visiting. Encourage users to subscribe. To help entice them to stay within your view, offer discounts for subscribers only. Facebook allows you to send a newsletter to fans only. By offering this exclusive discount, it will help your users feel like insiders, as if you and they share something that others don’t get to participate in. Capitalize on this.
Start posting blogs and posts on your networks to encourage discussion and discourse. If others on your pages start their own discussions, feel free to participate. Focus on industry specific topics that would affect how you and your customers would do business. Focus on serving the customer as best you can. The more they enjoy interacting with you, the more they’ll do it more, and recommend it to others.
While you start the transition into providing services along with your products, it’s important to make your customers feel as if this is a particular way of doing things. By branding the process in your image, it creates an association with your users. Word things consistently with your mission statements and the rest of your networks and web sites.
Push product gently
And finally the product. Notice how it comes last in my advice on how to social network. Everything about social networking is connecting with people. In this case you’re connecting to them over material items that you sell. You aren’t trying to sell them this product explicitly- it’s not an advertising service.
If you’re unsure of which networks might be right for you, here is a fairly comprehensive list of them. Many are designed more for personal interaction, like dating, but others have cross purposes, like Facebook. It was primarily designed for personal communication, but companies have penetrated this market and this allows fans of certain brands to show their appreciation of them.
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