by J.J. McCorvey
Our second installment of advice for small businesses on using social networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn, and how to integrate these tools into the marketing and recruiting efforts of your company.
Social Network Promotions
Remember, it's called a social network, not a 'business network.' Coming off as a pushy or shrewd salesperson peddling a product could scare away your Facebook friends and LinkedIn connections. Remember to be genuine and personal.
Here are the things you should do when promoting your company or product through social networking sites:
1. Make it benefit-based. Make the customer feel that they need to participate in the promotion. Is the product or feature available for a limited time? Are you offering exclusively to your followers on a particular network?
2. Talk about new or uncommon features. Even if you have a relatively popular product, there may be some things consumers don't know about it. What are some new or different ways it can be used?
3. Include some discounts and savings. Offering discounts on products is usually a shoe-in to grab customers' attention. Krissman, of Outdoor Technology, says he posts promotional codes that users can fill out on the company's website and get up to 30 percent off a product. Not only does it drive more buyers to your product, but it also brings more followers to your page.
Here are the things you shouldn't do when promoting your company or product through social networking sites:
1. Don't continually have sales-related messages. There are other ways to promote besides selling your product. Comment or ask questions about news or topics in your industry. 'They will easily ignore you or unsubscribe you if you continue to push a sale,' says Tobin.
2. Don't set up an expectation, then cheat on it. If you announce to your followers that your purpose is to give advice, don't turn around and start selling. 'If you violate that expectation, people are going to get upset and they're going to leave,' says Tobin. Again, make the sale subtle – how can your product help them achieve the advice you're giving?
How to Use Social Networking Sites to Drive Business: Social Network Recruiting
Social recruiting is an effective way to utilize social networks to find the best candidate for any open positions at your company. While the past few years saw the rise of job boards like Careerbuilder.com and Monster.com, the growing prominence of social networks have transformed the way businesses build their best team. Instead of relying on the 'come one, come all' approach, the detailed personal information contained in profiles, such as interests and job history, allows businesses to employ social networking sites to target the specific audience or skill set they want to pull from.
According to an annual social recruitment survey published by Jobvite, an online service that helps businesses consolidate the resources of social media sites, 80 percent of companies used or planned to use social networking to find and attract candidates in 2009, with LinkedIn being used by 95 percent of the respondents and Facebook usage growing from 36 percent in 2008 to 59 percent in 2009.
'It's like what's happened to the ad industry,' says Dan Finnigan, CEO of Jobvite and former general manager of Yahoo! HotJobs. 'It used to be that you would buy a big ad to get the consumer's attention, but more and more companies are relying on online advertising software that puts that ad right in front of them based on data, like the other ads they click on. Social recruiting is analogous to that.'
The Benefits of Social Network Recruiting
Here are some of the primary advantages that social recruiting affords small businesses:
1. Empowers your employees to distribute job information. These days, most, if not all of your employees probably have a profile on a social networking site. By enabling them to post information about open positions, you multiply your searching reach by the thousands.
2. Helps you put the passive job candidate in your crosshairs. Job boards are mostly used by people who are proactively looking for positions. But what about the perfect potential employee who may not be scouring Careerbuilder.com every day?
3. A low-cost method of finding high-quality candidates. When looking for job candidates, it takes time to sift through resumes of unqualified applicants, and many job boards charge fees to post openings. Social recruiting helps you zone in on the best candidates, for free.
Tools to Help You Socially Recruit
1. Custom searches. Searching only by name and location doesn't cut it when looking for the perfect employee. LinkedIn has one of the most thorough searches of all the sites, allowing you to sift through profiles by company, industry, college, and even how many 'degrees' you are from the person.
3. Updating your status message. When you or your employees update your statuses, it pops up on your friends' home page, and sits atop the profile until it's changed. 'My company is looking for … ,' is sure to snag replies.
4. Linking to stories and external content. Both Facebook and LinkedIn enable users to post external content to their profiles. By linking to articles and blogs that contain positive news about your business, you show potential candidates that it's not just your social network connections that adore your company.
How to Use Social Networking Sites to Drive Business: Privacy and Legal Issues
Though social networking can certainly be a fun way to help you expand your company, there are plenty of issues surrounding privacy and legalities that you should always be aware of when searching for employees, and even after you've hired them. 'The laws [regarding online privacy and or hiring online] generally apply the same [as existing state laws],' says Megan Erickson, an associate at Des Moines, Iowa-based Dickinson, Mackaman, Tyler & Hagan law firm and author of Erickson's Blog on Social Networking and the Law. 'But now that there are all these different kinds of social media, they combine to make it a very unique environment.'
Here are some of the most important things to keep in mind to help you steer clear of legal trouble when dealing with potential or current employees and social networking sites:
1. Don't use fake profiles. Using a fake profile when adding employees to monitor their activity can constitute as an invasion of privacy, Erickson says. 'That's just asking for lots of trouble,' she says.
2. Add a social media section to your handbook. Including language about social media in your personnel policy is paramount, especially if you plan on integrating it heavily in your company's operations.
3. Beware of existing federal and state laws. It may help to prep yourself on the many federal and state laws regarding anti-discrimination and privacy, Erickson says, so that if you do come across an employee's wayward photo or disparaging status message, you'll be knowlegeable about how to proceed with disciplinary action.
To learn more about using social networking sites:
• The Social Media Bible: Tactics, Tools, and Strategies for Business Success, by Lon Safko and David Brake, is a great guide for business owners and executives who want to use the power of social media to grow their companies. Visit the website, TheSocialMediaBible.com, to connect with other professionals looking to do the same.
• Megan Erickson's blog, Erickson's Blog on Social Networking and the Law, posts up-to-date news on legal issues surrounding social media sites.
• Mashable is a great resource for news, advice, and jobs concerning all things social media.
• John Jantsch, author of Duct Tape Marketing – The World's Most Practical Small Business Marketing Guide, also runs a marketing blog for small businesses called Duct Tape Marketing. Check out what he says about the 7 Truths of Social Media Marketing.
Some sites to consider joining for social networking:
• Facebook: The most popular social networking site, it allows you keep up with friends, colleagues, and classmates and features a stream-lined, easy-to-use interface.
• MySpace: Geared toward the younger crowd, this interactive site lets you connect with friends and tweak your profile with extras like themes and music playlists.
• LinkedIn: This site is strictly professional, and for good reason. You can keep up with colleagues, find employees, and network with others in your field.
• Bebo: Another primarily social site for friends that allows users to express themselves through media and interactive environments.
• FastPitch: This professional site serves as a great platform for growing companies to market themselves, allowing you to post events, press, and submit keywords to increase your profile's SEO strength.
• Friendster: A social networking site for friends that promotes connections between international users and also boasts "Fan Profiles" similar to Facebook's.
• I-Meet : A professional site where you can establish valuable contacts and potentially save money on event planning.
Article provided by Inc.com. © Inc.