Ignore Social Networking at your Peril…

here are five quick tips to help get the most out of your Social Networking marketing

Have you ever read E M Forster’s The Machine Stops?  Written in 1909, it’s a precautionary tale about humanity’s dependence upon technology, in which much of life occurs underground and with very little physical interaction.

But what I find most fascinating about the story isn’t its post-apocalyptic nature which, let’s face it, has been trawled out a billion times by different writers in an effort to come up with the definitive science fiction future of our world, it is the fact that over a hundred years ago the author foresaw the coming of Social Networking.

The inhabitants of this underground world live almost in isolation, communicating with each other via a network of connected ‘screens’ and ‘messaging forums’, where they can share ideas and lecture on whatever topic they desire.  Sound familiar?

Whilst we might still be living on the surface of the planet and breathing, eating & copulating without the need for an omnipotent machine, there is no denying that our social lives are becoming more and more governed by the pervasive companies behind our favourite Social Networking websites.

Which is why I am bemused by last week’s report that small businesses are failing to see the power, or the need, for such a presence online.

If you are of a certain age where you can still remember the jokes about Skodas only having a heated rear window so that you can keep your hands warm while pushing them, then Social Networking is a fun, interesting way of keeping in touch with your mates and getting back in touch with old friends from twenty years ago.

If, however, you have only recently reached an age where you can legally drink then Social Networking is your life blood.

It’s everywhere now: computers and mobile phones are constantly connected to the Internet and individuals announce to the world their almost every move, to the point where location-based tools like FourSquare and Facebook Places have the sole objective of telling everybody else exactly where you are so your mates can meet up with you.

Eschewing Social Networking sites as ‘useless’ or ‘not useful’, as six percent of small businesses in this country have apparently done, is as dangerous as wearing a paper suit on bonfire night.  What all businesses, but those of us in the hospitality trade even more, should not forget is that it is the next generation of our customers who are already using these tools to socialise and we should be interacting with them via these methods in order to safeguard the future of our businesses.

The young socialise via their mobile phones and their online presences and these tools give us a way in to capture their attention.

So here are five quick tips to help get the most out of your Social Networking marketing:

  • Update regularly – but not too often! Those who follow your business online clearly want to know what’s going on, but they don’t want to be inundated with all your updates.  There’s no hard-and-fast rule on the quantity of messages you post, but if you’re posting updates every ten minutes people are likely to get frustrated and stop following.  I try to do one or two updates a day; but don’t let that stop you posting if you suddenly have something new and exciting to announce!
  • Keep it short and sweet! Twitter forces you to truncate your announcement by only allowing 140 characters, whereas Facebook allows you more freedom.  But a short, clever message will catch people’s attention and if you’ve got something more to say you can always…
  • Link to your website/blog! Use your social networking tools to refer back to the mainstay of your online presence: your website.  If you are pushing a particular promotion or event, announce it on your website and then link back to it via the online tools at your disposal.  This will increase traffic to your site and immerse your followers further in to your business and a blog allows you the freedom to write more detail about what’s happening.
  • Use an application! With so many different social networking sites available it is easy to become frustrated with keeping them all up to date.  Tools such as Hootsuite.com allow you to update all your sites from one web page and even have applications to allow you to do so from your mobile phone, too.  Hootsuite also provides you with statistics on your performance and allows you to schedule announcements so that they go out when you want them to go out, rather than you having to make sure you’re in front of your computer at the right time.
  • Engage with your followers.  Sell yourself! People who are following your business have actively agreed to you marketing to them, but getting involved with them when they leave comments or responding to messages will help encourage them to come to your premises.

The beauty of marketing your business via these sites is that, apart from a bit of your time, it’s free and relatively easy, and it gives you management and control over what is said and when it is said.  You should also tie your print advertising to your online marketing: simply include a line in your advert pointing readers to find your pub on Facebook and Twitter and include the same information on your menus and business cards.

This will help galvanise your online presence and encourage people to look for your business after they have left your premises.  It can be much more effective than bounce-back cards…

Social Networking, then.  If the Science Fiction writers of the last century thought it was a good idea, we’d be foolish to ignore it now it’s finally here.


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