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27 Small Businesses Will Simply Become More Naturally Social

small business georgetown coThis past year brands large and small rushed head on into social media marketing. They had to learn about all things Twitter, hire social media consultants and create special social media metrics and budgets. Now that hype surrounding the next new thing has settled a bit, businesses are coming around to the understanding that social media isn’t a department or separate marketing tactic. In fact, It’s not so much a tool as it is a behavior. And as such it can and should permeate the whole of the business.

Trapping social media engagement in the marketing department and demanding a tradition ROI measurement structure is a mistake. Social media activity and behavior can help facilitate communication and connection with your entire collaboration universe: prospects, customers, suppliers, partners, and employees and as such should be freed from the limited thinking. I’m not saying you shouldn’t demand a return on anything you do, but I am suggesting that you explode the notion of social media as one segment of one department.

My guess is the most successful small business will simply become more naturally social.

Here are few ways social media behavior is applied throughout.

HiringLinkedIn is the one the leading tools used by organizations these days to find job candidates. Scanning social media participation of prospective hires is a great way to access their social skills and (one of my new favorite terms thanks to Tara Hunt @missrogue) wuffie factor – a bit of a social media graph that can demonstrate what one values.

Training – Using social bookmarking tools like delicious or Instapaper you can easily create reading lists of information your entire team, customers in various industry segments or strategic partners should read to learn and grow.

Awareness – Social media has become a tremendous lead generation tool when used as a way to create awareness about valuable, education based content. Facebook Ads, for example are a great tool to employ to point out your upcoming webinars.

Public Relations – One of the best ways to achieve media coverage these days is to build relationships with journalists using social media tools. Most every journalist has a blog, leave comments and participate in their conversation. Create a Twitter List of key journalists for your industry. Create Google Alerts for those same journalists and start building relationships – that’s how you get covered

Referrals – Giving and receiving referrals was, is and remains the first and ultimate social behavior. Making a referral publicly, in a forum like Biznik, is a great way to demonstrate your belief in the power of giving. Reading and leaving ratings and reviews on sites like Yelp! is another great way to start the referral machine.

Strategic Partners – Finding strategic partners to work on projects or simply share the work of marketing to a target group is a great strategy empowered through social media tools. You can easily find businesses to connect with through networks like OpenForum or LinkedIn and then use a tool like MeetUp to co-host an event. (Disclosure: I am a contributor to OpenForum.)

Internal News – Using a tool like Yammer, Posterous, or even well formed hashtags on Twitter is a great way to communicate with a team and highlight content that should be seen by that team. Setting up RSS feeds and alerts for brand, industry and competitive mentions is another simple way to make sure everyone knows what’s going on and being said.

Lead Conversion – Adding a customer or prospect’s social activity to a CRM record through tools such as ACT! 2010 or Batchbook is a great way to discover the wants, needs, interests and challenges they face. Carefully reviewing that information can lead to ways to deepen relationships and even uncover unmet needs. It’s funny how often we sell something our existing customers are asking for but didn’t we had!

Customer Service – Countless organizations have turned to Twitter as way a to communicate with customers in need of some help. I think the serving of customers in public offers a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate how well you take care of business.

Research – I get great information every time I ask a question on LinkedIn or put up a quick Involver application poll on Facebook. The speed of this kind of research and the conversations that can erupt offer incredible opportunities to learn and connect.

Inspiration – This one can be hard for some get their head around, but I can’t tell you how ofter I’ve turned to my RSS reader to find inspiration for an idea, content, and even just as a way to regain my focus. In fact here’s my list of 10 places (mostly social) I turn to for content inspiration.

SEO – In case you haven’t heard, social media and SEO are pretty much hitched. Simply building profiles in communities such as TED or BusinessWeek Exchange can help you claim search real estate and provide those valuable links back to your primary web site.

Testing – I’ve seen authors test book titles, businesses test pricing and logo designs, and professionals test various service offerings in Facebook and Twitter. The immediate and often quite informed feedback of a carefully built social network is an extremely useful tool.

Sourcing – Has anyone used XYZ software? I need a good WordPress designer. These kinds of requests go out all day long in social networks and have become one of the primary ways I make buying decision and hire professionals for projects.

Help Desk – Social network communities can provide incredible amounts of help for the most specific kinds of challenges. Let’s say you can’t make a computer network connect. One tweet can provide the answer. Let’s say you need some Photoshop tips, a quick trip to the Behance Network will likely turn up dozens of design software resources.

Brainstorming – When I’m wrestling with an idea for an article, book or strategy I’ll often put some form of the idea out for discussion on Twitter and engage some really smart people who follow me in discussions that can lead to some pretty interesting validation or other conclusions. It’s a fascinating process. Of course you can also create public Mindmeister mind maps and draw in even more brainstorming collaboration with employees, customers and partners.

What ways have you found to apply social behavior to your organization?

Image credit: vbsouthern

28 Explore the Twitter Hashtag

There is a pretty useful trick that twitter insiders use all the time called a hashtag. The roots of the #tag are buried somewhere in IM coding, but it’s what you can do with it using twitter that matters. (More on hashtags if you want to techie stuff on this.)

The hashtag or #tag added to a tweet acts as way to create categories, groups or topics for tweets that others can use as well. This way, tweets can easily be grouped together using the search.twitter.com feature.

Let me give you a very commonly used tactic for this. Let’s say a group of folks are attending a workshop and tweeting their notes in real time. If everyone at that workshop were asked to add something like #mkt101 to their tweets, everyone present or not can see and share all the notes in one place.

During earthquakes and fires hashtags are a great way for people to get news.

Promoting events and product launches via a hashtag helps keep the word in context

Companies often use hashtags as a way for remote employees to use twitter as a communication tool for all the stuff people should stay on top of.

I use a hashtag for each of my live webinars and then people tweet and ask questions via twitter and I have a back channel of conversation and notes and another source of relevant content to support the webinar.

You can also find hot trends via hashtag at search.twitter.com. The homepage lists the trending tags. More than one twitter user has found that jumping into a hot trend conversation is a great way to connect with folks on something of shared interest.

Anyone can create a hashtag by putting # in front of anything. Keep is short so you don’t use up your 140 and try for a little unique. If you use a tag that others are using you will mingle your results with others.

Here’s an example of a search for the hashtag I used during the call with Seth Godin last week – #dtmseth