Since the industrial age, businesses have learnt to acquire tools that bring mechanical advantage and help achieve more with less effort. Now, the digital age has brought a lot of enterprise applications to improve business efficiency. Social Media has further added social productivity tools, which bring fun, ease and convenience to business.
In this piece, we present some of the social media tools already helping businesses worldwide become more efficient.
Businesses now use social media for more activities than just chatting with existing customers. Moreover, different business departments now have peculiar ways of using social media. Sales departments use social media to get new leads, monitor the leads and close sales. Human resource departments use social media to get new employees. Advertising departments reach out to more customers on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social networks. Similarly, marketing and R&D departments now mine forums, blogs, social networks and review sites to get better understanding of their target markets.
There are several social media tools to use. It doesn’t matter what tools you use as long as you get the results you want to achieve. However, it is best to focus on using tools that are easy to use, secure and really efficient, and most importantly get tools that fit your business requirements. Also, you should ensure the tools you finally decide on can serve your local needs. One of the major advantages of web applications is that even the most expensive ones usually allow trial periods, during which you can evaluate whether a tool suits your business needs or not. Besides, many paid applications have free alternatives. However, it is advisable for big businesses to opt for paid versions over the free alternatives in order to get more security and guarantees.
The Web Has Changed Our World
The web has grown so fast and tightly woven into the normal lifestyle of almost everybody. According to reports, the number of active users of Facebook is already over 900 million, now pushing 1 billion; that’s about 14% of the population of the world. Also, Twitter is expected to hit 500 million registered users in the next few months. LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube and other social platforms are growing in leaps and bounds. Obviously, people are becoming more comfortable using online social platforms to interact with one another.
The present generation of consumers and the next generation spend most of their time on mobile devices and computers. They tend to find things like chatting, texting, sending instant messages and making other short continuous conversations more convenient than emailing or writing long letters. They spend most of their time with laptops, netbooks, smartphones, tablets and other new gadgets. Secondly as business competition gets stiffer, more and more people tend to consume media (news, entertainment etc) on their mobile devices while commuting in order to save time. Hence, the new best place to stay connected with team members, employees and partners is on these devices.
Therefore, you cannot continue to neglect social media and expect your business to survive for long. No matter the size of your business, getting involved and using social media is your sure bet towards mastering the language of this generation and the coming generations. To be frank, this is just the beginning of the new lifestyle of the world, and social media is not going away any soon. So get your business to adjust to this new culture and enjoy better business results.
Tools that Can Transform Your Business
There are several social media tools to choose from. You can't possibly use all the available tools for your business. The solution today is to decide the best set of tools that can be adapted for your business based on your business peculiarity.
Here, we shall highlight a few major social media tools based on their relevance to your business:
Monitoring and Managing Your Brand
One way to describe the digital age is the “age of information overload”. Consumers have access to all sorts of information, which they use in making buying decisions. Social media tools for monitoring brands help you track the mentions of your brand anywhere on the Internet. By tracking where your brand is mentioned, you will be able to encourage positive reviews and quickly tackle negative comments and also understand your customers better.
Keeping track of all your social network accounts can be very daunting. Hootsuite is an incredible tool, in this respect, for managing multiple Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts, monitoring the mentions of your name and replying where necessary. It also enables you to schedule updates and get reports on the number of people that share your updates. Similar tools you can try are SocialOomph, Sprout Social and Monitter.
Crowdbooster is another tool for managing social networks and is specifically built for businesses. It autoposts contents, monitors new fans and followers and provides statistics about how your content is being shared It also lets you know the fans that are most interested in your posts and recommends the best time of the day to post updates to enable you get the highest engagement. It also helps to remind you to reply tweets. A similar tool is Bufferapp.
Google Alerts is an indispensable tool for monitoring your business reputation online. It is a free tool from Google that works excellently well for monitoring your brand. Every time your business is mentioned on any website on the Internet, Google will send you an email. You can choose to receive the emails as it happens, daily or weekly. You can also use Google Alerts to monitor the mentions of specific products, brand names or name of a person.
Creating a Strong Online Presence and Maintaining It
Your website and blog form the home-base and fortress of your online presence. They are the best place to get fans to connect with your brand more deeply. They are like the headquarters of your business, built and furnished to your taste; whereas other social media destinations are like outlets of your company, where you try to attract and retain more customers. Your blog and website are always yours to fully control, but Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media destinations can be tweaked and changed by the providers. So, get your website and blog in order as much as you can.
You can use WordPress to build great blogs and really powerful and dynamic websites or both. As a small business owner, you can begin with their free domain name and webhost and later upgrade to a personal one. WordPress blogs are well optimized for search engines, and they integrate excellently with social networks. That’s why WordPress powers many of the sites you see online.
A great alternative to WordPress is Blogger, which is a free blog publishing service provided by Google. It lets you create blogs for one or more people. The blogs are hosted free by Google at a sub-domain of blogspot.com. Like WordPress blogs, Blogger blogs can be built on very low budget.
Other alternatives for building free websites are GNBO (for Nigerians) and Tumblr. The advantage of these platforms is that they can help you have a website on very low budget.
Connecting on Social Networks
Though a lot of people do not know, some of the most amazing business tools today are social networking sites. They let you find customers based on their interests, locate partners easily and also maintain a presence for prospecting, gaining leads and getting customers.
For business connections, try and spend more time with LinkedIn, and you will be amazed at the potentials. LinkedIn can be regarded as the best social network for getting new leads. It is a professional social networking site of over 161 million users. To properly harness the power of LinkedIn for your business, you need to create a complete profile, join relevant professional groups and participate in discussions. On LinkedIn, you can ask business questions and get answers from experts all over the world, or you can simply read the conversation of others to learn practical business wisdom.
Aside the regular chatting and messaging, you can use Facebook to create brand pages for your business, install relevant extensions and use it to keep your fans abreast of your business updates. You can set up a vibrant discussion group for communicating with your partners or customers. Having a Facebook business page is indispensable for your business. Currently, Facebook has over 900 million active users, making it a place you should go and spend time with your customers and not lose them to competitors.
Twitter is excellent for disseminating short information and keeping track of discussion trends around the world. It is a real time information network that connects users to latest news, stories, opinions and ideas. It lets you send and receive text-based posts of up to 140 characters. Twitter currently has over 140 million active users and is pushing 500 million registered users according to Twopchart.
One of the best business features of Google Plus is their Hangout. It is a free but powerful video chat service for up to 10 persons. With the relevant extensions, you can share documents and much more while video chatting. While ten persons can participate in the video chat, many more people can watch the discussion.
Today, many people share videos on social networks. This presents a unique opportunity for your business to get new customers and engage existing ones. By uploading short videos to YouTube and sharing with friends, you will be taking advantage of the over 800 million unique visits to YouTube every month from all over the world.
Reaching Out to Customers
Email still remains the most effective means of business communication to clients. Here is an effective tool for email campaigns:
Currently, 1.8 million people are using MailChimp to get effective results from email campaigns involving large number of email subscribers. It has all the features you need to create effective email marketing campaigns. It lets you create great designs of newsletters and preview them before sending to your subscribers. Also before sending your emails, MailChimp checks all your emails with Delivery Doctor to ensure your emails will not end up in spam boxes. Additionally, it lets you use social networking in conjunction with emails. You also get excellent graphical reports of your subscribers' activities – open rates, clicked URLs and so on.
Without the possibility of collaborating, managing businesses and executing projects would have been a nightmare. Impressively, one of the greatest good brought by the social media is greater ease and fun in business collaboration. Here are some tools that make collaboration on the web very easy:
Manymoon is one of the best free tool available on the web for collaborating on projects. It is a free social productivity, project management and task management web application that lets you create as many projects as possible, assign tasks, set milestones, and monitor completed projects among team members. Also, members of your team can easily update everyone on the team about the progress of their work, and also view the projects handled by other members. A paid alternative to Manymoon is Basecamp. It is more expensive, but it provides greater convenience.
Yammer is an enterprise social network. Unlike Twitter that lets you broadcast post to the public, Yammer enables groups of people to keep conversations private. It provides a unique and secure way for employees to communicate, collaborate and share information. Users can share ideas, posts, news, links and also ask and get answers to questions within a close network. Using the basic service is free; and anyone can start a Yammer network and begin inviting others. A paid alternative to Yammer is Precurio, built in Nigeria by Nigerians.
Additionally, there are platforms where you can hire best talents from different parts of the world to perform tasks that do not necessarily require physical presence. They are called online outsourcing platforms. The next time you need a website, mobile app, press reports and so on, you can simply go to any of these websites, publish your request and get job applications from people across several continents. The platforms have different operating models; so you may have to stick with one or two that fit your requirements. Some of them are Freelancer, oDesk, eLance, Scriptlance and vWorker.
Don't allow the competition come crashing on you. Social media tools have been tried and tested to greatly improve results. Moreover, social media tools enable you to properly monitor and analyze your business efforts more easily. Even if your business is large already, these tools will greatly improve your business.