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Including Social Media in the Mix

Social media; everyone’s doing it. Now that Linkedin and Facebook are publicly traded companies social networking is mainstream. While Twitter is still figuring out how it will make money, IT service providers face unique challenges with social networks. How does an IT service provider use social media to grow their business? That is the topic for this month’s article on how to include social media in the mix. How to answer questions from your clients that ask you about social media in the workplace? Well, that’s another article!

There are plenty of activities IT service providers can engage in with social media including blogging, friending, tweeting, posting and linking all types of engaging content in their networks. This can be overwhelming, time consuming and potentially unproductive if you aren’t careful. Here are some tips on getting the most from your efforts with social media.

Separate company from personal

Focus on Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter, Make sure you set up a company page on all of these sites. These “microblogs” are great places to post your content, company updates and fun facts about your business. These networks will push your updates out to the smart phones and tablets of your groups, followers and fans. Additionally, having your blog posts, newsletter feeds and other content from your website back linked in these micro blogs will help you with your search engine optimization (SEO) programs. Some of the networks (e.g. Facebook) require a minimum number of fans before they will grant you your a named fan page (i.e. facebook.com\your_company_name) so don’t delay. Set up those company pages right away.

Integrate social media with your other marketing programs

If you are hosting a “lunch and learn” on fixed priced IT at your office or conducting a webinar on cloud computing make sure you promote the event across your social networks in addition to other promotional activity, such as, email marketing, direct mail and telemarketing. You can set up an event on your Facebook business page, include registration links to your Linkedin groups and tweet out the event links to all of your followers. This will extend your reach to a broader audience and services as another way to stay in front of your suspects and prospects.

Tag your posts

Tagging is a great way to get your posts out to a broader audience. For example, you may have just attended a technology fair hosted by one of your key vendors. Perhaps you took a photo of their latest laptop or server. Use the @ in front of the vendor name (i.e. I just saw the most awesome laptop at the @vendor demo day! Check out this picture!) in your Facebook post. For Twitter use #vendor. Your post will reach followers of that vendor near and far. You may pick up a follower or two yourself.

Blog with frequency and intent

Blogging is a great way to establish yourself as a thought leader in front of your clients and prospects. Blogging helps keep your website looking current. In addition, well written blog articles help you with your SEO. A good blog only needs to be about 400 words. So, go for frequency instead of length. Make sure you involve other members of your staff to write the blog. Don’t put the burden on marketing only. Have your technical people offer best practice tips on everything from “network security and compliance” to “avoiding costly computer repair”. You don’t need to blog daily to get results. Make sure your site is current with a new blog article every other week or monthly at a minimum. Remember to feed those blog articles into your micro blogs and newsletter, as well.

Build a fan base

Engage your customers to contribute to your social media platforms. Don’t be afraid to ask happy customers to share their testimonials about your company and service on your company’s Facebook page. Consider running a “#1 fan contest” to engage your customers in sharing their stories, tips and other best practices about a line of business application or an industry vertical compliance issue. You may be able to foster communications between your customers who would be willing to help each other with information and insights on how they leverage their IT infrastructure to be more productive.

Post video when possible

YouTube is one of the largest search engines based on volume of queries. Creating video content is another outlet to reach a broader market. If you host webinars make sure you record them and get them out to your social networks for replay. Also, most handheld devices record HD video. You don’t necessarily need a production studio to create video content suitable for posting. If you have to choose, focus on the quality of the content vs. the quality of the video. You may not have the next viral video, however, you can extend your reach and attract new customers by providing basic tips on computer service.

Remember to Pay Per Click

Facebook and LinkedIn have pay per click programs similar to Google Adwords. Google ads are displayed when someone searches a particular keyword. Someone doing research for computer repair, wifi support or network compliance consulting in your area is an ideal candidate to see your ad. Unlike Google, Facebook and Linkedin ads target your ads to the demographics and interests of your prospective customers. Unlike Google, your prospective managed service client may not be searching for a solution at the time they see your ad. Consider using these ads to support branding and awareness in your local community. You target your ads to business networks for a target vertical (e.g. law offices), your local chamber of commerce or local community websites. This is a great way to keep your business top of mind and brand your company in a cost effective manner.

Track Everything Always

As with all marketing activity you need to track your activities so you can direct your time and money at those programs that deliver the most revenue and end those programs that underperform. Social networks like Facebook and Linkedin have tracking and performance reports that compliment their pay-per-click programs. Most website analytics packages will also track referral sources and conversion rates (sign-ups for things like price quotes or on site network evaluations). Make sure to track traffic from your social media campaigns back to these sales and marketing objectives.

In addition to tracking performance there are also tools available to track the quality of your social media programs. Socialmention.com does a good job tracking sentimiment (i.e. positive, neutral and negative posts), keyword activity and even who your ardent fans are by name. It is a good idea to audit your social network activity on a regular basis.

Don’t put your eggs in one basket

Social Media is mainstream. 800,000,000 people will not unplug from Facebook overnight. Social networks like Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter provide a powerful platform to get your message out. If ignored, social networks may also negatively impact your brand. However, don’t cancel all your other marketing programs to focus all your attention on social media. Instead integrate social networks into your existing programs and use them as an extension to get the word out. Just like email marketing, telemarketing and direct mail, if that still exists, social media is another way to reach customers and prospects.

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