Dispensing Strategies: Social Networking
By Michelle Brisebois
By Michelle Brisebois
Facebook, Twitter, Plurk – if we’d heard these terms 10 years ago one
would assume we were discussing animated characters in a new Disney
Facebook, Twitter, Plurk – if we’d heard these terms 10 years ago one would assume we were discussing animated characters in a new Disney movie.
Social networking may be the latest flavour of the month but if you run a small business in this day and age – ignoring them would be done at your own peril. Many of your competitors have or are considering a marketing strategy that includes social networking. For a vending industry who lists a key target group as the youth segment; social networking may just be the silver bullet.
The way that most businesses grow is by word of mouth, by recommendations from friends and other peer groups. Social media is a lot like birds of a feather flocking together. Everybody gets to find their tribe and people with a common interest or objective are able to interact online.
If you’re of a certain “vintage” yourself, social networking may seem intimidating and too technical for your business to leverage. It’s not really that difficult, it’s simply a matter of jumping in and experimenting. Here are some guidelines to help focus your social networking strategy.
1. Join a few sites yourself but focus on one or two.
Invest your time wisely on the right sites for your business.
MySpace is a very large social networking site, but tends to skew to a younger demographic. Other sites likewise may not be the right fit for your target customer. Twitter is a micro-blogging site gaining in popularity as well.
Join a couple of the major sites yourself and just start experimenting. Many experts believe the most promising are Facebook and LinkedIn. LinkedIn is clearly for professional networking whereas Facebook appears to be transcending many demographic barriers. Many grandparents are joining to keep in contact with beloved grandchildren.
2. Write a strong profile describing your business.
Think of the profile page as a chance to position your business, market your skills, and to provide necessary contact information and your website address and blog.
List the locations of your vending machines as well. Make sure your profiles are keyword-rich, because profiles on many sites are captured by search engines.
Also, use pictures that you would want potential customers to see. This would be a great chance to feature that new machine with state of the art technology.
3. Share your “new news.”
You can do this by taking advantage of the applications and widgets these sites offer. Facebook allows you to build a business page for news about your company.
There’s also, an events page for business activities, even a “fan” page. You can also post videos on your pages; create special-interest forums, groups, and private sites for crisis management; and surface your blog posts on your profile page using RSS feeds.
4. Track the brands you represent and the consumers you want to capture.
At the time this article was written, Barack Obama’s Facebook group was the largest followed by Coca-Cola, Nutella and pizza in the number two, three and four positions.
Many of the brands and market segments linked to the vending industry have a very strong presence on social networking sites, so you can follow their announcements, communications strategies and fan base. It will inform how you go to market since ultimately; your customers are seeking these brands so your machine will benefit accordingly.
5. Partner with a “20-something.”
For most young people, Facebook is a way of life. They don’t realize that being a power user on Facebook is actually a marketable skill.
If you have younger employees who are comfortable with Facebook – tap into their expertise and assign them the task of getting your business up on social networking sites. Once you’re in, get in the game and start talking.
Commenting on blog posts is one of the best things you can do online. Keep emotion to a minimum; proofread your comments; be fresh and interesting; add links to web pages for details or background.
6. Promote your blog
Blogging takes time and commitment but can prove to be a very cost-effective, measurable way to promote your business. Many social networking sites enable you to surface your blog posts through RSS feeds.
On Facebook, for example, by setting up a blog on WordPress.com, your posts can automatically be pushed to your profile page, along with recent comments. In fact, you can syndicate posts from multiple blogs on your Facebook profile page.
7. Use privacy settings.
We’ve all heard stories from people who’ve been friended by long lost friends and ex-lovers they’d rather not be reconnected with.
Most sites have privacy settings allowing you to dictate how much of your profile is revealed to the online community. Adjust these settings to the level that gives you comfort, be cautious about the personal information you post.
8. Don’t inundate people with marketing messages.
The key to successfully leveraging social networking is to … well … be social. Join groups and enter discussions about brands you carry.
Provide full disclaimer about your business connections but let people know what your carry and where they can find it. That chocolate lovers group in your region would likely be thrilled to hear your machines carry their favourite brand as well as a MapQuest link to where they’re located.
It’s all about conversation, not about push.
If you’ve convinced yourself that social networking isn’t relevant to your business, be honest. Are you sure it won’t be a valuable tool or are you passing it by because you don’t use and understand it yourself?
Networking to generate business is as old as business itself. The Internet just makes it easier to do.