Recently, I was having a conversation with some business colleagues about Alignable. Alignable is a business network that allows local businesses to connect with one another. Through this connection, businesses can learn more about the types of products and services their local neighbors sell as well as those individuals who are involved with the company. Through each connection, businesses have the opportunity to work as a team when it comes to engaging and sharing local information whether it is educational or promotional.
One question that was asked was “Why do you think more people aren’t engaging on Alignable?” My answer was, “It’s a new network and they don’t understand how it works or its full potential.” That triggered my thoughts to say, that’s what happens with many businesses. They sign up for a network or better yet, they have someone sign them up for the network and then they never use it. Think of the number of business accounts you come across on Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google+. Some haven’t had an updated post since 2014.
When I worked for the MA Small Business Development Center, I taught social media marketing. I used to get quite a bit of push back from business owners when it came to social networks.
- Why do I have to be on that network?
- I don’t want to have a personal account I only want a business account.
- I don’t have time.
- I tried it once and it didn’t work.
- I don’t even know how to use it.
As I look back, I completely understand their frustration.
They don’t know enough about the network. They are uncomfortable engaging on the network. They have lots of questions and no one to ask.
Sadly, they don’t understand the benefits to being a member. There is a learning curve from setting it up, to visiting the network on a regular basis and participating.
As new networks have evolved, I have always tried to understand how they work and how I could benefit from them on a personal and business level. I would read a few articles on the network or sometimes I would just jump in and see what I could learn in the sign up process. I know, I’m a little different than most, I understand the transparency thing and I am comfortable with it, but for others, you have to find a happy medium between not participating and what I do.
So, how can you find a comfort level on social networks? For many of you reading this, you have accounts set up, but haven’t really updated or engaged in the network since you set it up.
1. Learn the basics.
- Read a few articles about the network. Try Mashable or Social Media Examiner.
- Ask someone to help you set up and/or learn how the network functions.
- Visit the network on a regular basis, even if it is only once a week.
- Add value: like, comment and share information. When you start engaging so do your partners and connections.
2. Figure out how much information you want to share on a Personal Level. When trying to determine the degree of the information you are going to share personally, one thing is essential – a good headshot. People don’t like to converse with a gray head. There are three places where you can gain a level of comfort:
- Personal Business Information – Every business owner should be on Linkedin. Once you have placed your professional information in a profile, basically your resume, update your profile regularly with articles, services, presentations and videos. Try connecting with people you know. As you build your contact base, figure out the level of comfort you have connecting with other people. Do you want to network with everyone? Do you only want to connect with people you know or that are in your industry? The decision is yours. For the most part, I try to connect with people I know or who I have met at my networking or training sessions.
- Personal Individual Information – Create a Facebook personal profile. This network allows you to share snippets of your personal and professional life. Find people on the network you enjoy and try to get comfortable sharing information with them and others.
- Personal FUN – Find a network where you can engage and follow different people. Today, networks that incorporate visuals are very popular. Try Pinterest or Instagram. They are easy to use and you don’t have to know someone to follow what he or she is doing on the network.
3. Figure out how much information you want to share on a Business Level. Everyone loves a business account because they don’t have to share personal information. WRONG! There is still a certain amount of information you have to share about yourself in that process. Today, it’s about transparency. Your customers want to get to know, like and trust you before they will try, buy, engage or advocate for your business. They can’t do that if they have no idea about who owns or runs the business. When registering your business on any of these networks, make sure your information is consistent – business name, address, description, owner, phone number, e-mail and web address. Four networks to consider:
- Register your business on Google My Business – This is your Google Business Page. Registering for a business account will allow you to share information about your business as well as articles, stories, pictures and videos. The bonus to being on this network is that every post you have will be indexed in Google search.
- Add a business page on Linkedin – You have the ability to have your employees connect to the page and you can share articles, presentations and videos like on Google+. Business pages also allow other individuals who are interested in your company to follow you. If you post information to social networks, you can post them here as well.
- Consider a Facebook Business Page – If your audience is there. Look at your demographic and decide whether they will engage with you on Facebook. Post regularly and remember, it’s a pay to play situation on Facebook. If you really want a greater engagement, you’ll have to pay for it.
- Sign up for Alignable – It is a great place to showcase your business and actually connect with local businesses. When I set up my client pages, I am always amazed at the number of businesses located in the area. As I investigate more of them, I realized we could easily partner or use the services of many of them.
These are just a few networks to consider or investigate as you try to better understand social networks. It is your choice as to whether they are of any value to you. My goal was to introduce you to some easy networks that have wonderful engagement and good results. My advice – the more you engage, the more comfortable you will feel about sharing personal and business information in your network.
You have the ability to find a level of comfort and understanding on social networks, you just have to take a little time and learn.