At its most basic, business is about relationships. There’s a reason Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People” has been one of the most popular business books for nearly 80 years. Business savvy is critical, but as a business owner, if you can’t connect with people — your customers — then all the “book knowledge” in the world isn’t going to guarantee a profit.
The good news: Connecting with customers is easier than ever. Social media provides franchise operators with tools to reach a vast audience in a relatively inexpensive way. Nothing will replace a firm handshake and a kind smile, and a little understanding.
But there are only so many handshakes you can make in a day. Various social media sites allow you to reach hundreds, even thousands of potential and existing customers.
Here’s a look at seven of the most popular social media sites and how to get the most from your efforts.
The #1 Network: Facebook
The king of social media. Facebook is less business and more socially oriented, but that doesn’t mean you can’t build a network of supporters. Facebook allows for the creation of business and brand pages. It’s a great place to post photos and articles about your business and industry.
Just keep in mind that Facebook visitors expect to be entertained — not lectured at and sold to. Make sure that you post plenty of engaging, informational, funny or otherwise valuable content (roughly 75 percent) and go easy on promotional content.
Short And Sweet: Twitter
In the great scheme of things, it’s hard to believe how briefly social media has been a part of the business world. Twitter quickly became the young upstart, though it has a long way to go if it ever has a hope of surpassing Facebook. The challenge of Twitter is squeezing a relevant message into 140 characters or fewer.
Twitter’s an especially great platform to establish yourself as a thought leader, either in your local area or nationally. Your reach is practically limitless, but you get out what you put in: Your mileage will be largely based on the amount of interaction you’re willing to have with other users.
Get Visual: Flickr, Instagram and Pinterest
Flickr, Instagram and Pinterest are photo sharing services that allow users to take, edit and share photos with their followers. Flickr and Instagram offer filters and other tools to help you get the most out of your images.
Pinterest is more of thematic bulletin board. Finding the right theme — home improvement, spring cleaning — can be a great way to draw users with a particular interest. They’re all great ways to share your product’s value in your community — in a super visual way.
Professionally Speaking: LinkedIn
Where Facebook caters to the communal aspect of social interaction, LinkedIn is a site for the professional community. On Facebook you might post humor, cartoons and the occasional business related item. LinkedIn is nearly all business. It’s a good place to develop professional relationships – connecting with those who can recommend your service to their clients. Use the site to post articles and links that others will find interesting and educational.
The Wild West: Google+
Google started as simply a search engine. It’s evolved into a multi-armed behemoth that reaches into a large number of areas, sometimes a bit controversially (Google Glass, anyone?). Google was a bit of a latecomer to social media with Google+, but considering the site’s power in the search space, you’d do well at least to be aware of what’s going on there!
As a business on Google+, you’ll be linked to your physical location (on Google Maps) and establish something of an online storefront where people can add reviews for your business and more.
Google+ communities are another great, growing way to connect with propspective customers. One Bin There Dump That franchise operator has used Google+ to communicate with real estate agents and renovators in his area to build goodwill and leverage. Also, leveraging communities to connect with potential customers.
Find What’s Right For You — And Commit
All these social websites have advantages that make them more fitting for certain types of interaction. And they do take time. One way to frustrate your followers — and counteract all the good work you’ve put in — is to create a social media site, start posting then more or less abandon it for weeks or months on end.
These social media networks are tools to help you grow your business on a variety of levels. Find out which one works best for you and make sure to post appropriately.