IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

IT Service Meeting Highlights Social Media Program Benefits

Is social media a boondoggle or a valuable marketing tool for your business? That’s the question many solution providers have asked since these sites, such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter came on the scene. The attitude of many business executives is, “If you can’t provide tangible results, what good is it?” Attendees of the CompTIA Canadian IT Services and Support Community in Toronto found several answers to that question with a deep dive discussion into the opportunities available with these web media sites. Dr. Cindy Gordon and Alex Blom of Helix Commerce International shared their knowledge of effective social community business models and provided advice on how to incorporate these tools into their own businesses.

Why should you incorporate social media into your organization? First of all, these interactive sites reach an international audience, including prospective customers, future industry partners, and potential employees. In addition, proper social media best practices can help strengthen relationships with current clients, collaborators and your existing workforce.

The second motive for  integrating social media is to spur innovation and helps you spread your message with links to blogs, white papers and case studies, event registration (webinar or live), and product or service promotions. Through interaction and awareness of your company’s services and strategy, beneficial feedback should escalate and allow you to adapt your offerings and programs. “Product innovation is rooted in collaboration, finding the means that allow you to build robust networks of partners that will help advance your organization’s goals,” says Gordon. “Social networks help build those relationships and allow you to receive quick and valuable feedback from a cross-section of industry experts, customers and others.”

It’s not unusual for businesses to attract 20,000 or more followers, allowing you to expand your reach and create new avenues that allow you to achieve your company goals. “Two-thirds of the global population is using social media, with millions of posts and site visits each day,” says Blom. This type of forum requires a creative sensitivity; you can’t repetitively broadcast your marketing message. Business leaders need to talk to followers (consumers of social media) in order to develop trust and a mutually valued relationship. Success depends on attracting the right audience to your discussions. Don’t focus on the number of connections; having 10,000 followers isn’t worthwhile if only a few are good prospects, partners or job candidates. Building Twitter or Facebook communities requires a grass-roots recruiting effort, adding content and contacts in a rational manner to ensure eventual success. Posting the media profile links on your website, in newsletters and connecting to industry friends is a great first step. “This effort is not just about creating social media connections, but creating a transformational model that motivates people to communicate and collaborate,” suggests Gordon.

Here are some takeaways from the discussion:

  1. Start small and build a grassroots community, no matter what media you use
  2. Build trust via the brand messages and information you share. Make it worthwhile to be connected with your business
  3. Research and experiment by integrating programs such as Foursquare, which allows you to "check in" to a location (industry event or customer site) and notify your “followers” to your position. You can use it for onsite promotions or to publicize your attendance at certain conferences or preferred customer sites.   

Reinforcing the social media discussion at the Toronto event was speaker Glen Robertson, COO of Service 800. Their Service Metric Benchmark Program takes into account many customer satisfaction variables, and social media is becoming an important part of that business measurement process. According to Forrester studies, more than 500 billion web impressions of products and services are counted each year, with collaborative web sharing a big part of that. Businesses need to be proactive in blogs and other media, providing helpful information and discussing the topics that show they not only understand their customers, but have compassion as well. The web-enhanced customer experience isn’t relegated to the youth segment either; studies illustrate that almost 2/3 of Facebook and Twitter users are 35 and older! While they have the mass, a high percentage of people in their 20s—key group for employee recruitment— are social media consumers.

The reality is that new web communities are a force to be reckoned with. Social media is a critical component of today’s business and those that ignore or dismiss its value may lose out on connecting with a “tuned in” audience.

About the Author

With more than 2,000 members, 3,000 academic and training partners and tens of thousands of registered users spanning the entire information communications and technology (ICT) industry, CompTIA has become a leading voice for the technology ecosystem.

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