The proper use of social media by businesses

At Its Open, we’re happy to shout the praises of social media as a way of getting close to customers and partners.

But social media only works well if it’s used properly. Rushing in to set up a site on Facebook or Twitter without first developing a strategy for how you plan to use it can spell disaster.

As an article in The Vancouver Sun points out, Facebook and Twitter are both designed as networks for socialising, not selling. Adapting them for business purposes takes a little ingenuity and imaginaton.

Fortunately, Facebook now allows members to have a company page, which is slightly different from a personal page. People can become a “fan” of your company rather than a “friend”. But as the article’s author, Jonathan Weber, notes:

“Most people do not think of themselves as “fans” of particular businesses, even businesses they like. (Fan after all is short for fanatic, and it’s a pretty rare firm that inspires fanaticism.) So it’s not that easy to accumulate fans.”

It’s a tricky dilemma. Weber says there is no “magic bullet” but he does have some suggestions, including the rather controversial one of asking your employees to promote the company via their Facebook page. His main piece of advice, however, is simple:

“Making good use of social networks requires you to act human and to stay sensitive to the evolving ethos of the community. And that requires time and attention-two commodities that are always in short supply at small companies.”

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