Using social media to promote your business abroad
Benefits of social media
As more and more people across the globe spend time on the internet – social media sites in particular – opportunities arise for businesses to market themselves to these audiences – these are the benefits of social media. But how do businesses join the online conversations – as well as smartly promote their brand for free?
When you consider that the majority of people now search for businesses online rather than anywhere else, it’s sensible to make the most of every opportunity to be as visible as possible when potential international customers start the process of choosing a business for what they need. It’s also crucial that businesses are fully aware of what people are saying about them. You need a social media strategy that allows you to do both of these things.
Your business’s reputation online is fast becoming the new credit score, and there are loads of ways to get going. But the important thing to bear in mind is that there is plenty that can be achieved with no financial outlay. Okay, the initial steps take time, which is something that is in short supply for small export business owners, but by working cleverly you can have information – such as mentions of your company on the web – come to you in many instances.
Managing your online reputation
One of the simplest steps to take is to sign up for Google Alerts™. This will deliver, to your email inbox – each day, or as-it-happens – updates of the latest results from the search engine which mention your selected keywords or phrases.
You are required to sign up for a Google™ account, but the results can be sent through to an existing email address.
So set up alerts for your company name, the names of competitors and perhaps general terms significant to the industry you are involved in and your preferred frequency for updates.
When you read through these, you can quickly get an idea of where conversations about what you do – and maybe even mentions of your business – are taking place, whether this is on forums, within blogs or on websites.
If you think you would benefit from a more comprehensive report on mentions of specific words, terms or phrases online, software is available that can provide that for you.
Visit www.google.com/alerts to get going.
Think outside of the inbox
Are you aware of the top international business forums in your area of expertise, or even general business forums with discussions on international trade such as UK Business Forums? Your Google Alerts, or straight search engine queries, can give you some clues. Register, see what people are talking about that interests you and get involved.
If you can think of an activity, interest or anything that has an impact on people’s lives, there’s probably a forum where people are talking about it.
Acting appropriately on forums
It’s illegal to misrepresent your business or brand online, so never enter into a conversation in a forum about your business, or a competitor’s, as if you were a customer.
Always be transparent about who you are and your connections to any business/industry being discussed. If you’ve not used the forum before, or if you’re in doubt as to how your comments would be received, it is wise to ask forum owners or moderators for permission before posting.
Think of it as a house party – people will welcome you if the host introduces you to them, but they may be less impressed if it appears you’ve gate crashed!
Amplify your word of mouth
How many times have you walked into a business premises and, while browsing, glanced at testimonials from happy customers? Maybe you already do that yourself. Many businesses say word of mouth is their best source of leads, so it makes perfect sense to take this word of mouth and make it visible to everyone.
If you are listed on Yell, customers can review your business. This is your chance to shine – through previous customers’ mouths, people ready to pick up the phone can find out much more about what you are all about.
Reviews help build trust between international consumers and businesses in a way that has never been possible before.
User-generated content, and regularly-updated pages can improve your SEO – so your directory listings, with a stream of reviews, all added by real international customers describing a genuine experience, will have a positive impact when it comes to where your business appears on search engine results pages.
Importantly, don’t be afraid of reviews – not all businesses will receive glowing reviews all of the time. But they do provide a great opportunity to engage with online communities in different countries and show that you care about the services you provide; consider online reviews to be the most visible part of your after sales care package.
Visit marketing.yell.com/products/yell-online-reviews to find out more about reviews.
Which social media channels should I use?
Mention social media, and chances are the big players – Facebook, Twitter and YouTube – will be in the mind of the person you are speaking to.
They aren’t the answer to everything when it comes to social media, and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, but they are fantastic free marketing resources for any export business, big or small. And these sites, Facebook in particular, are where people across the world are spending a lot of time. Facebook has more than 800 million active users.1
Sign up for a business “Page” and your company can have its own home on Facebook. This can then be populated with news updates, videos and pictures that represent your business. It’s also somewhere to post information about deals or offers – let your customers know about your Facebook page and people who have “liked” it will receive your updates in their feed whenever you post them. They can then comment and “like” particular updates, which their friends will see.
Look into Facebook advertising – it’s possible to set a budget and have a highly-targeted advert appear when people are browsing. Imagine you wanted to target women aged 25-30 who have just changed their status from in a relationship to engaged, or people based in New York who have listed that they like British food. With Facebook ads you can do that. Your message will be placed in front in the very eyes you want it to be.
Get just 25 fans and you can have what’s known as a vanity URL, so it would be Facebook.com/[YOURBUSINESS]. It looks good and it’s very easy to remember and tell people.
Twitter can be used by businesses big and small as an online mouthpiece – Yell advertisers are using it to talk about issues in the news relevant to them, promote deals or special offers and answer questions from potential/existing customers.
This all helps establish them as an expert in their particular field and build trust with online communities both at home and abroad.
Create dialogue where you can add value – look through the results of a Twitter search for “British art” or “digital education technology” and you’ll be able to spot possible opportunities for conversation. Does someone just need to know the name of an artist, and can you help if they want to purchase a painting? It’s possible to narrow down your search by location, so this makes it a viable opportunity.
Monitor what people are saying about you on Twitter, and if you happen to find negative comments reply where appropriate. Show people you are listening, and if you can turn situations around you have positive PR for everyone to see.
Sign up for an account, preferably your business name with no spaces, and you’re ready to go. Make sure you fill in the biography text, as this is where you can explain what you do and reveal the real name of the person responding – another way to humanise your presence.
Free online monitoring tools, such as HootSuite and TweetDeck, can be used to study who is talking to you, particular keyword searches and store a record of tweets you have sent. It’s also possible to shorten URLs of links you post within these programs, so you make the most of your 140 character limit, and, importantly, look at how many people have clicked on links you have posted – maybe back to your website.
Don’t forget sites like:
YouTube: Where you can easily upload any video you have and then grab code to use in other places.
Flickr: Which can be used to host images of products or work.
Google +: Which is a growing tool to help you share news and features of your business with customers and their friends.
The missing link?
If you run a company that you would consider to be in the business-to-business field, spending time on social networking site LinkedIn could work well for you. User profiles are very much business-based and people registered on the site use it to build professional networks in the UK and internationally. Do the same – create a user profile for yourself and join the networks of people you know through business.
On top of this, create a profile for your company. This can include information on what you do, your company logo, a video representing your business and even three banner ads that display on the page linking back to any page you want on your website.
Another great feature of the company profile page on LinkedIn is the ability to add products and services. So each product or service your business offers can be listed, and each can be brought to life with an image, video and link for more information. It’s also possible to insert details of special promotions and you can connect your profile, or maybe other employees’ profiles to each specific service.
Each of these products or services can then be recommended by other LinkedIn users – so, in effect, a “like” for what you do. Recommendations, and who gave them, are noted with the product. Why not ask international suppliers and customers to recommend what you do?
The company profile section also provides administrators with analytics, so you can see how many times your company has been viewed and what pages are proving popular.
1 Facebook Statistics, January 2012