The term firing on all cylinders is another way of saying things are working and flowing smoothly. For a company or business online this could mean a variety of different things. You could streamline your processes to optimize profits or you could find ways to boost sales and services. I’ll be focusing more for boosting sales and services.
Not long ago my compadre in arms talked about how Walmart’s Official Blog is completely failing at the moment. If Walmart has the horsepower to do just about anything it pleases how can it be that its blog is failing? It isn’t for lack of resources but lack of firing on all cylinders.
I am a fan of using a system called the Trade Ring for boosting sales and referrals from other similar (not same) businesses. You promote them and they in turn promote you helping all ships to rise together. Create a trade ring for your online contact points.
Everyone uses the Internet differently. I like to focus on blogs and Twitter as my main methods for connecting with others (slowly growing Facebook and LinkedIn). I am sure some people love to spend most of their time navigating Facebook for online news and interaction. The combinations are endless in the different ways you can mix and match online outlets.
Here are some ideas for different things you can do to bring these all together.
Typically an online business will have a website. Most offline business do too. You don’t want to have a plain Jane website that is more like an online brochure than an information and connection portal. Instead, really step back and look for the different ways branching out online can help your business grow more profitable, connect you to your clients or connect clients closer to each other.
Consider adding a blog for starters and then start engaging in other ways to connect with your clients. Take a couple minutes to ask 10 of your clients if they read blogs, use Facebook or Twitter and so on. It should only take a minute to figure out where you could focus your attention for the quickest return on time and investment.
Starting a business blog is a great way to enable people talking about your brand, product or similar to be social on your site. A blog is a perfect way to build a brand online that doesn’t involve building a brand on someone else’s site or service. Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter are great but it’s a great idea to make your homebase somewhere you can call the shots. Blogs are excellent for this.
The idea around blogging is to create content by sharing ideas, thoughts or just about anything. A terrible idea for a blog is to use it as a permanent archive for all of your press releases. No one cares about press releases. If fact, I delete every press release that hits my inbox unsolicited or that is not over the top personalized. Use your blog as a tool to engage with others and help people when they have concerns.
Just maybe you’ll hear how someone did something totally different with your product that actually works. Now you can use that idea to help market that product to a completely different market. Who knew pantyhose could be used to buff your shoes.
Don’t forget to add your social media links to your blog/website with plugins like Sociable. Feed the circle from every angle.
Newsletters are becoming quite the norm now with just about every business. One of the largest problems with running a newsletter is not allowing people to take part in the conversation or to take action. If you are blasting out a newsletter with a weekly special you are running but don’t invite people to give current or past feedback about the product you are missing a great opportunity for them to interact with you. Don’t forget to include links to those lovely online profiles (Facebook/Twitter) or your blog. Make is a useful and desirable resource for your subscribers and they will continue to purchase and share with others.
Not everyone gets Twitter and how it can help their business. There are a couple different ways Twitter can really assist in your online ventures. The first way anybody or business can use Twitter is to determine new trends or information in your industry or to find current consumers and interact. I said interact not shout at them. Shouting is the opposite of interaction and doesn’t encourage a response. Try to encourage a response.
Sites like search.twitter.com will let you search all day everyday tweets that people are sharing that revolve around your niche. Jump in there and see what’s going on. Take a long hard look at what people are saying about a niche and think of ways you can improve it. If you are an established brand, look at brand perception and see how you can start engaging the talkers to increase positive interactions.
This leads into helping those who use services like Twitter find and follow you. I typically start by interacting with someone a number of times and then follow/friend. Report is established and more than likely they will reciprocate. Sites like Tweepsearch.com help you find others who are in the same niche or you can use search.twitter.com to see who actually mentions your niche, then engage. One downside with search.twitter.com is only the ability to see current tweets and discussions not bios or past discussions.
Due to the closer knit community that people of Facebook have, ideas and brands that one person likes might often be liked by others. So if someone follows your new startup brewery in Fargo and you become a fan, that will be seen by your friends. Chances are that your close friends would also think the idea of a new brewery in Fargo is intriguing, leading to more and more people becoming a fan. Because of this things can spread really quick over Facebook. The downside is, if you’re boring or shouting few will listen or interact.
The key to Facebook for a business is to get people to interact. The more who interact, the more times you’ll be seen by their friends and the more likely you’ll gain even more friends. See how this works? Pretty simple, eh?
Overnight you can have a brand’s fanpage explode from a couple hundred followers to thousands. But all of the friends/followers in the world won’t continue to participate or care about your brand if you don’t give them reason to get involved. Provide feedback loops for ideas and concerns. Allow the negative feedback to come and address it head-on and in front of everybody. Your fans will love you for the transparency you offer. They will feel/grow more connected and want to share their positive experiences with everyone.
But remember to bring those discussions and ideas back to your own turf. You never know what the gods of the social media industry will one day deem something as inappropriate for their community or best interest and shut it off.
Look for the right social media numbers or metrics, not just more followers or fans.
Not quite as fancy or flashy as the other kinds of social media sites, LinkedIn definitely has its place. If you are looking for a group of people that could help move and shake things for you, look no further. You can make a connection with hundreds of the top people in just about any industry overnight. LinkedIn networking might have a little different purpose than shooting a few tweets back and forth with someone, but where else can you find this level of talent so easily?
Taking the time to build and nurture a relationship over LinkedIn is a constant work in progress but in the end can drastically change your strategic partnerships and connections helping to boost awareness for your brand. Think about the ways you can use powerful business connections to your advantage and how you can in turn help others. There is a huge opportunity to establish long lasting partnerships. I would compare this to those awesome roommates you had in college, you know, the ones that attended your wedding and your 50th birthday.
Find the ways to find and interaction on a high level with your customers. Meet them where they hang out and bring the focus on them. They will in turn find ways to give back in many different forms, whether it’s promotion, ideas, thoughts or sales. How have you used these sites to connect yourself with your clients?