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How social are you?

By David Gee

"Even if you have all the money in the world to spend, the best way to market your business is through social media," says no less an authority than Sir Richard Branson, world-renowned entrepreneur, and the man once named world’s top social media CEO.

"Social media works because it puts products and information in front of the right people," he says. "Today, everyone can have a voice, and anyone can win the support of a community."

Building community around your brand
Ah yes, a community. The secret sauce of social media. The ability to build community around a brand. Your brand. Yet Branson says there is still a surprising amount of lethargy among the ranks of business owners and leaders when it comes to committing resources to social media.

"Embracing social media isn’t just a bit of fun, it is a vital way to communicate, keep your ear to the ground and improve your business," posits Branson.

The benefits
So Branson just mentioned three benefits of social media. Let's take a closer look at each.

A vital way to communicate: Social media provides a platform on which to build your brand, communicating who you, what you do and why you do it to a wide variety of audiences and stakeholders both within and outside your company.

Keep your ear to the ground: It's amazing the amount of instant information and unvarnished feedback an organization can receive if you are active participants and listeners via social media channels. You can use this tool proactively, or reactively. But most organizations fall short here, if they are even active at all. A lot of social media content is just old fashioned telling and selling wrapped in new channels and technology. Listen as well as speak.

Improve your business: Yes, engaging with peers, employees, customers, prospects, and the broader public, in an authentic, transparent and direct way does yield returns! Social media analyst Lauren Fisher says as well as looking at the direct revenue generated from customers through social media channels, "smart companies will be looking at the longer term impact of social media activity and just how valuable these customers are after the initial sale or contact point." What they often find is that customers and prospects that come through social touchpoints are more engaged. And further, that social media customers ultimately trust you more and will also be more invested in your company or product by the time they complete the sale.

To have success with social media, we need to understand it is not just another marketing tool, but rather a unique two-way channel of communication, allowing you to connect and engage with large numbers of people quickly.

Yes, everyone hopes their social media marketing efforts can be a direct path to leads and sales. But social media should be more than a means to an end. Social tools can help you better connect with your audience, reach new potential customers, and increase awareness of your brand. Maybe 2020 will be the year you get more social.

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