The biggest problem for most people is the fact that social media and social networking sound a little too, well, social. Many companies ban the use of social media and the use of social networking sites at work, and many others feel that social media is only something that should be considered to be social, rather than business.

Not wishing to mix business with pleasure, social media is left waiting on the front door step for the clock to strike 6pm, when work is through and social engagements can be considered. Sadly, for those businesses taking this approach, a huge opportunity is being missed. Despite the name, social media is not something which should be considered to be exclusively distinct from work.

Quite the contrary, social media is having a hugely positive impact on the quality of service, reputation, customer retention and overall marketing for those businesses who have embraced the concept.

Social media provides three very important benefits to your business, which can briefly be summarised as link building, PR and marketing.  Let me explain how social networking can benefit a business by looking at each of these three points in turn. If, having read this post, you still feel that your business would not benefit from taking advantage of social media, then perhaps you’d be better of disconnecting from the internet entirely and living in a cave somewhere in south Wales.

Firstly, there’s the inevitable link building which social media provides. Almost every Twitter post, Facebook update, blog post and public bookmark provides a link to a resource either on your website or which relates closely to your website. If you play the game well you could find people re-tweeting your tweets, ‘liking’ your Facebook page and linking to it, and linking to or republishing your blog posts, all of which spreads your links further and further afield.

It’s a little like building a great big spider web, and then placing a small spider at points around the circumference. Those spiders then start spinning webs leading off from the main one, greatly increasing the chance of capturing your intended audience (or meal). Social media is one of the most effective ways of not simply generating back links for your business yourself, but engaging other people to continue to proliferate those links on your behalf.

Do it well, and you could find interest snowballing. Some tweets and blog posts are re-tweeted or re-posted hundreds of times, all without you having to lift a finger once your original post has been published.

Then of course there’s the PR. Today more than ever before public relations is critical to the success of a business. The internet has enabled businesses to communicate more effectively, but it’s also provided consumers with the ability to find out more about the business, sharing opinions with other consumers, reading reviews and learning about the company in indirect ways before committing to it themselves. Business such as those selling broadband or SEO services are certainly finding that almost no customer contacts them directly without having first trawled the net for reviews, background information and inside information about them.

Social media provides a great way of boosting this public image in a range of ways. Of course, having your tweets and blog posts shared by people is clearly telling potential customers that your business has the seal of approval of many other people, but in a recent survey it was found that over 35% of online consumers are now using social media to find out more about a company before committing to making a purchase. Your social networking is increasingly the face or voice of your business which greets potential clients well before your telephone operators do.

Finally, there is the brand marketing potential which can be gained from social networking. Social media provides a massive advantage here, giving businesses the chance to reach out proactively to customers, finding out what people really think about the company, and taking steps to address any perceived issues. No longer reliant on customers calling a premium telephone number, sitting in a queue for 20 minutes and then ranting about a problem in the vain hope of a resolution, customers today are turning to social media. By turning to social networking themselves, businesses are able to actively engage with consumers in a way that’s providing far more positive for both customers and businesses alike.

Do you use Social Media to promote you business? Has it proven effective? Leave a comment below and let us know. Alternatively, if you haven’t got time to be social yourself take a look at our social media services to see if we can help!