Understanding social media and how it can help promote and grow your business

By Tania A. Cubitt   Performance Horse Nutrition, Virginia, USA 

Excerpts from Alltech’s 27th Animal Health and Nutrition Symposium

    Lexington Kentucky ~Everywhere you turn someone is talking about social media. But what is it? Is it the grand panacea of marketing or is it a waste of time for solo and small business owners? More importantly how can it benefit your business and do you really need it?

Social media is the term that describes the online technologies and practices that people use to share content, opinions, insights, experiences, perspectives, and media with each other.

In traditional business circles business owners sing the praises of word-of-mouth advertising, Word-of-mouth advertising has always been the cornerstone to building a successful business. Nothing is more powerful than a personal referral from a satisfied customer. With the introduction of social networking sites and communities like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, and professional networking sites like LinkedIn, word-of-mouth advertising has taken on a whole new look and is more powerful than ever with the ability to reach significantly more people than traditional word-of-mouth advertising ever could.

There are currently over 660 million Facebook users worldwide sharing millions of pieces of information each day and over 200 million bloggers posting content daily. Whether we’re sharing news, gossip, tips or videos, both positive and negative messages can spread like wildfire. Social networking sites allow you to spread your message through an unlimited viral network and generate interest in otherwise little-known products, brands or services. They allow you to build loyalty with existing and previous customers and generate excitement and buzz with second-level friends and followers.

Your customers hold the keys to building your business. If customers are satisfied with your products or services, they can tell their friends and followers about their experience in an unbiased way via these social media outlets. Consumers are more informed than ever and often use social media outlets to glean unbiased information and reviews about products before buying. Social media participation and optimization is important for every type of business. Even if you have great “word of mouth’ and “referrals” now, social networking can positively impact your bottom line by allowing you access to so many more people. Conversations on social media sites about your company and your products are going on with or without you. It’s up to you whether you want to just read what others are saying or actively participate to make sure people are saying the right things and are well informed about your company.

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