From The Editor | December 8, 2010

Do You Web 2.0? Social Media Tips For Business Owners

Webinar: Cloud 101

By Gennifer Biggs, security, storage, and managed services editor

I know there are still those of you who struggle to wield the power of social media to the advantage of your IT business, so as this year — which could be argued was the point when interactive media truly started to impact the channel — wraps up, I thought I'd share some tips about making social media work for your business.

First, don't be afraid of the "friend" button when it comes to connecting to business colleagues or customers. I can stand up and own this; I resisted adding people I knew through my work with Business Solutions for months. Today, about half my Facebook friends are work-related, but don't get me wrong — we almost never talk about our jobs. Instead, by allowing those colleagues into my Facebook world, I've opened myself to the opportunity to know them on a more personal level — what they do outside work — and that makes work-related conversations more relaxed, and I would argue, more productive.

With that said, don't forget to build a social media presence for your company, along with yourself. Use Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter to highlight special company events, post customer testimonials, and show leadership around best practices. Push that page out to your customers, potential customers, and vendor partners. You might be surprised at the referrals that can grow out of these simple efforts.

Don't overlook tools for making your social media presence look fresh and consistent through automation. Look for tools such as Selective Tweets that allows you to link your Twitter account to your Facebook account — and then, with a simple #fb at the end of a tweet, you can copy your tweets automatically to Facebook. Want other great tips like this? Check out where you can sign up for a social media tips RSS feed or email newsletter. This site offers ongoing education about using social media in your business. You'll find case studies, how to tips, research, tools, and more.

You can also look to IT industry trade organizations for help — the ASCII Group just launched a service that addresses the need for social media participation while also taking some of the heavy lifting off your shoulders. Jerry Koutavas, president of ASCII, explained to me that the new service provides automated communication three times daily during the normal business week to popular social media outlets including Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. This goal is to provide ASCII members a consistent social media presence — and a head start on a more active presence in the social media world — for their business. (Read more here)

Another place for assistance — CompTIA. In fact, the IT industry organization just released a new white paper on the topic of using social media in your business.

So many times I hear from SMB VARs and MSPs that their marketing funds are tiny. Using social media can take that tiny marketing budget and spread it around the country with just a little effort. I have a strong social media presence, and I'll be perfectly honest, I spend maybe a couple hours a week (no more than two) organizing and planning that presence and using tools such as HootSuite to schedule tweets, Selective Tweets to share information between social media tools, and links on Facebook to speed up my posting. So go ahead and dip in your toe, you may be surprised at the ROI you enjoy for a little time invested in the Web 2.0 world.