The social web isn't just a checkbox. It's a set of rich tools that can boost your business's sales effectiveness, and reduce your churn. When used with good intentions in mind, the social web is one of the most powerful means of connecting with your customers and prospects. Here are five ways to humanize your web presence and give you a chance to build on your business relationships.
Improve Your "About" Page
Start with tidying up the "about" page for your site, or the "our team" page, or wherever you talk about people. Put up photos and brief bios. Make them personable photos. Add whatever form of contact information you want exposed below that. Give people the realization that there are real live humans working in the company, and that they want to connect with you.
Simple Social Strategy
If you wanted the simplest of social strategies to execute, here it is: extend your listening, your media making, and your customer service efforts into the social web. Listen / Publish / Connect. That's the simplest of all social media strategies. Choose to upgrade your monitoring of brand mentions and the like, by using free and paid listening tools. Need a starting point? Grow Bigger Ears in 10 Minutes can help.
For media making, this can be anything from recording quick videos and posting them to YouTube for embedding on your blog. It can be blogging and sharing information via your website. It can be a mix of all the various media tools, but get your word out there. It works as organic search support, as well as a way for people to learn more about your business. It takes a little time, but the return is almost always immediate.
For extending customer service, there are some easy ways to do this. Set up a Twitter account, and spend your time on Search answering questions that might relate to your business. For instance, I've watched The Home Depot answer people's questions about what kind of stain to use on a deck. You know that might have translated into business. I've watched hotels answer that THEY are a great place to stay in Long Beach. What could you answer? How could you help?
Build Integrated Online Presence
You might have a profile at LinkedIn, but are you adding occasional status messages to the update box? Are you spending any time in the Q&A section? And beyond that, have you spent any time at any of the off-brand or non-corporate sites that talk about your product and service (either by name or by category)? It's every bit as important to get out of your own site and get into the places where people spend time, if you want to engage the social web for your business.
Make It a Habit
If you don't build these kinds of experiences into your "must do" tasks of any given business day, then they'll fall behind. If you consider the social web a secondary or tertiary part of your business, that's okay, but you have to keep visiting to get any results, so you might want to build in some regularly scheduled visits. If you could spend an hour a day online, that'd be a great start. If you can get up to two, that's even better. HOW should you spend it? 25 percent listening / 50 percent connecting and customer service / 25 percent publishing and making media.
Share the Wealth
We tend to think of social media as a solo business. Depending on how much staff you have and/or what you have them doing, the more people that get involved, the better. My friend, Joe, has a restaurant business (actually, he runs about four restaurants, at last count). He has a few other people picking up the social media elements of his business, including his wife (who's an employee in the business), as well as some of the other staff. The more people that get involved, the better, as it makes for a "many hands lighten the load" kind of experience, all the while adding more of a human touch to your web presence.
It feels like work, but once you start seeing the uptick in sales related to it, you'll find it very worthwhile. This comes back in sales. This comes back in retention. It's not "shiny, happy hug talk." Take a look around. Pilot a few ideas. Give it 30 days and see what comes of it. The results will be surprising, depending on the effort you put into it.
Chris Brogan is the New York Times bestselling author of the NEW book, Social Media 101. He is president of New Marketing Labs, LLC, and blogs at chrisbrogan.com.
Image credit: Beth Rankin