Social Media for Business Use:
Design a Strategy to Prepare and Implement Using Tools Available Online
 
By Diane McGlothlin
14 June 2015
 
Abstract
Research results indicate that the use of Social Media for promotion of business interests is increasing. This use has in fact become so pervasive that a considered opinion could be that using Social Media in business interactions is rapidly becoming mandatory. Many small to medium sized business owners may think that they don’t possess enough expertise to incorporate Social Media into the business strategy. The subjects covered by this paper include studies of various Social Media sites and the tools available for integrating business advertising and marketing with Social Media.
Introduction
Incorporating Social Media into a comprehensive business strategy requires some technical acumen from the small to medium-sized business owner. However, the owner need not despair if he is not familiar with Social Media and how to take advantage of the many tools available. Many online websites offer free advice on how to design a strategy that involves the customer actively in the marketing process. The topics discussed in this white paper include such considerations as how to discover the customer base, designing and implementing a sales-marketing strategy that includes Social Media interaction, and analyzing effectiveness of results. With the tips, tutorials, and tools available on these Social Media sites, this entire process can be made easy enough for even a novice business owner to implement.   
Problem Statement
How can the non-technically savvy small to medium-sized business owner learn to design and implement a business strategy incorporating Social Media?
Proposed Solution
Social Media sites offer tutorials, tips, templates, advice, and apps (applications) that assist with creating and integrating an advertising and marketing strategy into the business plan. The small to medium sized business owner can capitalize on the growing trend to incorporate Social Media into more aspects of a potential customer’s life. Content is important, as well as presentation, and many of these sites offer advice on designing a Social Media campaign that is eye-catching and effective. Analytics are also offered on most sites so the owner can track number of users, sales to hits ratios, and effectiveness of the advertising campaign as a means to attract visitors to sites and turn those visitors into customers.
 
Important Ideas and Concepts
Many small business owners have developed a personalized strategy for managing their own particular business. Adding an advertising and marketing campaign using online tools may be an easy task for some of these owners but for those who are baffled by the complexities of computers, assistance may be needed. A survey of online Social Media sites reveals that almost every site has a compilation of tools to help any business create an advertising and marketing campaign using that particular site. The advent of online shopping and the growing integration of online shopping with Social Media portend a new venue of communication for the business owner to interact with consumers.
Businesses across the globe are beginning to realize the potential of Social Media for increased customer interaction. Some commentators hold that Social Media advertising, marketing, and online shopping are increasingly important as an integral part of any business plan. The unique feature of online Social Media as a consumer initiated and generated media affords the business owner with a ready-made audience. Taking advantage of this opportunity to communicate with potential customers on a personal basis seems like child’s play. Once the principles are grasped, almost any small business owner can create and manage an interactive presence through Social Media.
 
Understanding Social Media as a Business Tool
Some ideas regarding how to use Social Media include tips on content, presentation, targeted audience and appropriate types of advertising to post for each type of site. For example, LinkedIn targets business professionals and needs a more business-like approach. Facebook is a site for more casual and familiar interactions, so this content needs a somewhat more home-spun approach. Tweeting uses a small, targeted message and is more appropriate for more spontaneous messages. Tailoring the content and tactics for each type of site improves chances of successful marketing.
 
How Social Media Affects Business Strategy
Business owners who realize the effect of Social Media on marketing can take advantage of a wide range of customer interaction and behavior ranges. Using Social Media to promote awareness of business images, acquire information about the customers’ attitudes, preferences, and purchasing behavior assists the business to tailor their marketing program for most effective results. Also important for businesses to realize is that not only are the customers interacting with them, the customers interact with each other. Business image and reputation as seen by the customers is not only crucial, it is almost instantaneously transmitted to other interested consumers. Other considerations for the business owner to take into account are the necessary adjustments that must be made in-house. How is the use of Social Media for advertising going to affect the management of the company? Some of these issues are discussed here.
Resources
Smaller companies may have access to fewer hardware and software resources, however with online tools this issue can be overcome. Cloud computing also offers storage and information management resources that can add to the capabilities of a company.
            Personnel Issues
Combining HR and IT technologies leads to methodologies that are transforming workforce management. Managers who combine Social Media with HR find that IT and HR need to interact. With the importance of personnel management and choices becoming more apparent in the customer-centric Social Media scene, companies need to take advantage of the sophisticated tools available online. Cloud computing capabilities can be a valuable asset to use for determining effectiveness of the business marketing strategy.
            Management Changes
Management methods will also change along with the continued integration of online technologies into all aspects of business strategy and planning. Organizations need to develop a strategy that involves HR professionals with IT and provides training on the use of social analytics, cloud services, and other tools where Social Media may be integrated into the business plan.
            Legal Issues
Of course legal matters must be considered and integrated into any strategy the company devises for this new technological paradigm. Internet laws and regulations governing financial transactions need to be integrated into the business plan along with those regarding content and presentation issues. Copyrights and other intellectual property matters also need to be considered and formal policies regarding all of these issues need to be created and distributed.
            Financials
Incorporating financial transactions with the online business strategy and including a Social Media marketing plan requires the business to integrate these technical applications into the online experience. Security issues are foremost and the business owner needs to ascertain the best services to use. Many services use PayPal and this seems to be a very secure site. PayPal is now combining with Facebook to offer financial services so this may be a good choice. Larger companies will have access to banking services through their own financial institutions, but of course fees apply.
Business Integration of Social Media
Integrating Social Media into the business marketing plan of a small to medium sized business may seem like a daunting task, however tools are available to assist with this process. Some examples of online tools and the sites that offer these helpful programs and applications are shown in the table below:
 Discover Customer Base
Businesses wishing to promote their Brand or Business Image using Social Media have many options available at this time. The entire idea of advertising using Social Media is currently experiencing a huge growth trend. Business owners can research the market and choose the medium that best suits their particular business style. Communicating with customers before, during, and after a purchase affords the business owner many opportunities for Brand Promotion or developing and strengthening customer loyalty. Image and reputation of every company are now up for scrutiny at any time by the consumer. Word of mouth or a tweet - the customer is becoming influential in the advertising strategy for many companies. Understanding the importance of reputation and the speed with which a business image spreads affects the way that businesses advertise and market the organization. Every company using Social Media for advertising needs to discover where their main customer base originates. The Social Media sites themselves have analytical tools that the business can take advantage of and use to create the most effective marketing strategy using each site.
Designing a Sales and Marketing Strategy Integrating Social Media
The future of sales and marketing lies with an integration into Social Media. This trend offers great opportunities for the Socially savvy business owner. Using the tutorials, templates, tips, and guides offered by most sites any business can create advertising and develop a marketing strategy that fits their business style. For those who would rather have a Social Media Management tool outside the Social Media site itself, other options are available.
Social Media Management Platforms: Hootsuite, Buffer, TweetDeck
These Social Media Management platforms offer a user-customized dashboard to manage multiple advertising accounts. Sign In can be made from Twitter, Facebook, or Google.
Hootsuite
Hootsuite offers services that can mobilize Social Media Management tools across an entire company. Providing a centralized dashboard, the company can manage marketing and sales strategy from multiple nodes along the network.
Buffer
Buffer allows access to multiple Social Media accounts and allows the user to publish on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or through Email. This could be useful for scheduling and posting with a minimum of effort. The system allows content management and spaces out the posting of Social Media messages over specified periods of time.
TweetDeck
TweetDeck is an expansion of Twitter. This tool allows the user to build collections, schedule postings, and manage multiple Twitter accounts.              
Analyze Effectiveness of Social Media Marketing Campaign
Of course, the effectiveness of any marketing campaign needs analysis to determine where weak spots exist and which methods are producing desired results. Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn all offer tools for analysis of marketing strategy. Number of hits, purchases, and some follow up can be tracked and statistically analyzed to assist with adjusting the marketing style for the most successful ideas.
            Analysis Tools Available Online
Each site offers a custom tailored system of analysis to determine which ads are producing results.
                   Track Users, Sales Ratios, Effectiveness of Advertising
                        Tips, Tools, Tutorials, Templates, Advice, and Apps
Facebook features tools to measure Likes, whether users Click on Links, Installation of Apps, responses to types of Ads, and several other services. Similarly, Twitter and LinkedIn offer many types of tracking and analysis tools.
                   Landing Pages
The concept of Landing Pages that offer an attractive place for a user to “Land On” as a single link to a business follows the trend using Social Media as an advertising platform. The object of the Landing Page is to guide the user to the desired location at the business website or to obtain contact information for the business to take the initiative in contact.
                   Keywords
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) works by using Keywords to point to websites. These Keywords need to reflect qualities of the business that may attract users to the services offered or the Brand or the Image of the company. The Semantic Web – searching by using meanings is also on the horizon, and this technique should be fairly easy to integrate into the existing framework for finding items on the Web. 
Evaluation of Possible Solutions
Each business approach to using Social Media as an advertising tool depends on the type of business, the foresight of the owners, and the technical acumen of the owner. Using the most effective Social Media sites as advertising tools also depends to a degree on the same information. Companies that wish to reach a more casual audience can use Facebook or Twitter. YouTube offers access to one of the most diverse groups of users and advertising campaigns can be tailored to fit the business needs and image. LinkedIn may work well for the more professional company as this network attracts this type of user. Each business needs to evaluate its own needs and methods and then to do the research to determine which Social Media site could represent the business values most closely. The opportunities are quite varied. This paper highlights only a few of the Social Media sites available. Other options could include connecting to specialized sites that feature similar items or services as the company delivers. Each business presents unique features that need to be accounted for and integrated into the overall business and marketing strategy. 
Prediction of Future Possibilities
Social Media as a marketing tool is really in its infancy. Facebook offered advertising to users first in 2005. The estimated revenue from this capability in 2015 predicted to reach at least Eight Billion Dollars. This should signal that this type of use for Social Media has a continuing destiny. Facebook and similar social sites are visited voluntarily by the users. This leads to a goldmine of personal information that businesses can capitalize on by using targeted ads and marketing campaigns. Advancing methods for tracking customer or user behavior during and after contact through Social Media offers companies the opportunity to adjust marketing strategies for the most success.
Conclusion
Including Social Media in the whole business plan provides benefits to businesses of any size. With some research into tips, tutorials, templates, and marketing advice the small business owner can tailor a marketing and advertising strategy that incorporates Social Media. These media giants offer businesses a willing and voluntary audience waiting to participate in interactions with almost any type of company or service. Facebook provides the most socialized venue. Twitter offers a convenient, constant, and apparent presence with the capability to schedule Tweets and even to use the TweetDeck to organize multiple Twitter accounts. LinkedIn appeals to the professional business person, so companies that fit into this category can find a large audience already at their doorstep. Using these advertising services requires a bit of research and effort, but support services are available. A company could also hire a professional service to assist with designing the advertising program and either option is acceptable. The future of advertising and marketing appears to be intertwined with Social Media. Almost any business can benefit from learning about the options available. Social Media merges with the present advertising regime of many companies and makes an excellent supplement to add to the marketing strategy.
References
Mangold, W. Glynn and Faulds, David J. Social media: The new hybrid element of the promotion mix. 2009. Kelley School of Business. Indiana University. http://www.researchgate.net/profile/David_Faulds/publication/222415599_Social_media_The_new_hybrid_element_of_the_promotion_mix/links/00463532845a0100af000000.pdf.
Milanovic, Randy. The world's 21 most important social media sites and apps in 2015. 13 April 2015. http://www.socialmediatoday.com/social-networks/2015-04-13/worlds-21-most-important-social-media-sites-and-apps-2015.
Sakamuro, S., Stolley, K., and Hyde, C. Purdue OWL Online Writing Lab White Papers. Copyright ©1995-2015 by The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue and Purdue University. https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/546/1/.
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