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Social media…what’s in it for the security dealer/integrator? It is a valid question. We all have limited hours each day in our professional lives to accomplish goals and deliver on promises; so, instead of thinking of social media as an additive property, think of it as a complement to your existing activities and the work you are already investing in on lead generation, customer communication and support, client retention, research and training.
Social Media opens doors to vast opportunities, which can be linked to many facets of your business, such as marketing, sales, customer service and tech support. Narrowing the scope to just marketing, social media is a component of “inbound marketing” — promoting a company through blogs, podcasts, video, eBooks, e-newsletters, whitepapers, content optimized for search engines (SEO) and others to help a business get discovered and generate sales leads.
The best takeaway about using social media is to change your mindset from “What can I/we sell” to “How can I/we help.”
The Benefits of Getting Involved
With the Internet’s evolution, more and more consumers, influencers and decision-makers have turned to the Web for information. With social media, these same folks are asking questions, voicing opinions, requesting recommendations, and talking about products and services online through a variety of platforms.
Do you wonder what are people saying about your business? Are you even relevant? You will not know unless you are an active participant. Public conversations about the physical security market are happening right now. People are talking about which products to buy, which solutions to stay away from, who is a top-notch systems integrator and who is not. Social media allows everyone to be part of the discussion — it is two-way communication.
Social media can provide a glimpse into what others think is important and then enable someone to use that information to support their business. With social media, it is important to be real — people want to hire and buy from other people, not businesses. The social media space allows for companies to step outside of the traditional “box” of print/television media and start being real. For small businesses, the economic barriers of traditional “boxes” become less relevant with social media.
Security dealers and integrators are in beneficial position of operating in both the business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) models, which offers greater reach through social media. Not only is it advantageous to listen and communicate with end-users, but being able to stay up to speed with timely training and product information and providing feedback to industry organizations and manufacturers helps your business be a greater influence within the security industry.
The benefits of learning and communicating with end-users, customers and business partners via social media cannot be overstated; however, social media is a cavernous tool and should be approached with a plan. Start slow by focusing on a single social media site and spend time observing and learning the ropes before developing your approach. Clarify your social media goals and outline how you plan to reach and measure them. As you grow, complete your social media profiles in a consistent manner to help with recognition.
Before engaging in Social Media, it is important to write down several clear business social media goals and then make decisions to help achieve them. Some goal types could include raising brand awareness, increasing more traffic to your blog or website, providing better customer support or generating more sales leads. Regardless of the goals, it is important to prioritize when, where, and how to spend resources on your efforts.
When it comes to setting-up and staying current with social network change, Social Media Examiner (www.socialmediaexaminer.com), the world’s largest online social media magazine, is a good place to start. The top social networks are: LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and Google+.
LinkedIn is considered the “business social network” and every company should at least setup a LinkedIn "Company Page." Every employee should have their own LinkedIn profile that lists their current employer and areas of expertise. The development of one’s personal brand directly benefits the company, and LinkedIn profiles are a great way to show industry authority. There are also several LinkedIn Groups centered on the security industry for individuals to join and contribute expertise, ask questions, and in some cases promote products and services.
The security industry is very active on Twitter. After creating a twitter account, start following a handful of accounts to create a customized stream of information in your feed (Editor’s Note: highly recommended is this magazine, @SecurityDealer). Retweet informative posts and observe how others are using the medium to get a better understanding of the language and etiquette. Then, start replying to questions, ask your own, and post links to informative content. Following security tradeshow hashtags is a great way to learn about new security products and trends.
The use of YouTube can also be a valuable tool for the security integrator (see "Making the Most of Online Videos" in this issue). It’s hard to beat a short 1-2 minute video explaining how to use a product or service you sell or install. The use of a YouTube playlist is a great way to organize your content and even re-purpose manufacturer videos for your own subscribers.
Facebook is the world’s largest social network, with more than one billion members, so it should be a consideration of your social media strategy. However, most Facebook users — even security professionals — tend to use the service for catching up with family and friends, sharing more opinionated content and to be entertained. So consider the messaging and effort required before creating a Facebook Page for your business.
Finally, take a look into Google+, a similar service to Facebook whose members tend to be a bit more tech savvy. Google+ has an integrated video conferencing feature called “hangouts” which could enhance customer engagement and training. And with Google’s command of Internet search, it makes sense to eventually create a Google+ page for your business. But as with any social profile, it‘s important that it can be monitored and cultivated.
When picking a social media platform, it is important to interact on the social networks where your target audience spends the most amount of time. If you are not sure where, ask a few of your customers and colleagues. And then remember to provide your followers with quality information and reasons to engage by connecting with them on the personal level.
The key to being successful in social media is to be interesting. If you are boring in social media, no one will want to share what you have to say. Also be visual, as imagery and video are some of the most sharable types of content.
Finding Relevant Info and Conversations
A big part in developing your social media prowess is sharing relevant, informative and even entertaining content. Here are a few ways to find quality content to share with others.
• Set up Google Alerts (www.google.com/alerts) to receive email updates of the latest relevant Google results (web, news, etc.) based on your queries (i.e. “Healthcare Security”). Visit appealing links, share the quality content with your followers, and/or leave comments when applicable.
• Create Twitter lists around specific types of twitter users (trade publications, manufacturers, tradeshows, competitors, news outlets, comedians, etc.) to skim consolidated tweets for sharing and engagement.
• Cultivate your “LinkedIn Pulse” (www.linkedin.com/pulse/discover) by following industry leaders, topics and publishers. This will deliver news and insights to read, like, share and comment.
With experience and analysis, certain content will surface as more sharable and engaging to your target market. And as your audience grows, so will your need for social media management tools.
Social Media Dashboards
We need to maximize our social media time in order to get the most out of available resources, so time management becomes paramount. Social media dashboards, such as HootSuite, TweetDeck, or Yoono can help you more efficiently manage your social media efforts. It is also advisable to create a time budget limiting your social media time to a daily or weekly total that easily fits in your schedule.
Social dashboards let you to set up notifications, quickly skim activity and schedule updates to automate some of the social media process. Take care not to over-automate, and rarely is it OK to write one update and post to multiple social networks (i.e. don’t auto-publish twitter posts to your Facebook Page), as each network has its own language and nuances to be considered — the same quality content should be posted across your social media profiles, just tailor the message accordingly.
The benefits of learning and communicating with end users and business partners via social media cannot be overstated. However, social media is a cavernous tool and should be approached with a plan. Start slow by focusing on a single social media site and spend time observing and learning the ropes before developing your approach. Clarify your social media goals and outline how you plan to reach and measure them. As you grow, complete your social media profiles in a consistent manner to help with recognition.
Share quality content, engage others, reply in a timely manner, and demonstrate how you can help your target audience - don’t try and sell to them on social media. While some promotion is okay, keep it to only about 10-15% of the interaction. As your social presence grows, enlist the aid of a social dashboard for publishing and analytic efficiency. And remember to be social, polite, helpful, and reliable. Social media can be a great tool to build relationships and trust for your company and your personal brand. ”
Chuck Vion is Social Media Marketing Program Manager for Tyco Security Products. To request more info about the company, visit www.securityinfowatch.com/10547368.