THE BLOG
10/23/2014 05:53 pm ET Updated Dec 23, 2014

3 Ways to Tap Social Media to Fuel Business Results

If you're a small business owner and you want to pack more punch into your PR, sales and recruiting efforts but don't have a million dollar budget, I have a little secret to share. Social media can add some pedal to your metal, and you may already have the resources in place to get started for little cost.

Many companies realize they "need" to "do" social, but they're not really sure what it means, how it fits into their business model or how it impacts business results. Couple this with the fear of doing it wrong and lack of dedicated resources to manage the efforts, and social media gets put on the back burner again.

Social media is both an art and a science, and with the right amount of focus, planning and execution, it can open up new avenues to communicate your message to the (targeted) masses and turn your employees into powerful storytelling forces.

Let's take a look at three important areas of your business where social media activity can reap rewards. But before we dive in, there's one very important thing to remember. Social media is all about connections! Even with all the communication tools today, we sometimes forget how to truly connect. Your goal should be to educate, entertain and engage your social media communities without asking for anything in return.

Amp Up Your Public Relations
The bottom line is this -- social media can supercharge your PR campaigns. So where do you start and how do you unlock the potential? You start by understanding who you're trying to reach and what messages will resonate with them. Then take a look at your communications and PR plans and ask yourself where social media can be integrated. Can you get creative with an upcoming product announcement? Can you reach people through social media to promote your presence at an upcoming industry conference? Can your executives' speaking schedules be promoted on social media? Social media integration should be part of your planning, not an idea you add-on at the end.

Now, take a look at the content you already have at your disposal-- I bet you'll be pleasantly surprised at all you have to work with. Even if content feels old to you, it should be considered for reuse and repurposing. I call it "deconstructing" the asset. Turn an article into a company blog post, make quotes and statistics stand out with quote cards on Facebook, share business insights in a LinkedIn post. Once you've (re)created your assets, continue to drive awareness by posting them multiple times, highlighting a different part of the message each time. Don't get overwhelmed by the need to create new content - find ways to increase the mileage you get out of what you already have. The latest Vocus State of Public Relations report showed that 78% of PR professionals that responded use social to share content and more than 50% of them use social 58 percent use social to follow trends and share media coverage.

Here are some tips to help you get started:
  • Monitor social conversations. What are people talking about? Turn trending topics into content.
  • Create a video. Conduct a quick interview with your team or a client or a new employee. Videos don't have to be professionally-produced to be effective.
  • Build a list. "Best" or "worst" tips, recommendations or myths related to your industry.
  • Conduct original research. Poll customers and/or your social media community.

Rev Up Your Sales Revenue
Social media can be intimidating even to the most experienced sales person. But keep your eyes on the prize: what social offers is a chance to build trust with potential customers. At its core sales is about building and maintaining relationships, and social media offers another way to do just this. Social listening is "the process of monitoring digital media channels to devise a strategy that will better influence consumers." A recent study by WebDAM found that 43% of companies found a customer via LinkedIn and 52% via Facebook.

My personal experience with social listening paid dividends. While leading the social media efforts at a global technology company, I worked closely with our lead generation team to find ways to engage potential customers through social media. We studied hundreds of posts on Twitter and LinkedIn to identify common themes. We listened to what people were saying about the industry, which gave us valuable information. By tracking people's issues and business pains we were able compile a list of "keywords." For example, "My streaming video keeps cutting out!" or "Apologies - our website is down after being hacked" yielded keywords related to the company's technology solutions in those areas. My team set up Twitter lists to monitor social media for conversations that used these keywords and then used them to connect via Twitter or LinkedIn with a personalized email that offered a solution. We tracked every interaction in our CRM system and after a few months of activity, the results showed that we were capturing new leads and closing deals.

Find New Candidate Nirvana
Social media can play a key role in attracting new talent. While the number one thing candidates are looking for is job opportunities, they also want to know what it's like to work somewhere.

Here are 3 ideas to showcase your brand's personality and drive top talent to your company:
  • A picture is worth a thousand words. Images offer a way to tell
  • prospective candidates your company's story. Entice them with photo albums that show them your company's culture: 'Employee of the Week,' 'The Faces behind our New Hires,' and 'A Peek Inside Our Office.'
  • Say goodbye to the traditional job description. Limit your basic "we're hiring" social media posts that only talk about the job title with ones that bring the job to life. Deconstruct the job description - turn it into tweets, a blog post, a short video, etc.
  • Have new hires blog about their first few months on the job to give an inside look at what it's like for new employees.

Social media at its core simply provides a new place to communicate, but its rapid growth has left many unsure of how to use it and unable to learn as quickly as new social media channels arise. Take a little time to identify the right social media audiences for your company, unearth your best content and engage in a bit of social "listening", and you'll be on your way.

This article is a part of a series exploring communications and media trends in honor of the inaugural Communications Week, a week-long series of events celebrating the communications industry, held from October 20-24, 2014. Follow @CommsWeekNY.

Post by Jennifer Donovan, the founder of Nova Communications. You can reach her at (@jendonovansf).