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August 24, 2011
Don't Just Make Noise: Build Your Business With Social Media
 
A friend posed a question a couple days ago (on Facebook, of course): “How easy it is to get caught up in the NOISE of Social Media? Being more concerned with how many events you check in at and how many "mentions" you receive is a dangerous practice. One day you could look up and realize that you made a lot of noise, and never really built a business.”
 
I have often said that a business owner must have a plan for what they plan to do with social media, mostly so they don’t waste time. Social media is time-consuming. You have to make a plan so it doesn’t become a time-waster.
 
So how do we build our businesses instead of merely making noise? The answer to this question will be different for each business and your own preferences, but here are some more questions to ask yourself when developing your strategy.
 
1. How do I improve customer engagement with social media? Is someone who is engaged in your social media marketing necessarily a customer?
A percentage of your engaged followers will become customers. Marketers must learn how to connect with customers, how to build a raving fan base, and how to get social media followers to actively engage online and eventually bring sales. Again, this will be different for each business, but the answer is in the content. Content that sells will keep followers coming back to your social media sites and refer your business to their friends. (Customer +1 +1 +1 and so on.)
 
2. What are the best ways to sell with social media?
Marketing with social media means converting fans and followers into paying customers. Make the move from being social to making deals without breaking the unwritten rules of the community. Easier said than done, I know. You can really make money through social media AND build awareness and loyalty by crafting the right message. The right message will all depend on your brand and your goals. Follow the right people in social media (competitors included) to learn how.
 
3. How do I integrate and manage all of my social media marketing activities? Integrate your social media efforts into an overall marketing plan by using tools that manage all of your social media accounts. This will help you to market with social media and with other media. Develop your social media strategy and empower your employees to help make it a success.
 
4. How do I measure the effect of social media marketing?
After you determine a strategy and craft the right content, find a tool to monitor, measure, and track your investment into social media activities. There are several out there, and new ones are developed every day. Does business increase if you make a certain amount of noise in social media? Try to establish how much time and resources will be spent. Would it be better to cut that time down and spend more time on another area of marketing for your business? How much is a Facebook friend or fan worth to your business?
 
Social media marketing has moved from an uncertain strategy to a permanent fixture to a primary tool in businesses’ marketing plans. Is this the right way to go for your business? You’ll have to make that determination, but you must make it. Don’t guess at your business’ success. Experiment, yes, but don’t waste years with marketing strategies that don’t pay the bills. 

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Larissa Harris is a graphic designer, Web developer, and social media marketer. Read her blog, LarissaHarris.com; "like" her Facebook page; or follow her on Twitter
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