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Being Present vs. Having a Presence

So you started a Facebook fan page, a Twitter account and a YouTube channel for your company like everyone told you to. Great, now you can mark Social Media off your to do list for 2011. Well, not exactly.

With the evolution of social media, businesses have had to reevaluate how they reach their target market. Successful advertising is no longer a blasting of a one-way message via TV spots, radio spots, print ads, etc. Today, the message is a two-way conversation between advertisers and their customers. Facebook and Twitter have become the frontrunners of new media, offering a space for this conversation, while YouTube is in a neck-and-neck battle with Google for the top search engine. With over 500 million users on Facebook, over 175 million users on Twitter and over 2 billion views per day on YouTube, it is hard to deny the impact that social media has on the world. Fortunately, many business owners have conquered the first hurdle by acknowledging this.

Once you accept the fact that social media is not a fad and that it isn’t going anywhere, the next step is creating company branded accounts on all the social media channels. If you build it they will come, right? Not necessarily. This is the one mistaken assumption that many business owners make. It is crucial to understand the difference in being present versus having a presence. Sure, you can tell the world to “like” your company on Facebook or to follow you on Twitter, but why should they? Are you posting relevant content? Are you engaging your customers? What are you doing to attract new customers?

It is one thing to create a fan page that you update every six months or so and quite another to have a page that is active with status updates, photos, videos and commentary with your “fans.” So, how active is active enough? This is somewhat relative. There is no cut and dry, cookie cutter, one-size-fits-all answer. Every industry, company and market will be different. It’s all about the basics; quality over quantity, and relevant content over fluff. Post content that your fans will care about. Give them a reason to come back to your page. Once they are on your page, get them engaged! Use photos of a recent event to start a conversation. Use your status update as a place to make company announcements. The point is, if it doesn’t move the needle, then it isn’t worth doing.

All of this sounds fantastic, but who has time for all of that? It seems like a lot of work. The truth is you don’t have to spend hours a day updating your status or writing long-winded blog posts. Start small. Try setting aside 10 minutes a day to devote to social media. Upload a photo of your newest product, mention an improvement to one of your services, or reach out to a customer thanking him for the business. In return, your followers and fans will speak back to you. They will ask for more. They will ask questions, tell you their opinions and comment on your page. Your following will grow organically. If they see you are listening and participating in the conversation, their loyalty to you will grow stronger. And the best part? The price to create a fan page, Twitter account or YouTube channel is free. The only cost is a little of your time. Your customers are already in the social space. The question is, will you choose to be present or to have a presence?

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