Ask the expert: What are 'social media' and how can businesses use them?

  • Updated: March 15, 2009 - 10:45 PM

Q I have been hearing a lot lately about businesses using social media as a way of marketing. What exactly are social media and what kinds are out there? What is the most effective way for a retail bakery like mine to use social media to reach out to our customers and find new ones?

KATIE NOVOTNY

OWNER,

ST. PAUL CLASSIC COOKIE CO.

A Social media essentially are communications about your company carried via social networks as opposed to traditional commercial channels such as advertisements. In a sense, writing a comment for posting on the Star Tribune about social media is itself a form of social media. A quick check on the Web shows that you are already involved in social media: You blog, Twitter and have a Facebook page.

However, one of the keys to making social media work is that you need to give people a reason to participate. In Twitter terms, you need to generate followers. Ironically, this requires more of a community presence because nobody ever became famous on Twitter. Although these social methods are raising awareness and perhaps even interest in your store, they fail to encourage people to take action. They don't drive business.

We noticed that you don't seem to have a regular Web page for your company. Although having one is more complicated than your current social media approach, it will also provide you an opportunity to connect with potential customers. In essence, use your social media efforts to get people to visit your website where you can convert them to customers.

JAMES E. HEYMAN

ASSISTANT PROFESSOR

OF MARKETING,

UNIVERSITY OF ST. THOMAS

OPUS COLLEGE OF BUSINESS

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