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6 ways social media can boost your business

By Bob Violino, Network World
October 14, 2013 06:02 AM ET
social media

Network World - If your company isn't fully taking advantage of social media, it might be missing out on opportunities to connect with customers, gain market share and bring needed talent into the organization.

Experts say virtually every type of business can benefit from using social media as a business tool.

“We really are seeing interest and the potential for business value across the board,” says Jeffrey Mann, research vice president at Gartner. “No one is immune, although it will be easier for some than others.”

The most likely to see value, Mann says, are knowledge-based and highly collaborative industries such as media, education, consulting and high technology; industries or organizations that aren’t hamstrung by regulation; and organizations with younger employees who are accustomed to working with social media.

Here are some ways organizations are leveraging social networking tools for business advantage.

[TECH ARGUMENT: All social media vs. ban social media]

1. Customer Acquisition/Increased Sales

For many companies, particularly those aiming to reach a younger audience, having a strong social media presence can lead to increased revenue.

Spreadshirt, a fast-growing, Boston-based provider of custom T-shirts and other personalized apparel, is parleying popularity on Facebook into higher sales of its products.

“One of our main initiative has been to convert visitors to our site into Facebook fans,” says Adam Lasky, marketing manager, North America, at Spreadshirt. “One of our goals [is] to increase our fan base with users who genuinely have an affinity for us, rather than merely acquiring low-value fans that never engage with our content.”

To gain traction on social media, it’s important to make links to your sites easy to find. Spreadsheet had originally placed a Facebook fan icon low on its homepage, but once it moved the icon to a more noticeable location, it saw an increase in fans and social media engagement, Lasky says.

“With conversion rates holding steady, revenue has increased due to a larger audience,” Lasky says. In its last promotion, the company saw 23% of all sales come from social media, which was an improvement from its previous promotions — due largely to the fact that Spreadshirt increased its Facebook fan base.

The company is looking to test exclusive offers on Facebook that contain deep discounts to standard products, starting with the basic T-shirt.

Another company, LoopLoft, an online business in Boston that records and provides a range of loop samples for drums and other instruments, is seeing increased sales through social media.

“Both Twitter and Facebook have been instrumental in growing our revenue 300% year over year since we started,” says Ryan Gruss, founder and CEO. “Since we produce digital content for much larger music software companies like Ableton and Propellerhead, our YouTube and Vimeo video demos often receive retweets or shares into their social media channels.”

This sort of "piggyback" method is key, Gruss says, because it can instantly drive tens of thousands of targeted users to the company’s site, “without us spending a cent on advertising. I look at social media as our best initial source for getting potential customers into our sales ‘funnel’, and when those people are coming from software companies that we strategically partner with, the conversion rates are much, much higher.”

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