February 1, 2013
Social media isn't just fun and games. It's a way for businesses to connect with other businesses.
By Joan Barnes, Vice President of Marketing, Community Reinvestment Fund, USA
Small business lenders that want to generate interest in their loan products could try something that's - well, not exactly new. But it could be a new approach for them.
Now before you stop reading, I'm not talking about Facebook. I'm talking about platforms such as LinkedIn and Merchant Circle where your audience - small business owners - are hanging out.
Many small businesses have small budgets, and the savvier ones use social media because it's an inexpensive way to find and connect with their customers. So it's the perfect place for you, too, to connect with business owners to let them know you're out there listening and available to help them when they need a business loan.
Tip #1: Use Keywords in your Profiles
LinkedIn is a powerful platform where anyone who's in business should have a professional profile.
Your goal with your profile is to get found by potential customers and business partners. But there's a trick to getting your profile found among the millions of profiles. It's called keywords.
You need to research and find the keywords that people are using to find you and your company. Then your professional headline and summary should be rich in those keywords. Your profile should also include a compelling reason why people would want to connect with you (i.e., your "elevator" pitch).
Once your profile is completed (don't forget to include a professional photo and ideally 2-3 recommendations to help boost your credibility), start reaching out like crazy. Connect to everyone you meet. Always use a personal note, not the canned one, that explains why you want to connect when reaching out to new connections.
Don't forget about Merchant Circle. A lot of small businesses are active on Merchant Circle. Get connected to the types of merchants that could use your services and expand your reach there as well.
Tip #2: Listen to What your Customers Are Talking About
Join the LinkedIn groups where your target customers are hanging out (you can join up to 50 groups). Another advantage of joining groups is that when you want to connect with someone in that group, you don't need to know their e-mail address.
Joining groups and participating and providing answers helps position you as a valuable resource while boosting your visibility and credibility. You'll be amazed what you can learn just by listening and participating in those conversations about financing. You can even start a conversation. But remember that social media is a listening and engagement platform, NOT an announcement platform.
Tip #3: Keep Your Network Engaged
Post Updates. Post updates frequently (once or twice a week). Link to your blog or some content that you find particularly interesting. Pick your words carefully and use tantalizing language that will make them want to read more, engage and even comment.
Speaking of your blog, you do have a blog, don't you?! Blogs are the best, because they help drive traffic back to your website where the blog is hosted. You also increase traffic to your website when you use keywords in the title and throughout your blog posting.
Join Group Discussions. Ask and answer questions from people in your groups at least once a month. If you post a blog, you could ask people to comment on issues you raise in the blog. The more you add valuable content and the less you self-promote, the better, and the faster you'll develop a following.
Finally, don't forget to promote your LinkedIn presence! Use your LinkedIn profile URL in your e-mail signature, on your blog and if you have a profile on your website.
Doing all of this may seem like a lot of work. But just think of the value of connecting with new customers while building stronger relationships with your current customers. One is silver and the other gold.
Posted by: CRFUSA