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Moving beyond Facebook. 5 tips to make your business sparkle

beyondfacebook310961879330.7032

September 2011

With new ones popping up and old ones getting resurrected, social networks are far from fading out. Sometimes it seems social networking will continue to grow until the six degrees of Kevin Bacon myth is scientifically verifiable. We’re getting close. If you can figure how to ‘circumnavigate’ Google+, you can connect with practically anyone (even Mark Zuckerberg).

But what does all this mean for your business?

Since their inceptions, Facebook and Twitter have been the most prominent ways to promote your company and interact with customers. Now assuming you’ve mastered the basics of social media 101, it’s time to enroll in some more advanced measures. To stay a step ahead of the competition, make sure to include these five oft-overlooked networks in your SMB social strategy:
  1. Spiceworks—The hottest place for IT management solutions
  2. IT Toolbox—Knowledge-sharing online community support
  3. Foursquare—Promote and build customer loyalty
  4. YouTube—Spread the love of your business with video content
  5. QR technology—Matrix bar codes invite customers to interact
Spice IT up
With a name like Spiceworks, it has to be stimulating, right? Well that’s the concept behind this IT-industry social community. Let’s face it, IT has never been known for being especially cool. Most would describe it as bland or boring. So why not add some spice to IT? That’s just what the founders of Spiceworks decided to do with their Facebook-like community platform.

Spiceworks addresses common SMB budget and technology challenges by simplifying the tasks needed to manage smaller IT operations. The social IT site was the first to offer free IT management software designed specifically for SMB IT teams. And, its IT Desktop tool integrates features that help you monitor and report on software and hardware running your networks. Take advantage of this social network that makes IT management as simple as browsing the web.

The sharpest tool in the IT shed
IT Toolbox is an online community that allows peers to share and spread IT wisdom. Since 1998, the network has helped professionals make decisions and stay in-the-know in the technology market through peer collaboration. The goal is to give IT professionals’ access to a network of knowledge-sharing online communities. As a member, you’re privy to the collective knowledge of a global community of experienced pros.

With IT Toolbox you can:
  • Collaborate to resolve problems faster and more efficiently
  • Build professional networks
  • Read and post blogs
  • Get targeted information by leveraging specific groups
  • Access community-generated wikis
  • Research IT-specific directories
Check out checking in
By now you’ve likely heard of Foursquare. It’s an interactive social networking site that allows users to let their friends know their whereabouts by “checking in” at the businesses they’re visiting. Using their smartphones, your customers can immediately let their friends know that they’re shopping at your store or eating at your restaurant. Their friends will also see a map of your business’ location. What better endorsement than this free word-of-mouth exposure?

As a small business owner, you can use Foursquare’s free tools to promote your products or services and build loyalty. Foursquare’s Merchant Platform enables you to offer attractive specials to your customers. Foursquare Specials include everything from mobile coupons, discounts and prizes to reserved parking for your most dedicated patrons.

The Foursquare app is available free of charge for the HP Pre, Pixi, Veer, and Pre2. [1]

Videos add business value
Think your website’s embedded business video is set to go viral, becoming the next YouTube sensation? Maybe not, but there are salient reasons you should be using the video-uploading and -sharing site. Uploading to YouTube gives you more ways to connect with customers and for your customers to promote your brand. For instance, you can create your own channel on YouTube just for your brand. Check out the HP Printing Channel on YouTube for how HP is using the page not only to share videos but to also chat with the channel’s subscribers and other followers. 

And the beauty of YouTube is that it creates an embed code for each of your videos so that you can embed the video directly to your blog or your website. Your customers could also use the code to embed your video into their blogs or websites. That’s free advertising right there!

Of course your video has to be enticing—and short—for customers to want to view or even embed it. If you sell products, think about creating a video about how to use them. If you own a restaurant, shoot a video of its interior. Perhaps you could interview your chef or host about their job, or give views a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the busy kitchen. Be creative and spontaneous. You can shoot videos wherever you are with your HP smartphone (HP Veer 4G, Pre, Pre 2, Pixi, Pixi Plus and Pre Plus) and the HP TouchPad. [2]

Get interactive with QR codes
QR (quick response) technology is the newest craze to hit the streets (or even tombstones). It’s a matrix barcode that is readable by your smartphone camera. Inside the square-shaped code is a URL that redirects to a webpage. (Check the HP App Catalog for QR code reader apps that decode QR codes with your phone’s camera. One example is QR deCODEr. [3])

QR codes are everywhere from billboards to buses to newspapers. But how can they work to improve your small business?

Your customers can instantly interact with your website—even when they’re not spending dedicated time online. You could display a QR code for your website on your store window or on your business card. Your customers scan that code with their smartphone and instantly view your website. You could take this a step further and offer coupons and special deals through your QR code. It’s a great way to increase brand-to-customer engagement.

>> Read more about how SMBs can leverage and create QR codes .

Diversity is key
Remember, there’s more to small business promotion than the one-two Twitter-Facebook punch. Diversify your social media portfolio to stand out from—and lead—the pack. How does your business use social media to stay competitive?

For more information
@HP_SmallBiz
367 Addison Avenue blog

[1] The Foursquare app. Price: FREE. Requires: webOS 1.4.0 Version: 2.7.5. Message and Data Rates may apply. For help or information on this program, send "HELP" to 42975. To opt-out of this program, send "STOP" to 42975 at any time. For additional assistance, please visit the Customer Support site. Supported Carriers: AT&T, O2 Germany, O2 Ireland, O2 UK, Rogers Wireless, SFR, Sprint, Verizon Wireless

[2] Within wireless coverage area only. Actual speeds may vary. Email, mobile number, and related information required for setup and activation. Required data services sold separately; unlimited plan recommended and may be required. Not all Web content may be available.

[3] QR deCODEr. Price: FREE. Requires: webOS 1.3.1 Version: 0.2.3. Message and Data Rates may apply. For help or information on this program, send "HELP" to 42975. To opt-out of this program, send "STOP" to 42975 at any time. For additional assistance, please visit the Customer Support site. Supported Carriers: AT&T, O2 Germany, O2 Ireland, O2 UK, Rogers Wireless, SFR, Sprint, Verizon Wireless
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