There’s a lot of talk these days about how social media can be used, both professionally and otherwise. And while social media doesn’t dominate the world, it at least dominates the Web. Why not use its components to expand your network, improve your customer service, build relationships, recruit employees, and enhance your world view.
Here are 10 reasons why you should use social media to enhance your professional career, and/or your ag retail business.
1. Networking. Social media participation is an essential tool in networking with professional contacts, making new contacts, and keeping in touch with the world. Envision mingling with leaders in your field without having to meet them. Join groups that share your interests, your community, or your profession. Facebook, as an example, allows you to create groups. I’m a member of several ag-related groups and other members point me to interesting online articles. Following people on Twitter also yields content recommendations. Twitter groups are increasingly scheduling in-person “meetups” so that people who are interacting online can meet face-to-face.
2. Customer service. Social networking your customer service elevates it to a new, transparent level. Provide a space in which customers can interact with you. Customers want to have a conversation with you about their needs. They want to tell you how you can better serve them. Many of them want to build a community around products or services that they use. Give them the opportunity. Use your customers’ feedback to improve.
3. Recruiting. Using social media for employee recruitment can help you find qualified individuals by enlarging your candidate pool. You can e-mail your network with job requirements and ask for referrals. Tap into the power of your current employees’ networks by asking them to broadcast available positions to their networks. This is a good way to obtain passive candidates, people who may not be actively seeking work.
4. Expertise. Sharing information and the latest news within your area of expertise positions you as the go-to person and an industry leader. People are always respectful of those who willingly share valuable information that helps them. Use your knowledge to connect with people looking for answers in your field. Provide links to related articles and free content. Brand yourself as an expert.
5. Build relationships. Using social media provides great opportunities to establish and build relationships. There is no time constraints like offline life where meetings have to be at a designated place at a given time. The use of social media tools could not make this situation easier.
6. Research. Social media is an excellent tool for research and keeping up with the latest news. On Twitter, for example, you don’t necessarily need to “follow” people or for them to follow you to read their tweets and click on their links. With relationships established, you can reach out to your potential customers and find out exactly what issues or problems they are having and would like to have solved. This is an ideal way to determine what products and services you can offer that customers are interested in buying.
7. Simplicity. Twitter and Facebook are easier for people to understand than many other social media sites. There are only a few concepts to learn: how to create a profile, follow, update, reply, search, retweet, and hashtags. You can also create your own social network without any difficulty. At the CropLife Media Group, we’ve created two networks — www.PrecisionAgNetwork.com and www.MyCropProtection.com — using a popular online service called Ning.
8. Competitive edge. Because there are so many other ag retail businesses that have not embraced the use of social media, an opportunity is on the table for you to jump ahead of the pack. One of the largest advantages in any business is to do more than the competition.
9. Joint venture possibilities. Having a presence online has always been valuable. You never know when someone may have something of value to add to your business. Perhaps they have a product that can be combined with your service or vice-versa, thereby creating an opportunity for a joint venture. This could lead to long-standing business relationships and winning situations for all involved.
10. Why not? What sound reason could there be for not promoting your business and reaching more potential customers? You can sign up on as many as you want, and most sites are free unless you want their premium or advertising services.
Now be careful. Just because there are at least 10 reasons to use social media does not mean you should spend all of your time on Facebook or Twitter. Everything in moderation, right? Social media is just a tool… that’s IT. But it’s a versatile, extremely powerful tool with an immense amount of potential I believe we’re only just beginning to tap into.