You've heard the terms "social media, "new media" or "inbound marketing." But the flurry of options has you confused. Twitter. Facebook. LinkedIn. Blogs. Ning. Where to begin? Here is some fast advice, in order of importance:
1. Web site. Make sure you have one, and make sure it is up to date. That means attractive, engaging and interactive. No more "electronic brochure."
2. Blog. Remember the rule, "If you want people to be interested, be interesting." A blog let's you share your knowledge with customers and prospects so that they begin to see you as the expert and thought leader in your field of expertise. It does not hurt that a blog can also help raise the visibility of your web presence.
3. LinkedIn. This business-oriented network is becoming increasingly popular and is a great way to make B2B contacts. But you have to work at it a little bit. Keep your profile up to day, join appropriate LinkedIn groups, and make sure your blog posts are sent to your LinkedIn profile to keep things interesting (there's that word again!).
4. Twitter. Don't "tweet" like a teenager seeking attention and approval. Use Twitter as a notification device when you have something worthwhile to convey. Like a new blog post, new product, update to your web site, etc. Include a link back for more information.
5. Facebook. The new business-oriented Facebook can become a gathering place for customers ("fans") and a way for prospects to check out your company. Set up a page for your business, or even several pages for different divisions or departments. Urge your customers to become fans and contribute their thoughts and comments. You may even want to set up an employee Facebook page for distribution of company information and feedback from employees.
6. Ning. Although not as well known, Ning may eventually grow into a more powerful community-building tool than Facebook. You can take the lead on a topic or idea by creating a Ning community and becoming a "connector" for those who have a shared interest.
7. Google AdWords. For certain products and services, a Google AdWords campaign can drive leads and prospects to your web site. Don't treat them like regular visitors! Set up a distinct and separate landing page in order to capture interest and information right away. And be ready to respond quickly. An internet lead has a short shelf life.
This is a very quick overview of ways to use some of the new media tools available. The key is to be consistent in deliver good, usable content so that you will be found, considered and contacted.