With only five weeks to go until Christmas, homes up and down the country will be full of children flicking through various catalogues selecting the toys, clothing and appliances they want Santa Claus to bring them, whilst parents look on with a worried look in their eye as to how much Christmas 2011 is going to cost them.

What does all this have to do with social media marketing for businesses? Well it isn’t just children who should be planning what they want at Christmas to ensure that 2011 ends well and 2012 starts on the right foot. Businesses, of all shapes and sizes and in all industries around the UK, should also be using this time of year to evaluate how they’ve performed over the last twelve months, whilst also looking at ways in which they can enhance their service in the following twelve months.

To give you a helping hand, here at JE Consulting we’ve came up with three suggestions (which appear in no particular order) of areas within the social media industry which we believe can benefit all businesses during 2012 and beyond, if used correctly.

Foursquare:

Although it is sitting at the top of our list of three things, Foursquare isn’t a new platform. It was actually launched in 2009; however here in the UK it has been relatively slow to gain momentum, but come 2012 we believe that it’ll be a great tool to get people talking about your business and brand.

It was reported by Foursquare at the end of April 2011 that they have over 10 million users worldwide and 500,000 businesses using the Merchant Platform; providing a clear indication as to how big Foursquare already is, with little promotion over this side of the Atlantic, whilst hinting at how big it could be.

How Does it Work?
Foursquare works in a similar way to Facebook Places, but is a gamified version. By using GPS Data users can “check-in” to your business. With each “check-in” users earn points and rewards, making it an addictive yet competitive form of social media.

So how does Foursquare benefit business?
The simple answer is that it offers a level of free promotion which may otherwise not have been open to your business. Put simply, if you consider that the average user of social media has both a Twitter and Facebook account, with roughly 350+ combined connections.

Foursquare syncs to these platforms, providing an automatic update as to someone’s check-in on both platforms. This means, as long as users have synced their Foursquare correctly (which 90% of them will have) this means you’re effectively being promoted to roughly 350+ people per check-in.

How Can I Use Foursquare to Boost my Business?
Whilst those who “check-in” to your business will provide a form of promotion for you, if you want to make the most out of Foursquare for social media marketing reasons, why not consider following the lead of some of the biggest brands within the world and offer rewards and special offers when people either “check-in” for the first time or for those regular customers who “check-in” X amount of times in a month, etc.

Foursquare enables businesses and brands to promote and reward their clients in a way which provides a win-win situation for everyone concerned; and with the use of Foursquare being free, there is no reason to ignore it during 2012.

Google+ Business Pages:

Over the last few weeks we’ve touched on Google+ a fair bit in our blogs, due to the overdue introduction of Google+ Pages for businesses at the start of November 2011. Unfortunately for Google, there latest attempt of breaking into the social media marketing industry has been hit with mixed reaction, with The Telegraph reporting that since Google+ launched in June 2011 it has lost millions of users.

That said; as more businesses, sign up for Google+ Pages as 2011 comes to a close, there is optimism that 2012 could be the year in which Google finally launch a successful bid on the social media marketing industry.

In a similar manner to Facebook Pages, Google+ Pages allow businesses to promote their products and services via updates, videos and images; whilst also creating circles of clients and audience members who are interested.

The plus-side of Google+ Pages compared to Facebook Pages? On Google+ Pages you can target specific groups (aka circles) with a message which is relevant to them, instead of targeting everyone who has “Liked” your page on Facebook. This makes it easier for specific marketing techniques and messages to be spread, all of which is beneficial to your business.

Content Marketing / Blogging:

In a similar vain to Foursquare, content marketing / blogging isn’t new. Businesses and individuals have been doing both for a number of years; however with the introduction of Facebook, then Twitter and more recently Google+ blogging and content marketing seems to have fallen by the wayside for many businesses and individuals too.

But the power it has shouldn’t be undervalued. Unlike the micro-blogging sites, content marketing or internal/external blogging doesn’t have a character limit. Instead it allows you to “be the media” and therefore spread the message or share the information you want to share in a manner which is beneficial to both you and your client.

For businesses to get the most out of content marketing / blogging there are a few things which businesses need to consider:

1) Although it’s your chance to promote your business and its services, don’t overdo it. Make the post relevant and insightful, perhaps providing an alternative view on an aspect of industry news which relates to your business.

2) SEO counts and as such, you should include your business’ keywords within at least the opening two paragraphs and the final paragraph of the content, making sure to link the first mention to the relevant page on your website and bold-tagging the last mention. But don’t overdo the keywords, too many will look like spam and could see your website sandboxed by Google and other search engines.

3) Invite feedback and interact in comments. Clients and readers of your blog want to know that there constructive feedback is appreciated, and what easier way than responding to ideas which have been mentioned or alternative views?

What do you think? Do you think that these three platforms of social media marketing can benefit businesses throughout 2012 and for years to come, or do you think there are other platforms which businesses should be looking to take advantage of? Let us know via our comment section.

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Categories: Blog