WINTER HAVEN – For a lot of people across the globe, their morning starts by logging onto their home computer and checking their Facebook page.
More and more often these days, Jackie Ewing said, a lot of business owners are doing the same thing – the smart ones, anyway.
”Some are hesitating because it seems like such a huge task,’’ she said. But other business owners, she added, find that customers don’t mind connecting through a social media site – and some even like it quite a bit.
”They use it to communicate with their customers, their friends and family, to connect with them, engage with them,’’ Ewing said. ‘’You don’t go to a cocktail party to sell to people, you go to socialize with them. Social media works exactly the same way. It just happens online.’’
Ewing runs Ewing Enterprises, a marketing and business development firm, that helps other companies devise strategies for advertising their products and services and reaching a wider audience.
One of the most effective strategies, she said, is to use what the Internet already offers, and which are enormously popular to begin with: social media sites that include Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Goodle+, LinkedIn, and Flickr.
”With Facebook, it helps you increase your SEO, which is your search engine optimization,’’ Ewing said, adding that this means people having an easier time finding a business’ Web page through search engines like Google and Bing.
”The search engine capability is so big,’’ she said. ”You want to find people on there you can do business with.’’
Ewing is a member of the Central Florida Vacation Rental Managers Association, the trade group that represents the fast-growing number of vacation home managers in this region. It’s a particularly strong field in Polk and Osceola counties, and vacation homes are fully furnished houses rented to tourists on a short term basis.
An Flamand, the president of the CFVRMA, said there is a difference between having a Facebook page to promote your business, and getting the maximum benefit from it.
”Does your social networking need a shot in the arm?’’ Flamand asked. ”Most people know you have to use social media in your marketing.’’
That’s why, Flamand said, she invited Ewing to address the CFVRMA members when the association held its monthly meeting at the Legoland Florida theme park in Winter Haven on Thursday.
”Jackie Ewing is going to tell you how to implement it in a simple way,’’ Flamand said.
Ewing said the smartest way to use social media sites is to figure out first what a business owner wants to achieve.
”One of the things I recommend you do is create a social media plan,’’ she said. ”You have to decide when you’re going to do this, then expand on that information. When you have goals, it’s much easier to know when to post and how much to post. You’ve got to start by creating that plan.’’
Ewing also recommended that businesses not use social media sites as their sole method of advertising and marketing outreach.
”Social media does not work by itself, ’’ she said. ”It is supposed to work as a supplemental part of your existing marketing efforts, whether it’s done in print, email or online.’’
But ignoring social media options could be a mistake as well, she said.
”One of the main things that social media does is it creates exposure for you,’’ she said. ”It supports your search engine optimization. In plain language, that means getting people to go to your Web site.’’
Companies can still rely on direct mail or television, newspaper and radio advertising to get out the message, she said, but added, ”You can now add social media as well, because everyone is on Facebook every day. It’s about finding your customers. And you should have some fun with it. It just supports what you do.’’
Flamand said she’s had a lot of success using social media sites like Facebook to advance her property management firm, USA Vacation Homes in Davenport.
”Social media for my company works very well,’’ she said. ”We keep it up to make our customers more loyal to us. It definitely does work.’’
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