Social Networking for the Funeral Industry ? Getting Started
Guest Writer: Bonnie Quintanilla has 20+ years of corporate and agency marketing communications and public relations and social media experience. She co-founded Corridor Communications, Inc., seven years ago to focus on the funeral industry, technology, and consumer marketing.
Social Networking for the Funeral Industry ? Getting Started
In the last six months the number of funeral industry players participating in social networking, on sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, has grown exponentially. A cursory search six months ago netted a handful of participants. Today, a similar search turns of literally tens if not hundreds of businesses and individuals. Yet, many of these players have yet to fully understand and embrace the power of social networking. This article is the first in a series that will strive to provide a foundation for those embarking on this exciting path, a path that literally can no longer be ignored.
Understanding and using social networking is critical for businesses of every size today, yet it can be extremely overwhelming. Most businesses don?t know where to start and either give up or dabble, not knowing what the result will be. Without a doubt, social networking is changing the way we interact, connect and communicate with customers, clients, and people who can influence the success of our business. It will create opportunities, expand your sphere of influence and, if used correctly, help your business thrive in this new virtual world.
The two most important things to remember when it comes to social networking are:
1. It?s about people connecting with people in a very personal manner.
2. It has to begin with a clearly defined objective and a well-articulated strategy, or it will fail.
What are all these sites?
Facebook (www.Facebook.com) is a global social networking site started initially for Harvard University students. Today, it brags more than 300 million users. Two-thirds of Facebook users are outside of college and the fastest growing segment is users between 55 and 65 years of age. People on Facebook can connect with friends, send messages, invite them to events, upload pictures, find old friends, setup special pages or groups, promote causes, network, play games (together), take surveys, and much more.
If used strategically, Facebook can be an important and effective tool for businesses targeting consumers or with retail products. Facebook pages allow businesses to create profiles, connect with consumers, engage directly with customers and build brand awareness. In addition, Facebook ads provide highly targeted, cost-effective advertising options.
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com) also a social networking site, is primarily a business networking site that began as a place for professional networking. It has nearly 50 million members representing nearly 200 industries, on all seven continents. LinkedIn members exchange ideas, get help, find jobs and clients, and refer each other. The quality of connections made on LinkedIn far surpasses that on other sites because of the restricted access designed to protect the quality of connections and community.
LinkedIn can help you leverage your existing network more thoroughly, expand your network, showcase your expertise, seek and secure advice from others, increase referrals, and secure introductions. Joining targeted groups like Connecting Directors allows professionals to gain recognition as business leaders, interact and share experiences. Participating in Q&A sections helps build credibility and your network.
Twitter (www.twitter.com) is a free social networking forum that allows members to post and read short updates (no more than 140 characters) called Tweets. These can be broadcast and rebroadcast (Retweeted) to literally millions of people across the world. It is one of the fastest growing social networking sites in the world. While the most difficult to navigate and understand, Twitter can be highly effective if used correctly. By design, Twitter allows you to instantaneously send information to a large group of people regardless of their location. Using TwitterSearch, companies can easily follow ?buzz? about their industry or business, receive and send nearly instant feedback, effectively positioning them as leaders.
ConnectingDirectors.com (www.ConnectingDirectors.com) is designed to provide members with the latest funeral industry news and information. It has a global membership base of the industry’s most progressive funeral professionals and facilitates an exchange of ideas and expertise through discussion boards and articles, and allows funeral professionals to connect with other directors and suppliers. The ability to create subgroups and add fellow members as friends provides the industry with a site meeting their specific needs that is similar to more general mainstream social networking sites.
While other sites (MySpace, YouTube, etc.) exist and more sprout up daily, these four are the most important for businesses in this industry to master first. As mentioned, it is essential to have a sound strategy that drives your participation in social networking to realize the best results and avoid making costly errors that are easily transmitted to millions. In developing a strategy, other sites can be considered, for example, YouTube or Blogspot. In our next article, we will examine how to put an effective strategy in place based on your unique goals.
A final thought: social networking is the great equalizer. It provides an even playing field for all businesses regardless of size. Instead of being overwhelmed and trying to learn it all, take a step back, plan a strategy and get connected. By reading this article, you?ve already taken the first step.
Social networking is not only here to stay. It is rapidly defining how businesses will communicate and connect now and well into the future. In part two of this series, we will take a more in-depth look at Facebook.
Bonnie Quintanilla has 20+ years of corporate and agency marketing communications and public relations and social media experience. She co-founded Corridor Communications, Inc., seven years ago to focus on the funeral industry, technology, and consumer marketing.Ms. Quintanilla earned a bachelor?s degree in journalism and a bachelor?s degree in education from the University of Colorado, Boulder, as well as a Professional Designation in Public Relations from the University of California, Los Angeles where she was later hired to teach ?Writing For Public Relations.? She has been recognized for her work by the Publicity Club of Los Angeles, the International Association of Business Communicators, Motorola, The RapidIO Trade Association, Agoura High School, Boy Scouts of America, ChicEntrepreneur.com?s Chic of the Week, and others.
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