Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Social media at work? We encourage it.

I was recently chatting with several older women when I mentioned that part of my job is "social media marketing." Not surprisingly, they didn't know what that meant. They wouldn't be the first ones. A year ago, neither did I.

I've been personally Facebooking, blogging, and social networking for several years. But it wasn't until last fall that we first ventured into the world of social media as a business.

The first step was a Facebook group. At that point there were all sorts of businesses with "profiles," many with group pages, and a few with fan pages. With our group we posted relevant news, links to articles, and photos of little ones. We also had our first ever giveaway where several dozen customers got to take home sample blankets for little ones in their lives absolutely free! Needless to say it was a big hit. We loved being able to do something fun, and good for our customers. Not to mention we found homes for blankets that otherwise might have gone in the trash. However, we still weren't really connecting with people because there was little room for interaction, only promotion.

After the winter holidays last year, we threw our hats into the blogging ring. Our blog, Blanket Statements, was our chance to share our experiences with life, families, and running a blanket business. It also brought us into a whole new world. Blogging allows people all over the world to form communities with people they've never met. Many women use it as a way to get and give advice on families and children, share stories, and connect about personal triumphs and tragedies. At Admiral Road we share stories about funny things the kids say, business experiences, or new name trends.

After a while we saw that the Facebook group was being replaced by the "Fan Page." We were hesitant to make the switch because we already had several hundred group members and the thought of asking them to switch was painful. But we realized that the group was not working for us, or for our customers as we had hoped, and we made the big jump to the page. As it turns out, it was hugely successful. All of a sudden we were hearing from our customers instead of just posting things for them to read about us. And it is so much more convenient as you no longer have to search for the group and remember to check for updates - important updates about sales and coupons go right to fans' newsfeeds.

Finally there was Twitter. I admit, none of us knew how to use it. I cringed when I had to use the verb "tweet" in a business meeting, and we agonized over early posts to make sure we were "doing it right." I was the biggest resistor, mostly because I didn't think we had time to maintain another social media site and still actually run as business. I also couldn't stand the idea of being 24 and having aging U.S. Congressmen understand a new technology better than I did. But Twitter is where the conversation is really at. We discovered interesting people to follow, business contacts to network with, and funny stories that everyday people were sharing.

People knew early on that social media was a revolutionary way to connect with customers on a different level, but it wasn't clear how it was going to work. It wasn't because we didn't know how to use the technology, it was that the technology didn't know how it wanted to be used yet. Facebook wasn't started as a business tool. It was created for elite American college students to presumably network with more elite college students. Blogging has been around for years, but for most of those years it was exclusively a tool for self-expression. These platforms have evolved into what they are today - impossible to ignore pieces of our everyday lives. And with that comes business. But this is a new kind of business where relationships are built, customers get a say, and companies stand behind what they sell. After all, their face is all over it.

So join us in the social media world. Today, October 1, we will be getting the fall season off to a great start with a fabulous giveaway. Follow us on Twitter to find out how you can win.

Admiral Road has been making personalized blankets since 2002.

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