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Bookworm: For business, social media is the message

Business is a little off.

It’s been that way for a while, despite a “recovery,” despite that you’ve hired a first-class sales team and rolled out new product in the past year, despite an expensive new ad budget. It’s very discouraging.

You know you need a new direction. Maybe a better way to connect with customers would work, something inexpensive yet effective. And in the new book “Going Social” by Jeremy Goldman, you’ll find it.

From birth to death, we have a “propensity toward social action” that drives us. Babies instinctively look for faces. Adults seek out human contact, once basic survival needs are met. We need to connect with other people.

The good news for your business is that it’s cheaper than ever to utilize innate human cravings for social contact: the cost of conversing with customers “has gone down dramatically.” Still, old-school advertising isn’t always memorable enough to spur sales. That’s why many corporations use social media: online recommendations are “up to 50 times more likely to trigger a purchase compared to another kind of recommendation.”

But how do you make it work for you?

The first thing to do, says Goldman, is to change your thinking. The question isn’t whether your business should have a social media presence. It’s what kind of presence you need. Knowing the answer will save you from wasting time on sites not frequented by your target market.

Second, set your strategy. Like everything else in business, you must have a plan, because social marketing “can’t transform businesses simply by existing.” You should also know your audience, what they like and where they are.

Don’t just throw something online; have a point and be clear. Also, be unique and creative, but don’t “pander” to anyone. Learn to target customers on different sites, but don’t go hog-wild; chances are, you don’t need to be everywhere (but sign up for an account anyhow, so you “own” that real estate). Finally, learn how (and when) to deal with negative comments, and understand that giving better-than-stellar customer service online is absolutely essential.

When it comes to business, you’ve seen fads come and you’ve seen them go, but you know that social media is here to stay. Isn’t it time to grab “Going Social” and learn about how to harness it?

I won’t promise you it’s easy, even with the help of this book, but Goldman does offer plenty of advice to help take away some of the frustration in using Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and the like. It helps that he’s included plenty of firsthand accounts from other businesses, large and small, and that he starts with the basics. I was also happy to see him tackle pitfalls and cautions, since being quick on your feet seems to be necessary in nearly everything online.

I think that if you’re looking to hire or train a social media director (one of Goldman’s advisements), then this book offers a good walking knowledge toward that end. With “Going Social” on your desk, your business is game on.

“Going Social”

By Jeremy Goldman

Amacom $19.95