The Jimdo team recently had the chance to talk with social media master Ina Steinbach, who discussed a few paths to social media success. Read on for a few great tips from Steinbach.
1. First, Ina, can you tell us a bit about yourself? What led you to focus on social media?
I run a communications agency in Hamburg, where we focus on helping companies with PR and social media. Originally I planned to focus exclusively on PR, but nowadays social media is such an important component of communication that you really can't ignore it. In the past few years I have rarely worked on a communications plan that hasn't involved some form of social media.
2. What exactly does social media mean? And what benefits does it offer Jimdo users?
People could argue about an exact definition for a long time, I think, but my definition is very general: Websites (media) that have social elements (social). A social element allows a visitor to share or comment on a website — or interact with the site in some other way. The benefits that social media offer are as broad as my definition, and include increased brand recognition, better search engine optimization, and improved customer support. It's also important to see that having a social media presence is necessary if you want to interact with today's average internet user. Even people who don't post, blog, or tweet are still finding answers to questions in forums, doing research on Wikis, watching YouTube videos, and engaging social media in tons of other ways.
3. What's the best way for someone with a website or online store to use social media?
The simplest thing is making it easy for visitors to share your information. Then when someone buys a T-shirt from your store, they can show it to all of their friends with one click, and you haven't just made a sale, you've also shown your product to hundreds of other people at the same time.
4. After someone has share buttons on their site, what's the next step? Which social networks should they use?
Before someone starts a profile on a social network, I would recommend commenting on blogs and forums. Let's say that you run a car repair shop and you're looking to be more widely known among your peers. There are already hundreds of forums and blogs devoted to discussing cars, parts, tools, etc. — you should join in on the discussion, give some expert advice, and leave a link to your own site at the bottom of your comment. If you're making good suggestions and contributing useful information to the community, people are going to want to check out your site.
As for which social networks are the best to join, there's no answer that applies to everyone. Figure out who your audience is, where they spend their time, and how you can create a profile that provides them information that they need. It doesn't make any sense to join a social network that you don't want to devote time to or where your customers aren't participating — so think about where you can have the biggest effect, and focus your social media campaigns there.
5. Are any social networks especially good for a specific purpose?
For online stores — especially clothing stores — nothing beats the social networks that focus on pictures: Pinterest, Instagram, and Flickr. If you take attractive photos of your products, people will be bound to share them, and that means more exposure for you.
Facebook is the best all-purpose social network because it's so flexible and has a ton of users. Setting up a Facebook page is a good idea, but it's only the first step. It's important to regularly update your page with new content and respond to user questions that get posted there.
6. Could you tell us a few social media success stories as a bit of inspiration for Jimdo users who are just getting started?
Of course there are stories of massive social media success — Coca Cola, Starbucks, and adidas come to mind — and it's worth looking at those companies for inspiration. More importantly, however, is looking at people in the same field as you, and, if applicable, in the same region as you. That will give you a realistic sense of what you should be shooting for. After all, a few hundred devoted fans of your small business can have a huge effect.
A lot of great businesses in Hamburg have used social media to expand their presence. One of my favorite restaurants, Tim Mälzers Bullerei posts a daily menu on Facebook, and other local restaurants offer special deals and let you make reservations right on their Facebook pages. These are simple, effective ways to get people to check out your food. Hotel Atlantic in Hamburg and Classic Tattoo Berlin also have excellent pages — both of them update regularly and respond quickly when their fans ask a question. At the end of the day, people will like your social media presence if it helps them out in some way. And in return, you reach tons of new customers without paying a cent for marketing.
We want to thank Ina Steinbach for sharing her insights with all of us!
For everyone reading: We hope you found a bit of inspiration to keep working hard on your website's social media presence.
If you want to learn even more, consider signing up for our social media workshop, where one of us from the Jimdo team gives a live presentation and answers any questions that you may have.