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Use of Social Media by Companies Involved in the International Trade Industry

Everybody is talking about Social Media these days. Are you tweeting? How many Facebook friend and fans do you have (yes there is a BIG difference between fans and friends)?  Do my LinkedIn contacts know where I am and what I am doing?

First of all, what IS Social Media? Loosely defined, it is a way of anybody being able to communicate and build online communities easily and at no (or little) cost. It takes the form of large communities such as Facebook, user-built knowledge resources such as Wikipedia, multimedia collections such as YouTube, or blogs, which are self-published publications such as ..well…World Trade Daily!

The big question, however, for the international B2B (business-to-business) community is, “Why should I bother? I have enough to do keeping my business going. I really don’t care to see pictures of my clients’ dogs on vacation.” The main reasons for using Social Media in your business are to effectively and inexpensively get out the message about your company and enhance communication with your clients.

Facebook:  Most of the 750 million Facebook users use it to upload pictures of their pets, friends, parties and latest vacations. But there is a growing business community taking form on Facebook.  It is in its infancy, but it is better to get onboard now! To get started as a business on Facebook look at instructions. The best content to send on Facebook is news about trade shows you attend, new products from you or companies you represent, customer service and news about your industry niche. If your message includes a link to your website, you should create a separate Facebook landing page on your server so that you can identify the traffic as coming from Facebook.

Twitter: Twitter is an effective medium for communicating short messages. The content you “tweet” can be similar to the content you send on Facebook, but shortened to not more than 140 characters, and with links to a shortened URL that you can get at services such as http://bit.ly. One important feature of Twitter:  “retweeting” is a very effective viral tool. If somebody you are following posts a Tweet that you find particularly interesting or relevant to your business activities, make sure you retweet it to your followers. That way the person who originally posted it knows you appreciate their messages and increases the chance that they will retweet your messages to their followers.

LinkedIn: Unlike Facebook and Twitter, LinkedIn is a B2B social network. That is, everything you post on it should be related to your business and your career. When you set up a profile on LinkedIn make sure you tell a good story about your business and yourself. Millions of people and companies depend on LinkedIn when doing due diligence for business partners and employees.  And if you are a business owner or executive, set up a profile for your business. Make sure an email address on your profile is from your company’s domain name. Then set up a detailed description of your company  and start building “connections.” You can post news about your company and more detailed resources about your business. Also LinkedIn has a very important feature called “Answers.” Here you can post specific technical questions about your business area and you will get helpful and substantive responses from other professionals on LinkedIn. The great thing about Answers is that it both informs and give you the opportunity to establish you and your business as “thought leaders.”

Other social media sites:

  • Quora is similar to LinkedIn answers. There is an ongoing discussion about international trade subjects. This is another opportunity to be informed and establish your online reputation.
  • YouTube, Vimeo, Flickr and several other similar sites are great places to post videos and photos of your expertise, products or services. Make sure you have some compelling messages!
  • GlobalTrade.net is a social media site especially for international trade. Here you can set up a profile for your company and add content, such as articles, videos or PowerPoint presentations that you may have.

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