Get online and get sociable!

So, like most people, being on holiday or taking time off work means I have a little more time to spend doing the things that I like to do, but often don’t have as much time to spend on those things as I would like!

Take social networking for example. I spend what I would say is a fair proportion of my time, on a daily basis, updating my Twitter Feeds and my Facebook Business pages because this is essential marketing that promotes my products and brings me customers. But I’m always looking at it from a business point of view. Rarely do I get to read posts older than a day or so from others on my personal timelines because I simply don’t get round to it – and so I have made it my mission to catch up whilst I am away.

And whilst I’m concentrating on the personal, I thought I would give you a heads up on using Twitter to help promote your business.

Social networking is actually one of my favourite things! I know some people hate it, saying it can cause unnecessary grief, problems and issues and this is of course also true in some cases, but used correctly it can be a really powerful marketing tool that can help you promote your business, and specifically your products for sale – whether you’re selling online on eBay, Amazon, your own website or an alternative venue so it is definitely worth considering.

Two of the best known sites for marketing are Twitter and Facebook and Twitter is the one I’d like to concentrate on today.

You can create an account on the Twitter website with any (available) username, so consider tying in your business name or simply using your actual name depending on how personal you’d like to make it.

You can sign up free to Twitter here and if you would like to follow me on Twitter you can do so here

Twitter may have a smaller user base than Facebook, but this micro-blogging website really has taken the world by storm in the past few years and lots of new trends are spotted there first. With each update, or ‘tweet’ that you send from your account you’ll be limited to 140 characters, forcing you to keep your messages short and sweet – and that’s not a bad thing.

As with Facebook, it’s important to keep your Twitter feed up to date with more than just tweet after tweet of advertisements for your latest products or a marketing message. It needs to be balanced – firstly to avoid irritating people who are following you and secondly to help you build a rapport with your followers. You should be careful to balance the tweets you send so that you are giving your followers an insight into what you’re really like, along with the marketing messages that will help to grow my business. And I don’t mean that you have to tweet pictures of your lunch or comment on what you are doing every time you leave the house – funny anecdotes, retweets from others and short comments will suffice! Striking a balance between the two is the way to build up a base of followers that are interested in what you have to say, and more likely to listen when you have something of value to offer – such as a new product you have for sale online, a discount or a special offer.

To really capitalise on Twitter you should ideally aim to update your feed with some sort of message – either business or personal – two or three times a day. Jumping straight in with 100 marketing messages to your initial 10 followers won’t work, so mix things up and really concentrate on starting out with more social tweets to interest people enough to want to follow you and your account.

Building up followers is the key to success on Twitter; otherwise your marketing messages won’t be seen by the masses of potential customers that utilise the site. Even when you have built up a following by posting interesting tweets on a regular basis you should still be careful when you first start adding in your promotional messages.

Come and buy my new hair styling product on eBay.” is unlikely to be a successful message; you don’t want to try and order your followers to do anything, especially when you’re just starting out with this method of marketing. Instead consider something along these lines: “I have just uploaded some great new eBay items. Please take a look.”

Make sure you include a link back to your eBay shop or to the specific product at the end of your message and you’ll find that this far less imposing message suggests to a follower that they can take a look at what you have to offer if they want to, but you’re not forcing them to do anything.

Twitter isn’t all about just making regular updates and promoting your products though, as you can also use its search function to look specifically for topics within your niche.

If another Twitter user has happened to post a tweet suggesting that they are looking for a specific product to buy on eBay, and you happen to stock that product, you may be able to find that message by searching for ‘eBay’ and the specific product and then replying directly to the person using the @reply tool. You will then be putting a link to your product directly in front of someone who is looking for that product!

Searching on Twitter is really easy, just use the search bar to enter any phrase, be it related to eBay, Amazon, another online selling venue or just your own niche and take a look at the results returned. I have to say that if you do a general search for ‘eBay’ on Twitter, many of the items returned in your search will be from other sellers advertising their own products, but you can sometimes get lucky and reach someone looking for the very thing that you’re offering – it’s definitely worth a try.

Now, I also must point out that before starting to @reply directly to anyone, even if they are interested in the types of products you have for sale, you should build up a few social messages and a bit of a following. Users of the Twitter website are used to ignoring spam messages, so by putting in the effort at the outset and showing yourself to be a legitimate business operating on Twitter you’ll be better placed to make sales later through the site.

When you do start linking the products you have for sale on eBay then you’ll find it’s useful to pay attention to the sharing icons shown on your eBay listing in the top right hand corner. The two icons in the middle will connect you instantly with Twitter and with Facebook so that you can immediately link from your product and post a short message, which will also include your product link. The default message is ‘Look what I found on @eBay!’ but of course you can change this to suit your own purposes. The only thing you must do is keep the link at the end intact as this is what will return one of your followers to your eBay listing.

These types of sharing links also appear on the Amazon website beneath the ‘Add to Basket’ section so you can use the same strategy to share products that you have listed on either website.

Twitter is just one of the social networks available. You can also register with Facebook, Google Plus, LinkedIn and a range of other services and I strongly recommend you do if you are serious about marketing your products and not relying totally on the traffic that eBay and Amazon send to your product listings.

My last point on this is to make sure that you don’t get totally distracted and end up spending hours social networking instead of concentrating on the all-important business of actually selling! So if you haven’t joined already you can do so here and don’t forget to follow me too here