The question is no longer should your organization or small- to medium-sized company use social media.

The question is how, and how to do it efficiently.

Millions of people are using these tools, and they’ve changed the landscape in marketing, advertising, business development, sales, networking and other areas.

To widen your reach, find new clients and bring in revenue via social media, here are 3 crucial insights to get you started.

1) Conversational Marketing
What are you going to talk about?

Simple — your overall messages. You won’t have a separate social media strategy; it will be part of your marketing, business development and outreach. Social media is another way to share your message — and, of course, interact and respond to what people say. Some call it “conversational marketing.”

When you can, aim to be “opportunistic” and ride the news and trends, especially during conferences, webinars and other live events.

To be efficient with your time, you can schedule blog posts and social media comments in advance with tools such as HootSuite.

2) Friends

Here’s my cardinal rule about social media: Look for friends and allies — friends and allies you may not know.

As independent film producer Ted Hope says, “You have to find a way to conspire with people you have yet to meet.”

You’ll be seeking people who want to know what your company or cause is up to. The kind of people who could become partners, clients and evangelists, not just online but in person.

You do this by “listening” — seeing what people in your industry are talking about online and joining in. Oreo made a splash when it tweeted during a power outage at the Super Bowl about “dunking in the dark.”

You may see an opportunity you wouldn’t know about otherwise.

In a notable example, a young entrepreneur glanced at her Twitter account and saw that Sir Richard Branson was offering to meet people who donated $2,000 to the Free the Children charity. She and her brother borrowed money from their parents, attended the event and later landed a $1 million investment from the famed businessman and another investor. (The siblings have since sold their business to which, of course, shared the news via social media.)

That’s quite an ROI off of one tweet!

3) Math

While social media gets the buzz, email marketing is your best way to reach significant numbers of people.

To raise money or run a successful crowdfunding campaign it’s all about the size and strength of your network.

Just as with sales prospects, you’ll need a big pool, or better yet, a mighty stream and a great lake of people who are interested in what you’re about.

A recent study shows how powerful email can be: “Email,” notes McKinsey & Co. analysts, “remains a significantly more effective way to acquire customers than social media—-nearly 40 times that of Facebook and Twitter combined.”

Job 1 is to grow your email list, always. Of course, you’ll invite customers to opt in. When a new intern starts? Add her to the database – after all, the intern has friends and relatives who may be interested in your services. Invite your intern to “like” the Facebook page. The new vendor? Invite them to follow your networks, too.

For every scintillating email message you send, only a certain percentage of recipients will open it, and a smaller percentage, perhaps 2 percent, will click. Even a smaller number will take action to sign up or make a purchase. And each time you send a message more than a handful of people will unsubscribe. So you’ll need to keep growing your list just to stay even. It’s all about the numbers.

While there are many other tips and tricks, these three are a great start.

Go ahead: get your feet wet.

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