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Leveraging Social Networks To Advertise Your Services

I recently returned from the annual CEDIA Management Conference, and as usual I came back with some great new ideas from the presenters and my industry peers. One concept that aptured my imagination was that our company could leverage social networking websites to enhance our existing client relationships and open up new business opportunities. Coincidentally, during the conference I received a marketing e-mail from Control4 directing me to join its Facebook site to get the latest news and information on product announcements.

At first I thought Facebook was a social networking platform for my college kids—not for senior citizens like me! Out of curiosity I visited the Control4 site and quickly realized the impact such a site could

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Social networking sites like Facebook have allowed some CI industry professionals to interact with new and old clients at nominal costs. have on our own businesses. We all know that reaching out to our existing clients and marketing ourselves to new clients is a critical effort that we must embrace in a year when referrals are not routinely falling off the sales tree.

Like many custom integrators, my company has its fair share of brochures, magazine reprints of key installations, van banners, and an informative website that we use to market our services. But these all lack two critical elements: timeliness for dispensing company information, and a forum in which to attract interaction with our clients. We could certainly use e-mail marketing services to get our message across, but I’m always concerned that we may get lost in all the e-mails that our clients receive—and, it really is not an interactive medium.

When I spent time reviewing the Control4 Facebook site it quickly became apparent that they are leveraging this free service to create a live platform that anyone can access to read their latest press and product announcements, review client and integrator feedback, and provide a link to key sites that contain more detailed information for Control4 clients and integrators. These are all functions that I could do with our own cyberManor website, but it would be too costly for me to upgrade and maintain my site on an ongoing basis. Why not let Facebook do this for me for free with their advertiser- supported business model?

DIVING IN
So I took the plunge and joined Facebook. When I signed up, my first concern was that I didn’t want my personal page to be exposed to all Facebook members. That was not a problem, because only friends that I approve can view my personal page, whereas the cyberManor group site (as Facebook calls it) can be viewed by anyone. I also didn’t want to force my clients to become Facebook members to view the cyberManor Facebook portal; Facebook provides this level of service. However, for new or existing clients to contribute to the cyber- Manor site, they must be Facebook members.

Within a few hours, our cyberManor Facebook site went live and, to be honest, it is still a marketing experiment for our company. I

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am using it primarily to boast about our positive press coverage, extend special offers to some of our clients, and upload photos of our recent projects. In the near future I will be using it to post job openings and offer tips and solutions to our clients on the various products that we carry. But most important, I hope to get ongoing feedback from my existing clients and readers of this column on how we can improve our product and service offerings.

As the cyberManor Facebook site develops, I can envision it becoming a link from our standard website, offering our clients real-time information to complement the more brochurelike information found on our current company website. We could also remind our clients via a quarterly e-mail to check out our Facebook site from time to time get the most current information on our company.

To be fair, Facebook is not the only social networking option. I chose to try it first because of its broad acceptance in the market (175-million users) and the number of companies that now use the site as a marketing platform. It’s still too early to tell what real benefits our company will receive from this effort, but since the cost of creating and maintaining this site is almost negligible, why not give it a try?

Gordon van Zuiden (gordon@cybermanor.com) is president of cyberManor, in Los Gatos, California.

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