If the Vatican is online, shouldn’t you be?

It’s time to get online and steward your brand. After all, if the Dalai Lama is on Twitter and the Vatican has a YouTube channel – shouldn’t you be online too?

That’s the “sage” advice offered by Lindsay Sage, principal consultant at Sagecomm to attendees at the 2011 Business Improvement Areas 11th Annual National Conference. But don’t rush into it without being prepared.

Doing so requires openness, transparency, and we need to adapt. The tired excuses of not being tech-savvy, not having enough time, not knowing what to talk about, and “who cares,” will no longer suffice.

Related Story: Eleven tips for better business blogging

“People are going to talk about you, don’t you want to be a part of the conversation?” asks Sage.

The key to successful blogging is providing timely, transparent information, adding value and enriched experiences, and conducting respectful interaction in your comments section, Sage says. “It’s your ability to share experiences, accolades and complaints in seconds and to hundreds, or thousands, its word of mouth on steroids,” says Sage. The purpose of social media is to create clients who act as external ambassadors.

Lindsay Sage
Lindsay Sage says it’s time to get your business online, photo by Ben Benedict.

You do so by developing real relationships online by getting involved, listening first about how others interact, their tone of communication, and identifying online leaders, she says.

Don’t forget to be human – remember it’s about them, not you. Don’t be afraid to “give away” your expert knowledge for free, Sage says. Be remarkable – say something that others will respond to or post to their network. And always Google before you Tweet, or in other words, think before you speak.

You’re already doing it with clients and this is simply another platform where you can reach more people by moving these practices to social media, Sage says. Think about when you’re speaking with a client by phone, answering their questions. Now take those key learning moments and make them an online resource.

You need to ensure that you are both tactical and practical including managing your personal online presence, figuring out what’s appropriate for your audience, and bearing the risks. Blogs and social media accounts are also tools that need to be marketed on signage, business cards, and display advertising to be effective, she adds.

In planning and managing your time commitment, Sage suggests that a blog post takes 30 to 40 minutes at minimum, twice a month. Social media updates can take less than 20 seconds with tweets, one daily or a minimum three per week, and Facebook a minimum of two to three updates per week.

Audience participant Mary Sorensen from the Town of Minto, Ont. was please with the blog tips.

“We’re revamping ourselves as part of small town Ontario,” she says. “I’m taking away how to do a blog and to relate to people in our area who don’t know what’s going on. It was very good with useful information that I’ll be able to promote our area. I was overwhelmed when I came in but now I’m not.”

Perhaps Sorensen will now take the plunge into the online world, joining the esteemed ranks of the Vatican and the Dalai Lama.

Ben Benedict is owner and operator of the professional writing and public relations firm, Benedict Creative Communications and can be reached at www.bcreative.ca.

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