You can’t turn on the television, read a newspaper, or even browse online without hearing about the business benefits of “social networking.” What is social networking, and how can it help build your business?
Loosely defined, social networking is nothing more than a group of people who share a common interest getting together online. It gives you the opportunity to create a virtual meeting place where your clients, prospects, vendors and even employees can talk about things going on in your company, ask questions, promote products or sales, and announce special events.
Social networking eliminates time zone differences, a huge factor for many. People from all over the state, country, and even world can connect and communicate easily in real time, opening many doors that geographical boundaries once closed. In a nutshell: Social networking helps you stay in touch!
There are a myriad of social networking sites on the Internet, and each is geared toward a slightly different demographic or type of user. More than likely, you’ll want to participate in a couple different sites to stay in touch with the most number of people.
The most used sites for business networking include Facebook, LinkedIn.com, and Twitter. Don’t discount the value of participating in online forums and writing your own blog.
Facebook (www.facebook.com) has become one of the most popular online relationship building sites. It’s a central point for a lot of different things, like posting status updates (what are you up to right now?), photo albums, and even videos. You can also keep up with what everyone else that you’re “friends” with on the site is doing – and in this case, friends can mean true friends, or business acquaintances.
When you log into Facebook, you’ll see all of your friend’s latest updates about what they’re up to – and when they log in, they’ll see yours, mixed in with other friends they have. Some people post every small detail of what’s going on in their lives, and others post infrequently or only when they have something truly important to say. Neither approach is right or wrong – what you decide to post is more of a personal preference.
LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com) is probably the largest online business networking site. You can post your resume, join special interest groups, search for people you want to meet, and request introductions from your friends to other people you want to meet. That may be the most interesting thing about LinkedIn – think of it as an online “six degrees of separation.” Your LinkedIn network extends from your friends, out to friends they know, out several levels.
Twitter (www.twitter.com) is a very popular new online meeting place. Twitter is what’s known as a “microblogging” site, because posts or updates you make are limited to 140 characters at a time. These entries are known as “tweets.”
Ping (www.ping.fm) lets you tie it all together. Ping is a service that will take your update and post it to all of your social networking accounts at one time.
Forums and blogs
Online forums are a great way to meet people who are interested in similar topics, and there are literally thousands of active forums online. It’s easy to participate, and you’ll find a lot of forums are incredibly active. To boost your online exposure, which boosts your company’s profile, look for forums that focus on topics your clients care about. Then, post answers to other people’s questions. You’ll quickly demonstrate your expertise.
It is easy to say that everyone (and every company) should have a blog, but the reality is, in order to be successful, you’ll need to blog regularly. You have to enjoy writing and be willing to commit to posting on a very regular schedule, or risk losing readers.
By becoming part of a social networking site, you’re not only opening your business to all World Wide Web users, you’re actually making your business more accessible to the public to be available to purchase your products and services. Connecting with other businesses also gives us the ability to share common ideas and practices in groups who share common ideas and business goals.