Social networking can help a business gain contacts, clients, and increased public awareness. Even entrepreneurs who run small businesses from their homes can take advantage of this resource to set up a global presence. To make the most of social networking, it's important to fully understand the concept of social networking and how it can be applied in ways that will help you grow your business.
Even before the Internet, social networking existed. In a nutshell, social networking is when a person uses already existing contacts to meet new people as potential social or business links. Such links, in turn, will help expand future connections. Small and local businesses can even do this simply by attending community events or participating in trade shows. Anything that gets the company name out there, or connects your company to helpful resources, is considered networking. Technology now makes this possible to do online, and not just face-to-face.
One can compare social networking to the concept of the six-degrees of separation. Based on the idea that any two people can be connected through a chain of five or less intermediaries, social networking can occur through social network sites and communities that may not have formed before the Internet. Through these sites, people join, and then invite their established contacts to do the same. Those contacts will likewise invite other individuals.
Social networking sites are created to assist in online networking. These sites are generally communities created to support a common theme. Since the creation of social networking sites such as MySpace, LinkedIn, and Facebook, individuals are given opportunities to meet new people and friends in their own community and across the world.
Businesses can follow this trend. MySpace encourages smaller and medium-sized businesses to set up an online storefront as a way to advertise and promote business activities. By doing so, individuals can become "friends" or "fans" of the profile, and will be updated on current events, specials, and other essential information the business would like to share. Using the six-degrees of separation concept, a new friend will expose your business to a new set of people who are listed as their respective friends.
It can work as long as you treat online social networking just as you would if you were doing it in person. Be an active member of a community or site. That being said, it is only as valuable as the amount of effort you want to put into it. Just like meeting face-to-face, a first impression is a lasting one. Remember to create a page that reflects the atmosphere of your business. This is particularly important for businesses that target Generation X and Y, an increasingly influential segment of the market. Sites such as MySpace and Facebook can be potentially advantageous marketing tools for a local business. MySpace, for example, is a place where a small business -- such as a restaurant or bar -- can create their own profile page.
Social Networking include:
1. It's Free! - On MySpace, you only need a valid e-mail address to become a member and create a profile page. While most traditional advertising and marketing efforts require some sort of funding, an average social networking site requires no annual fees or start-up costs.
2. Simple Set-up - A profile can be created with very little time and effort. For the less Web-savvy individual, most sites provide straightforward instructions and a general template to make page-construction simple.
3. Easy Customization - With online instruction, it is easy to customize a profile page to fit the image of your business. Many sites are dedicated to providing an endless variety of backgrounds and clip art for social networking sites. Such options are accompanied with a code already incorporated into the editing section of the profile page. No extra work is needed on your part.
4. Maintenance is Flexible - After the profile is created, you decide how often you update the content. It doesn't demand constant attention; it only requires as much as you are willing to put into it. Many enthusiastic social networkers enjoy constantly updating the look or information posted on their site. This helps to maintain interest in new information about your business.
6. Buzz Generation - When someone adds a business profile as a "friend," the profile appears in that person's friends list. This means other people will see, and perhaps visit, the profile; thus increasing awareness about the business.
7. Allows for Customer Feedback - Social networking sites serve as an outlet for where a company can really explore possibilities of reaching out to the customer and ask for feedback. Entertainment venues or restaurants may ask connected customers to post pictures and comments about their experiences.