About the author: Dan Cannon is the Lead Web Applications Developer for Nicasio Design and Development. Nicasio provides web based solutions for both individuals and businesses. Nicasio is highly proficient in WordPress design and development. Nicasio also owns and operates the E-Commerce solution NicE-Comm.
Social Neworking. It’s a term that has become a household saying in a matter of a couple of years. Your friends, family, co-workers, your boss, your mailman, it seems like everyone and their mother is using some sort of social networking.
With nearly a billion people using some type of social networking site, how can you take advantage of this trend that is certainly here to stay? Let’s take a look at a few easy ways you can make social networking work for your business.
Using Social Networking in Business
Social networking is about one thing: connections. You can join every social network on the planet, but unless you can provide some value, some reason for people to want to connect with you, you stand no chance of successfully using social networking to make any progress from a business standpoint. Below I will address a few ways that you help to expand the number of people connecting with you on social networks, how you can use social networks to save money and how you can use them to generate new leads or calls to action.
Chances are you or someone at your business already has a Facebook account. If you are already familiar with Facebook you understand the power Facebook has to create and maintain connections. If you are already using Facebook in your personal life to create and maintain connections and relationships there is no reason you shouldn’t be doing the same for your business.
Facebook allows you to create a business page for free. This is an enormous benefit to your business for several reasons.
- A few days after creating your Facebook page, depending on the content you’ve added to this page you will probably see your Facebook page right underneath (or even above!) your website when you Google your business name. Creating this powerful link to your website will instantly give your search rankings a slight boost. It also creates another avenue for your website to be found.
- People can also become fans of your page. This allows you to send updates to all of your fans. Wouldn’t it beneficial for your company if you could instantly and effortlessly send an update to hundreds or even thousands of potential customers without spending a penny on advertising? (The correct answer is yes.)
- Each fan you have is like a tiny little ad on the Facebook. Each person that becomes a fan of your website will have a little link back to your page on their profile. This could end up of being thousands of little ads throughout Facebook for your company.
- Facebook advertising. Facebook allows you to create HIGHLY targeted ads – want to target male college students between the ages of 18-20 that like punk rock – Facebook has you covered. You can even set daily and monthly budgets to send even more people to your page.
- Facebook makes your company seem more personable. Create a photo gallery and put some pictures of your staff in it. Take some pictures of your office (might want to throw a sheet over that mess in the stock room first). This creates a feeling of knowing who you are for people that may not have ever been to your office. The idea is to keep your your Facebook friends thinking about your business so when they need your particular product or services, you are the first thing they think of.
LinkedIn is a social networking site that is centered around business. It was initially created as a way to connect with your co-workers, business partners, customers, and friends. LinkedIn has become THE hub for online networking in the more traditional sense – that is business networking – likened to handing out your business card at a cocktail party (except this is a cocktail party with a couple hundred million guests from around the globe.)
LinkedIn is a bit more ‘professional’ than your more traditional social networking sites like MySpace or Facebook. Where you might find pictures of your boss having a bit too much fun at happy hour on Facebook or a video of your cubicle partner doing something regrettable during their freshman year of college you will find references, employment history and areas of professional specialization on LinkedIn.
All in all, LinkedIn is a very different environment than the other social networking sites we will address in this article. That means that you will need to take advantage of it in a different manner.
- First off, create your own personal profile on LinkedIn.
- Connect with all of your business acquaintances that you can find. Connect with old classmates, professors, and co-workers. Build a network.
- LinkedIn allows you to join 50 groups, so join 50 groups. These will preferably be groups that have to do with your industry. If you are a real estate agent join as many real estate groups as you can. Use the discussion boards, engage in conversation and try to build connections that have legitimate business value.
- Answer questions. LinkedIn has a questions and answers section where users can ask people questions about a given topic. Try to answer as many questions as possible about your business topic. If you are a computer programmer try to answer as many programming questions as possible. The person that asks the question can then tag one of the answers they receive as the “Best Answer”. If enough of your answers are tagged as being good, or best answers your profile will reflect that you are en expert in that category.
- If you are open to connecting with just about anyone one LinkedIn (a great way to build new connections). Considering adding the term LION after your name. This stands for LinkedIn Open Networker. This means you are willing to connect with anyone that asks to connect with you. Be aware you will probably get some spam, and your email address will be out there with this method. I suggest setting up a dedicated email address, separate from your business account to use strictly for LinkedIn.
MySpace is one of the oldest social networking platforms on the Internet. Many people think of MySpace as hangout for teenagers, however many of the teenagers that were the original populace of the site are now young, working consumers. MySpace offers several factors that make it a social network you shouldn’t be ignoring.
- It is one of the oldest, most established social networks on the Internet
- It has the highest number of total users. Although this number is disputed due to a large number of duplicate accounts. Facebook is poised to overtake MySpace as having the most users (some would argue Facebook already has far more active users).
- MySpace by far offers the highest level of customization to your profile page. You can practically build a custom website using the MySpace templating platform. This is valuable as it allows you to maintain the look and feel of your website while incorporating the familiar functionality of MySpace.
- MySpace is still the social network of choice for the music world. If you, your customers, or business associates are in any way involved in the music industry you are doing yourself a great disservice by not taking advantage of MySpace.
Twitter – you either love the concept or you hate. Some people get it, some don’t. That being said it could be beneficial to have your business on Twitter.
- Just launch a new product line? Tweet it.
- Just completed a big project? Tweet it.
- Hire a new employee? Tweet it.
- Moved your business location? Tweet it.
- Your head of accounting spends way too much time in the restroom? Twee…Wait, no, don’t Tweet that.
Twitter allows you to quickly and easily update those that care about your business on the internal goings on of your company. Keeping your business on the mind’s of your customers is always a good thing (unless you’re getting sued in a class action lawsuit…you might want to keep it low key).
Twitter also allows you to quickly and easily post updates from your phone using SMS text messages. This allows you to keep your readers in the know as new events unfold.
More and more of our customers are asking us to integrate video into their site and propose a solution for doing so. Our solution is almost always the same – YouTube. Why YouTube? WHY NOT YouTube!?! Why reinvent the wheel to add video to your site? Custom flash players can be expensive and cumbersome. The bandwidth for hosting video can be expensive and slow. Use YouTube to host any and every video related to your company that’s on the net. Why? I’ll tell you why.
- YouTube allows you to create your own video channel and upload your videos for FREE (that’s a pretty good price).
- You don’t have to worry about your website crashing due to a huge bandwidth spike because one of your company’s informational videos suddenly became the most popular video of the week.
- YouTube gives your customers another way to find you. Maybe your site isn’t number 1 on Google, but with a little creativity maybe you can be number 1 on YouTube.
- While YouTube may seem like the perfect solution for your business, do not, I repeat DO NOT, post that video of your Christmas party last year. Yeah we know it was funny watching your boss have a few too many egg nogs and try to do a table dance, but no one needs to see that…. Seriously.
6. Social Bookmarking Sites (Digg, Del.icio.us, Stumble Upon, Reddit, etc)
If you are not submitting your website, your blog articles, and your social networking pages to social bookmarking sites such as Digg, Del.icio.us, Stumble Upon, etc, you are missing out on a ton of potential traffic.
- Many people surf the web almost exclusively from these social bookmarking sites. If the site isn’t there, they aren’t visiting it.
- Like some of the social networks mentioned above, you can gain a nice little SEO bump by listing your articles here. These sites have a much higher page rank than your site (trust me, whatever yours is, theres is higher).
- Incorporate links on your website and blog so your readers can quickly, easily, and effortlessly add your pages to these sites, which will in turn increase your traffic even more.
7. Niche Social Networking Sites, Forums, Message Boards, etc.
Smaller, niche social networks can be very useful for building valuable traffic and creating new relationships depending on what your field is. Do a little research to find out where and why people from your field hang out on the net. Create a presence there. Prosper.
Social Networking is not just for teenagers and college students to post pictures about their night out last night (OK, that’s a big part of it, but those same college students will be working adults shortly, working adults with money to spend). It is important to make sure that people are thinking of your business when they are looking for a product or service you offer. This is where social networking can come in. Social Networks allow you to keep in touch with your existing customers at the touch of a button and build new relationships with little to no effort.
No Time For Social Networking?
If you find yourself short on time needed to manage a social networking presence and maintain those all important customer relationships, maybe we can help. As a premier web design, development and marketing firm we specialize in making our clients known across the Internet. One of the methods we use is social networking. So if you are looking for some help getting started with social networking, or want someone to manage your online presence, Contact Us Today.