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March 13, 2008

Social Networking: How to Make it Work for Your Business

It seems as though everywhere I turn I’m bombarded with information about some aspect of social networking — Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter, Ryze, Fast Pitch…the list goes on and on. I’ve been quite slow to jump on the social networking bandwagon. I did create a MySpace profile about a year ago, and recently gave up on doing anything with it, as I wasn’t seeing any results.  My new choice in the social networking arena is Facebook, which is where my target market appears to be hanging out.

Based on my use and evaluation of several of these platforms over the last few years, here’s my synopsis of the 3 primary social networking sites important for online business owners:  Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn:

Facebook:  This one is the current fad, with many people conducting teleclasses and coaching programs on how to best use it.  I do like its clean interface and easy-to-read profiles.  Many people, from all demographics, seem to be on Facebook.  The service offers the ability to add friends by searching for high school/college classmates and by searching former/current colleagues in the workplace.  The downside to the application is that you must have a Facebook account in order to view anyone’s profile. More and more plug-ins (small applications) are being added to Facebook every day that tweak how this application functions.  If you’re an author or a business owner, Facebook permit you to add stand-alone pages about your business(es) or book(s) to your profile.  Lastly, if you blog, you can plug your blog feed into your profile to update your friends from your blog every time you make a new post.

LinkedIn:  This has been the steady, reliable, social networking platform that’s very career and job focused.  Your profile consists primarily of your job history, without much flexibility to promote your business.  If your target market consists of corporate types, this is probably the social networking platform for you.  You have the ability to add connections in the same way that Facebook provides, and your connections have the ability to submit a recommendation about you if they wish.

MySpace:  I still find MySpace the most annoying of all the social networking sites, and hear too many horror stories of MySpace stalkers and of people having to close accounts due to harassment by other users.  This is still the domain of teen set, although most musicians and many artists successfully create followings here for themselves.  MySpace offers many options to personalize and customize your profile, which renders many profiles virtually impossible to read.  If your target market leans toward teens or creative types, this is the social networking site for you.

Here’s what I have learned along the way to make social networking a successful marketing strategy for your business:

1.  Pick one platform.  So many business owners spread themselves too thin by participating in several social networking sites.  I’ve discovered that you could easily devote your entire day to this endeavor and never accomplish anything else.  Pick the best platform that will get you in front of your target market and stick to it.

2.  Determine your objective.  How does this social networking task fit into your overall marketing strategy?  What’s your objective — to sell more info products, to grow your list, to develop joint venture or strategic alliance partners?  Determine your goal and remain focused on that goal in all that you do when spending your time to work your platform.

3.  Work the platform.  No marketing strategy will succeed unless you pay attention to it.  In order to successfully use social networking, you need to work your platform every single day.  Ideally, this means devoting 30-60 minutes each day on activities like seeking new friends/connections/, commenting on other people’s profiles, updating your own profile, and notifying your connections about your current activities.

4.  Be patient.  Rome wasn’t built in a day, and you won’t see results of your efforts in a day, either.  This is a slow and steady process, much the same way that face-to-face networking is.  You’ve got to be out there building relationships and helping others before you’re going to see your social networking goals realized.

5.  Invite others.  Don’t hide the fact that you’re playing in the social networking arena — invite your contacts to play along with you.  Most platforms offer you the ability to send out these invitations from your contact database. Let your ezine subscribers and blog readers know as well — never pass up an opportunity to get to know your contacts.

Like it or not, social networking is here to stay.  Follow these five tips to make social networking a marketing strategy that works for your online business.

Online Business Resource Queen (TM) and Online Business Coach Donna Gunter helps independent service professionals learn how to automate their businesses, leverage their expertise on the Internet, and get more clients online. To claim your FREE gift, TurboCharge Your Online Marketing Toolkit, visit her site at http://www.OnlineBizU.com . Ask Donna an Internet Marketing question at http://www.AskDonnaGunter.com

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