How social networks will help your online business
Social networking is the gathering of individuals into specific groups. These groups can be physical or virtual. Sports clubs, associations and neighbourhoods are all social networks and are easy to imagine. In this day and age however, social networking is the term more commonly used to describe an online community where literally millions of people can come to share common interests.
With more than 10 social networking websites with a reported excess of 100 million active users, there's no doubt that the social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn are extremely powerful tools. Although difficult to prove, there are many statistics bandied about which reinforce the power of these networks. Facebook, which was launched in 2004, had an astounding 600 million users by January 2011. Twitter, on the other hand, which was launched in 2006 (and doesn't disclose its membership levels), is reported to have had 65 million tweets per day in 2010. So there's no doubt there's a big audience to be tapped into. What's more that audience is live, active and connected. They are consumers. So what can they do to help you grow your online business?
Before you think about launching a social networking campaign, the two most important things you need are: first an address on the web or a URL (Uniform Resource Locator) and second a clear and concise message. Why do you need a URL? If you think about it, there's no point whatsoever in getting social networkers excited about your message unless you have an online location to direct them to. Furthermore, it's essential that your online presence is "tip top" before going out to the masses and spreading the word about your activities.
In terms of your message, if your online business has been well planned, this will take you no time whatsoever to put together however, it's a good idea to look on your social networking campaign as an opportunity to refresh and refine your message. Do you have a slogan, do you have a mission statement, have you clearly identified your unique selling points (USP's) and your target audience? Once you have these things sorted out, then you can set to work on planning what you want to communicate to these masses on the social networks. When planning your message, make sure it's consistent and clearly targetted towards your potential customers.
Once you have identified your target audience and have your kit bag of slogan, mission statement, USP's and so on, it's time to select the appropriate networks for your business and get into them to start a buzz about your business. If you're unsure as to which social network(s) will work best for your business, spend a bit of time getting to know them and you'll soon see which might add power to your marketing elbow. The key is finding communities within these networks with interest in what you're offering. Once you're pretty sure about which ones will offer the best opportunities, set up accounts with them and spend a bit of time getting to know their "bells and whistles" so you can use the networks proficiently, professionally and to their maximum effect.
Another really important thing with social networking is you. It's essential to your success that your personality, your beliefs and your goals are clear. At the end of the day, you're using these platforms as ways to meet people, not organizations who may be interested by your offering (even if your offering is B2B: business-to-business). In order to successfully attract your potential customer base you need to aim to build a relationship with the people you interact with. Use appropriate methods of communication to promote your online business at all times and remember to keep your message consistent. Think hard before you act, for example, if you're promoting an online counselling business, it's unlikely to be appropriate to use YouTube to host a funny video as a means of promotion!
The big thing with social networking is to keep your objective in mind at all times and measure the results you get. It's only too easy to become distracted by non-business related communications when they're all around you. Try to avoid this temptation. Try to stay focussed on your goal. And remember, although social networking will cost you no more than your time, you owe it to yourself and your online business to value your time and use it wisely.