Social Networking for Businesses

Social networking – the phrase is everywhere these days. Blogs this. MySpace that. These new technologies have revolutionised the way we function in the 21st century. But what can they do for you and your business? A lot, actually. These sites involve way more than posting pictures online and sending messages to your friends. Online social networking sites exist purely to build relationships and in the business world this is a very important thing. If you’re looking for a way to build up relationships with other businesses or to reach out to clients, this is definitely the new age way to go.

Popular online social networking tools include blogs, MySpace.com, Facebook.com and Twitter.com. All offering distinct and different features, it’s up to you to decide which will be best for your business networking needs. Below is a summary of each of these networking tools and how they can get you connected to clients, customers and other businesses.

Blogs
Blogs (the collaboration of ‘web log’) have been around since the early 1990s and have continued to grow in popularity since. In December 2007 it was reported by blog search engine site, Technorati, that there were 112 million blogs out there in cyberspace. Blogs are a great way to let the world know what you’re all about. You can write anything you want in your blog. It’s also a good way to get feedback, as others are able to comment on what you have written. Google also loves blogs, so your blog is likely to be picked up by the search engine through the use of keywords. That’s more exposure for your business and it’s absolutely free.

A handy aspect of the blog for business networking is the blogroll. A blogroll is a list of affiliated sites that appears in your blog’s sidebar. Viewers of your blog can see whom you’re associated with and who is associated with you. This helps you build up reputation, credibility and authenticity.
So how do you become a blogger? It’s easy. There are two ways you can do this.

1. Sign up to a site such as blogger.com, LiveJournal.com or WordPress.com. Set up account and the hard work is done for you. Just type away, hit publish and your message will instantly be out there.

2. Get a blog incorporated into your existing site. This is the more professional approach, and it will assist in getting potential clients or customers back onto your website if you update frequently.

PROS: easy to use, great exposure through search engines and they’re an extremely popular mode of communication at present
CONS: need frequent updating if they are to be successful

MySpace.com
This site is extremely popular. Launched in 2003, MySpace.com allegedly has over 100 million accounts registered to it. The site itself has a wide variety of features that can help with business networking. MySpace.com is also a great way to gain exposure as profiles can be made to be highly public – to view someone’s page you do not have to be registered with the site.

For business purposes, the following are features that prove useful in creating and maintaining networks and relationships with allies and customers.
‘Top Friends’: here is where you rank your friends. It’s a good space to show who you’re affiliated with – hopefully they will return the favour and will be promoting you on their page as well!

Bulletins: posting a bulletin sends a message to everyone on you friends list. It’s a quick and simple way to get a message out there.
Groups: joining a group gives you a common page with others in the group. It’s another way of showing whom you’re associated with, where you’re employed, or what your interests are.

PROS: lots of active users, interactive
CONS: large following of teenagers using it for solely social purposes

Facebook.com
Often regarded as the grown-ups MySpace.com, Facebook.com has been around since 2004 but gained prominence in 2006 when it became available to everyone over the age of 13. Facebook.com is especially known for its networking features. Belonging to certain networks and groups is an important aspect of Facebook.com. Users can choose to belong to one main network (such as their company or university network) and those who belong to that network can see their profile. It’s a good way of building contacts in your chosen industry and keeping in touch with those from work. Other useful features include:

Groups: users can belong to multiple groups, and the groups you belong to shows up on your profile’s sidebar.
The Wall: allows you to post messages to those on your friends list or in your network.
Status: updating this shows users on your friends list or network what you are doing – a great way to tell everyone that you’re working hard!

Facebook.com also has a News Feed which alerts you as to what’s going on with your friends, upcoming events and profile changes.

PROS: dedicated to networking, more mature users, usability is good
CONS: high levels of privacy – you need to be friends with people or in their network to view their information (although there are options to make your information more public)

Twitter.com
Twitter.com is a relatively new social networking site that was established in 2006. It differs from MySpace.com and Facebook.com as it is a purely text-based medium. With Twitter.com, you post short messages to your page (up to 140 characters) to alert others, who are ‘following’ you, of what you are doing or where you are…or anything you want. Twitter.com has a simple search option so it is easy to find people you know or businesses that you want to see updates from. Like the other sites, this is another way of linking yourself to other people, businesses or organisation. It helps to establish connections. People are generally interested in other people, so let clients and associated businesses know what you’re up to – it will create personality for your business and strengthen relationships.

PROS: it is simple and doesn’t have redundant features for business networking. Twitter.com also branches out – you can access it from your mobile, software on your browser or through instant message
CONS: not as well-known as other social networking sites

Embracing social networking technology
Go on, give it a try. By embracing this communication technology you are essentially deepening links between you and other businesses, and promoting yourself to clients and potential customers. Don’t underestimate the power of the Internet – make a name for your business on it and you will reap the rewards. Business networking is key to a successful business so get out there and let the world know what you’re all about.


Source by Louise Meers

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