What is Social Networking for Business?
Social networking is the ability to communicate with an extended contact group. You initially build a group of contacts that you know and add to this group using the contacts of your initial contacts. Businesses can use the extended contact network to target other businesses. The extended contact network is built using the internet. This means that you can talk in sound bytes directly to the contacts of your contacts which increases your overall reach and influence.
The social part of ‘social networking’ describes how the relationships need to be based upon more than business. In the same way that you would not go to a face to face networking meeting and do nothing but sell, you don’t only sell in a social networking environment. Share information and contacts as well as personal things about yourself – allow people to get to know a part of you (remembering that it is a global environment).
There are a number of applications that assist in the social networking process. Popular examples are LinkedIn, Twitter and facebook. Each site has its own use and allows you to reach your extended contacts in its own way. I use a combination of different social media sites in order to reach different audiences. There are a number of common themes between the sites however.
Strategy – Before you start social networking, work out your strategy. What do you want to get from the networking? Contacts, brand building, feedback from your customers, hits on your website, information or what?
Policy – You will need to check whether your company has a policy on social networking. If you are the owner, you can decide whether you want your employees to engage with the sites and if so, which ones and how.
Profile – You must register with a profile. This includes information about your business, a picture of you – probably not your business logo and a link to your website or blog. Your profile will be used to find you initially and once found, to promote your business and to encourage people to go to your website. Some sites only allow you 160 characters, others are limitless. It is worth crafting a number of different paragraphs containing your SEO keywords to use with different sites.
Etiquette – Your online presence should reflect your business, just like your face to face presence. If you would talk politely and thank your customers or contacts in a face to face environment, you should do the same online. I am amazed at the number of people that don’t thank me if I promote them through online media or in fact people who think it is OK to swear in an online environment.
Communication – Remember that you are talking to people – have conversations, share information and share contacts. Generally, I find “what goes around, comes around” is true for online networking as well as face to face networking.
Business versus Personal – There is definitely an overlap between personal and business networking. Some of your business colleagues may also be personal friends, but it is up to you to decide right up front how far you want that crossover to go. Some people share stories of their children and family – they will display pictures of their family on their facebook page for example – that’s not what I choose to do. Do whatever you are comfortable with.
Global – Remember with all these sites that if you are using them for business, you need the world to be able to see them. There is no point using social networking to market your business, if you hide your profile so nobody can see it. But remember that everybody can see what you say – both positive, negative and personal!
There is no ‘right’ way to use Social Networking – just give it a go to benefit you and your business!
This article has been written by Mary Thomas of Concise Training (www.concisetraining.net) who offers training on the why and how of Social Networking.
Please do connect with me on twitter @concisetraining and become a fan of my facebook page www.bit.ly/ct_facebook