These days it seems like everybody is talking about “social networking” and using websites such as MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter. But exactly what is social networking? Is it just a passing fad or is it an idea whose time has come and is here to stay? More importantly, can it be put to good use in your business?
What is Social Networking?
Online social networks are services meant to create communities of people on the Internet who share common relationships, interests, and activities. In a typical social networking site, users create profiles of themselves which they use to connect with other users and create a network of “friends.” These networks are typically organized around the user’s social relationships, life circumstances, lifestyles, organizational affiliations, ideological and political beliefs, commercial interests, and many other traits.
One benefit of creating these networks is that it allows users to keep track of each other within their network more easily. It also allows them to leverage the connections of others in their social circle – greatly expanding the network of people they would ordinarily have. Beyond creating their own social networks, things become interesting when users are able to share information and pursue activities online together, thereby allowing greater communication, collaboration, and co-creation of ideas, products at a scale and speed which simple was not have been possible before.
How Can I Use Social Networks for My Business?
If you are a small business owner, opportunities in social networking are readily available. The ability to create a network of employees, customers, prospects, and partners is one benefit, along with the ability to leverage their networks to expand your own. The potential capability to mine the amazing amount of user-generated demographic, psychographic, and behavioral data among a network’s members is also very valuable.
Here are some samples of ways you can put social networks to work for your business:
1) Use it for Marketing. Create a community of your current customers where they can more easily hear from you and you from them. Use their networks to attract new leads to your business. Follow their activities to gain insights into who they are, what they want, where they congregate, and how best to reach them. Let them use social networks as an avenue to let others know how good you are. Create exciting new opportunities for them to get to know your business, reach out to you, and create a relationship with you.
2) Use it for Customer Service. Gain valuable feedback into how they feel about your product or service in real time. Create an important new channel to reach out to customers and to get information out to them quickly and efficiently.
3) Use it for HR. Create a community of current and ex-employees. Use it as a cheap Intranet, like what this company is doing with Facebook. Gain insight into the social profiles and behavior of your employees. Use it as a tool to attract new recruits.
4) Create new opportunities for learning and innovation. Tap social networks to learn from like-minded people. Find and discover social networks in your business, industry, or your profession. Learn from fellow entrepreneurs, customers, or partners. You can even tap communities to help you innovate faster and more cheaply. With social networks and an active community of people behind them you can co-create new products or services, link up to gain greater bargaining power, or share information and intelligence more easily.
These are just some examples of how you can apply social networking to your business. For more information, contact us to learn how we can help you get started today!